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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, by mistake, confounded this place with Ferden, or Werden, beyond the Weser. 2. Voss. de histor. lat. l. 2, c. 3.

ST. BRAULIO, BISHOP OF SARAGOSSA, C.

HE was the great assistant of St. Isidore of Seville in settling the discipline of the church of Spain, and is one of those holy pastors to whose zeal, learning, and labors it has always professed itself much indebted. He died in 646, in the twentieth year of his episcopacy. He has left us two letters to St. Isidore, an eulogium of that saint, and a catalogue of his works; also a hymn in Iambic verse in honor of St. Emilian, and the life of that servant of God, who, after living long a hermit, was called to serve a parish in the diocese of Tarragon, where a famous monastery now bears his name.

{664}

MARCH XXVII.

ST. JOHN OF EGYPT, HERMIT.

From Rufinus, in the second book of the lives of the fathers; and from Pallaudius in his Lausiaca; the last had often seen him. Also St. Jerom, St. Austin, Cassian, &c. See Tillemont, t. 10, p. 9. See also the Wonders of God in the Wilderness, p. 160.

A.D. 394.

ST. JOHN was born about the year 305, was of a mean extraction, and brought up to the trade of a carpenter. At twenty-five years of age he forsook the world, and put himself under the guidance and direction of an ancient holy anchoret with such an extraordinary humility and simplicity as struck the venerable old man with admiration; who inured him to obedience by making him water a dry stick for a whole year as if it were a live plant, and perform several other things as seemingly ridiculous, all which he executed with the utmost fidelity. To the saint's humility and ready obedience, Cassian[1] attributes the extraordinary gifts he afterwards received from God. He seems to have lived about twelve years with this old man, till his death, and about four more in different neighboring monasteries.

Being about forty years of age, he retired alone to the top of a rock of very difficult ascent, near Lycopolis.[2] His cell he walled up, leaving only a little window through which he received all necessaries, and spoke to those who visited him what might be for their spiritual comfort and edification. During five days in the week he conversed only with God: but on Saturdays and Sundays all but women had free access to him for his instructions and spiritual advice. He never ate till after sunset, and then very sparingly; but never any thing that had been dressed by fire, not so much as bread. In this manner did he live from the fortieth or forty-second to the ninetieth year of his age. For the reception of such as came to him from remote parts, he permitted a kind of hospital to be built near his cell or grotto, where some of his disciples took care of them. He was illustrious for miracles, and a wonderful spirit of prophecy, with the power of discovering to those that came to see him, their most secret thoughts and hidden sins. And such was the fame of his predictions, and the lustre of his miracles which he wrought on the sick, by sending them some oil which he had blessed, that they drew the admiration of the whole world upon him.

Theodosius the Elder was then emperor, and was attacked by the tyrant Maximus, become formidable by the success of his arms, having slain the emperor Gratian in 383, and dethroned Valentinian in 387. The pious emperor, finding his army much inferior to that of his adversary, caused this servant of God to be consulted concerning the success of the war against Maximus. Our saint foretold him that he should be victorious almost without blood. The emperor, full of confidence in the prediction, marched into the West, defeated the more numerous armies of Maximus twice in Pannonia; crossed the Alps, took the tyrant in Aquileia, and suffered {665} his soldiers to cut off his head. He returned triumphant to Constantinople, and attributed his victories very much to the prayers of St. John, who also foretold him the events of his other wars, the incursions of barbarians, and all that was to befall his empire. Four years after, in 392, Eugenius, by the assistance of Arbogastes, who had murdered the emperor Valentinian the Younger, usurped the empire of the West. Theodosius sent Eutropius the Eunuch into Egypt, with instructions to bring St. John with him to Constantinople, if it was possible; but that if he could not prevail with him to undertake the journey, to consult whether it was God's will that he should march against Eugenius, or wait his arrival in the East. The man of God excused himself as to his journey to court, but assured Eutropius that his prince should be victorious, but not without loss and blood: as also that he would die in Italy, and leave the empire of the West to his son; all which happened accordingly. Theodosius marched against Eugenius, and in the first engagement lost ten thousand men, and was almost defeated: but renewing the battle on the next day, the 6th of September, in 394, he gained an entire victory by the miraculous interposition of heaven, as even Claudian, the heathen poet, acknowledges. Theodosius died in the West, on the 17th of January, in 395, leaving his two sons emperors, Arcadius in the East, and Honorius in the West.

This saint restored sight to a senator's wife by some of the oil he had blessed for healing the sick. It being his inviolable custom never to admit any woman to speak to him, this gave occasion to a remarkable incident related by Evagrius, Palladius, and St. Austin in his treatise of Care for the Dead. A certain general officer in the emperor's service visiting the saint, conjured him to permit his wife to speak to him; for she was come to Lycopolis, and had gone through many dangers and difficulties to enjoy that happiness. The holy man answered, that during his stricter enclosure for the last forty years since he had shut himself up in that rock, he had imposed on himself an inviolable rule not to see or converse with women; so he desired to be excused the granting her request. The officer returned to Lycopolis very melancholy. His wife, who was a person of great virtue, was not to be satisfied. The husband went back to the blessed man, told him that she would die of grief if he refused her request. The saint said to him: "Go to your wife, and tell her that she shall see me tonight, without coming hither or stirring out of her house." This answer he carried to her, and both were very earnest to know in what manner the saint would perform his promise. When she was asleep in the night, the man of God appeared to her in her dream, and said: "Your great faith, woman, obliged me to come to visit you; but I must admonish you to curb the like desires of seeing God's servants on earth. Contemplate only their life, and imitate their actions. As for me, why did you desire to see me? Am I a saint, or a prophet like God's true servants? I am a sinful and weak man. It is therefore only in virtue of your faith that I have had recourse to our Lord, who grants you the cure of the corporal diseases with which you are afflicted. Live always in the fear of God, apd never forget his benefits." He added several proper instructions for her conduct, any disappeared. The woman awaking, described to her husband the person she had seen in her dream, with all his features, in such a manner as to leave no room to doubt but it was the blessed man that had appeared to her. Whereupon he returned the next day to give him thanks for the satisfaction he had vouchsafed his wife. But the saint on his arrival prevented him, saying: "I have fulfilled your desire, I have seen your wife, and satisfied her in all things she had asked: go in peace." The officer received his benediction, and continued his journey to Seyne. What the man of God foretold happened to him, as, {666} among other things, that he should receive particular honors from the emperor. Besides the authors of the saint's life, St. Austin relates this history which he received from a nobleman of great integrity and credit, who had it from the very persons to whom it happened. St. Austin adds, had he seen St. John, he would have inquired of him, whether he himself really appeared to this woman, or whether it was an angel in his shape, or whether the vision only passed in her imagination.[3]

In the year 394, a little before the saint's death, he was visited by Palladius, afterwards bishop of Helenopolis, who is one of the authors of his life. Several anchorets of the deserts of Nitria, all strangers, the principal of whom were Evagrius, Albinus, Ammonius, had a great desire to see the saint. Palladius, one of this number, being young, set out first in July, when the flood of the Nile was high. Being arrived at this mountain, he found the door of his porch shut, and that it would not be open till the Saturday following. He waited that time in the lodgings of strangers. On Saturday, at eight o'clock, Palladius entered the porch, and saw the saint sitting before his window, and giving advice to those who applied to him for it. Having saluted Palladius by an interpreter, he asked him of what country he was, and what was his business, and if he was not of the company or monastery of Evagrius: Palladius owned he was. In the mean time arrived Alypius, governor of the province, in great haste. The saint, on the arrival of Alypius, broke off his discourse with Palladius, who withdrew to make room for the governor to discourse with the saint. Their conversation was very long, and Palladius being, weary, murmured within himself against the venerable old man, as guilty of exception of persons. He was even just going away, when the saint, knowing his secret thoughts, sent Theodorus, his interpreter, to him, saying: "Go, bid that brother not to be impatient: I am going to dismiss the governor, and then will speak to him." Palladius, astonished that his thoughts should be known to him, waited with patience. As soon as Alypius was gone, St. John called Palladius, and said to him: "Why was {sic} you angry, imputing to me in your mind what I was no way guilty of? To you I can speak at any other time, and you have many fathers and brethren to comfort and direct you in the paths of salvation. But this governor being involved in the hurry of temporal affairs, and being come to receive some wholesome advice during the short time his affairs will allow him time to breathe in, how could I give you the preference?" He then told Palladius what passed in his heart, and his secret temptations to quit his solitude; for which end the devil represented to him his father's regret for his absence, and that he might induce his brother and sister to embrace a solitary life. The holy man bade him despise such suggestions; for they had both already renounced the world, and his father would yet live seven years. He foretold him that he should meet with great persecutions and sufferings, and should be a bishop, but with many afflictions: all which came to pass, though at that time extremely improbable.

The same year, St. Petronius, with six other monks, made a long journey to pay St. John a visit. He asked them if any among them was in holy orders. They said: No. One, however, the youngest in the company, was a deacon, though this was unknown to the rest. The saint, by divine instinct, knew this circumstance, and that the deacon had concealed his orders out of a false humility, not to seem superior to the others, but their inferior, as he was in age. Therefore, pointing to him, he said: "This man is a deacon." The other denied it, upon the false persuasion that to lie with a view to one's own humiliation was no sin. St. John took him by {667} the hand, and kissing it, said to him: "My son, take care never to deny the grace you have received from God, lest humility betray you into a lie. We must never lie, under any pretence of good whatever, because no untruth can be from God." The deacon received this rebuke with great respect. After their prayer together, one of the company begged of the saint to be cured of the tertian ague. He answered: "You desire to be freed from a sickness which is beneficial to you. As nitre cleanses the body, so distempers and other chastisements purify the soul." However, he blessed some oil and gave it to him: he vomited plentifully after it, and was from that moment perfectly cured. They returned to their lodgings, where, by his orders, they were treated with all proper civility, and cordial hospitality. When they went to him again, he received them with joyfulness in his countenance, which evidenced the interior spiritual joy of his soul; he bade them sit down, and asked them whence they came. They said, from Jerusalem. He then made them a long discourse, in which he first endeavored to show his own baseness; after which he explained the means by which pride and vanity are to be banished out of the heart, and all virtues to be acquired. He related to them the examples of many monks, who, by suffering their hearts to be secretly corrupted by vanity, at last fell also into scandalous irregularities; as of one, who, after a most holy and austere life, by this means fell into fornication, and then by despair into all manner of disorders: also of another, who, from vanity, fell into a desire of leaving his solitude; but by a sermon he preached to others, in a monastery on his road, was mercifully converted, and became an eminent penitent. The blessed John thus entertained Petronius and his company for three days, till the hour of None. When they were leaving him, he gave them his blessing, and said: "Go in peace, my children; and know that the news of the victory which the religious prince Theodosius has gained over the tyrant Eugenius, is this day come to Alexandria: but this excellent emperor will soon end his life by a natural death." Some days after their leaving him to return home, they were informed he had departed this life. Having been favored by a foresight of his death, he would see nobody for the last three days. At the end of this term he sweetly expired, being on his knees at prayer, towards the close of the year 394, of the beginning of 395. It might probably be on the 17th of October, on which day the Copths, or Egyptian Christians, keep his festival: the Roman and other Latin Martyrologies mark it on the 27th of March.

* * * * *

The solitude which the Holy Ghost recommends, and which the saints embraced, resembled that of Jesus Christ, being founded in the same motive or principle, and having the same exercises and employments, and the same end. Christ was conducted by the Holy Ghost into the desert, and he there spent his time in prayer and fasting. Woe to those whom humor or passion leads into solitude, or who consecrate it not to God by mortification, sighs of penance, and hymns of divine praise. To those who thus sanctify their desert, or cell, it will be an anticipated paradise, an abyss of spiritual advantages and comforts, known only to such as have enjoyed them. The Lord will change the desert into a place of delights, and will make the solitude a paradise and a garden worthy of himself.[4] In it only joy and jubilee shall be seen, nothing shall be heard but thanksgiving and praise. It is the dwelling of a terrestrial seraph, whose sole employment is to labor to know, and correct, all secret disorders of his own soul, to forget the world, and all objects of vanity which could distract or entangle him; to subdue his senses, to purify the faculties of his soul, and entertain in his {668} heart a constant fire of devotion, by occupying it assiduously on God, Jesus Christ, and heavenly things, and banishing all superfluous desires and thoughts; lastly, to make daily progress in purity of conscience, humility, mortification, recollection, and prayer, and to find all his joy in the most fervent and assiduous adoration, love, and praise of his sovereign Creator and Redeemer.

Footnotes: 1. Coll. b. 4, c. 21, p. 81. 2. A city in the north of Thebais, in Egypt. 3. S. Aug. l. pro cura de mortuis, c. 17, p. 294. 4. Isa. lxiii.

ST. RUPERT, OR ROBERT, C.

BISHOP OF SALTZBOURG.

HE was by birth a Frenchman, and of royal blood; but still more illustrious for his learning, and the extraordinary virtues he practised from his youth. He exercised himself is austere fasting, watching, and other mortifications; was a great lover of chastity and temperance; and so charitable as always to impoverish himself to enrich the poor. His reputation drew persons from remote provinces to receive his advice and instructions. He removed all their doubts and scruples, comforted the afflicted, cured the sick, and healed the disorders of souls. So distinguished a merit raised him to the episcopal see of Worms. But that people, being for the most part idolaters, could not bear the lustre of such a sanctity, which condemned their irregularities and superstitions. They beat him with rods, loaded him with all manner of outrages, and expelled him the city. But God prepared for him another harvest. Theodon, duke of Bavaria, hearing of his reputation and miracles, sent messengers to him, earnestly beseeching him to come and preach the gospel to the Baioarians, or Bavarians. This happened two years after his expulsion from Worms: during which interval he had made a journey to Rome. He was received at Ratisbon by Theodon and his court with all possible distinction, in 697, and found the hearts both of the nobles and people docile to the word of God. The Christian faith had been planted in that country two hundred years before, by St. Severinus, the apostle of Noricum. After his death, heresies and heathenish superstitions had entirely extinguished the light of the gospel. Bagintrude, sister of duke Theodon, being a Christian, disposed her brother and the whole country to receive the faith. Rupert, with the help of other zealous priests, whom he had brought with him, instructed, and, after a general fast, baptized, the duke Theodon and the lords and people of the whole country. God confirmed his preaching by many miracles. He converted also to Christianity the neighboring nations. After Ratisbon, the capital, the second chief seat of his labors was Laureacum, now called Lorch,[1] where he healed several diseases by prayer, and made many converts. However, it was not Lorch, nor the old Reginum, thence called Regensbourg, now Ratisbon, the capital of all those provinces, that was pitched upon to be the seat of the saint's bishopric, but old Juvavia, then almost in ruins, since rebuilt and called Saltzbourg. The duke Theodon adorned and enriched it with many magnificent donations, which enabled St. Rupert to found there several rich churches and monasteries. After the prince's death, his son Theodebert, or Diotper, inheriting his zeal and piety, augmented considerably the revenues of this church. St. Rupert took a journey into France to procure a new supply of able laborers, and brought back to Saltzbourg twelve holy missionaries, with his niece St. Erentrude, a virgin consecrated to God, for whom he built a great monastery, called Nunberg, of which {669} she was the first abbess.[2] St. Rupert labored several years in this see, and died happily on Easter-day, which fell that year on the 27th of March, after he had said mass and preached; on which day the Roman and other Martyrologies mention him. His principal festival is kept with the greatest solemnity in Austria and Bavaria on the 25th of September, the day of one of the translations of his relics, which are kept in the church under his name in Saltzbourg. Mabillon and Bulteau, upon no slight grounds, think this saint to have lived a whole century later than is commonly supposed, and that he founded the church of Saltzbourg about the year 700. See his life, published by Canisius, Henschenius, and Mabillon, with the notes of the last-mentioned editor.

Footnotes: 1. A village on the Danube in the midway between Ratisbon and Vienna, the capital of eastern Bavaria, at present Austria. 2. The bishop of Saltzbourg was, under Charlemagne, made an archbishop and metropolitan of Bavaria, Austria, and its hereditary territories. He is one of the first ecclesiastical princes of the empire, and is elected by the canons of the cathedral, who are all of noble extraction.

MARCH XXVIII.

PRISCUS, MALCHUS, AND ALEXANDER, MARTYRS.

From Eus. Hist. b. 7, c. 12, p. 262.

A.D. 260.

THESE eminent Christians, Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander, led a retired holy life in the country near Caesarea, in Palestine. During the fury of the persecution under Valerian, they often called to mind the triumphs of the martyrs, and secretly reproached themselves with cowardice, as living like soldiers who passed their time in softness and ease, while their brethren and fellow-warriors bore all the heat of the battle. They could not long smother these warm sentiments in their breast; but expressed them to one another. "What," said they, "while the secure gate of heaven is open, shall we shut it against ourselves? Shall we be so faint-hearted as not to suffer for the name of Christ, who died for us? Our brethren invite us by their example: their blood is a loud voice, which presses us to tread in their steps. Shall we be deaf to a cry calling us to the combat, and to a glorious victory?" Full of this holy ardor, they all, with one mind, repaired to Caesarea, and of their own accord, by a particular instinct of grace, presented themselves before the governor, declaring themselves Christians. While all others were struck with admiration at the sight of their generous courage, the barbarous judge appeared not able to contain his rage. After having tried on them all the tortures which he employed on other martyrs, he condemned them to be exposed to wild beasts. They are honored on this day in the Roman Martyrology.

* * * * *

In consecrating ourselves to the service of God, and to his pure love, the first and most essential condition is that we do it without reserve, with an earnest desire of attaining to the perfection of our state, and a firm resolution of sparing nothing, and being deterred by no difficulties from pursuing this end with our whole strength; and it must be our chief care constantly to maintain, and always increase this desire in our souls. Upon this condition {670} depends all out spiritual progress. This is more essential in a religious state than the vows themselves; and it is this which makes the difference betwixt the fervent and the lukewarm Christian. Many deceive themselves in this particular, and flatter themselves their resolution of aspiring after perfection, with all their strength, is sincere, whereas it is very imperfect. Of this we can best judge by their earnestness to advance in a spirit of prayer, and in becoming truly spiritual; in crucifying self-love, overcoming their failings, and cutting off all occasions of dissipation, and all impediments of their spiritual advancement. Mortification and prayer, which are the principal means, present usually the greatest difficulties: but these, as St. Terasa observes, are better than half vanquished and removed by a firm resolution of not being discouraged by any obstacles, but of gathering from them fresh vigor and strength. Patience and fortitude crown in the saints what this fervent resolution began.

ST. SIXTUS III., POPE.

HE was a priest among the Roman clergy in 418, when pope Zozimus condemned the Pelagian heretics. Sixtus was the first, after this sentence, who pronounced publicly anathema against them, to stop their slander in Africa that he favored their doctrine, as we are assured by St. Austin and St. Prosper in his chronicle. The former sent him two congratulatory letters the same year, in which he applauds this testimony of his zeal, and in the first of these letters professes a high esteem of a treatise written by him in defence of the grace of God against its enemies. It was that calumny of the Pelagian heretics that led Garnier into the mistake that our saint at first favored their errors. But a change of this kind would not have been buried in silence. After the death of St. Celestine, Sixtus was chosen pope in 432. He wrote to Nestorius to endeavor to reclaim him after his condemnation at Ephesus, in 431: but his heart was hardened, and he stopped his ears against all wholesome admonitions. The pope had the comfort to see a happy reconciliation made, by his endeavors, between the Orientals and St. Cyril: in which he much commended the humility and pacific dispositions of the latter. He says "that he was charged with the care and solicitude of all the churches in the world,[1] and that it is unlawful for any one to abandon the faith of the apostolic Roman church, in which St. Peter teaches in his successors what he received from Christ."[2] When Bassus, a nobleman of Rome, had been condemned by the emperor, and excommunicated by a synod of bishops for raising a grievous slander against the good pope, the meek servant of Christ visited and assisted him in person, administered him the viaticum in his last sickness; and buried him with his own hands. Julian of Eclanum or Eculanum, the famous Pelagian, earnestly desiring to recover his see, made great efforts to be admitted to the communion of the church, pretending that he was become a convert, and used several artifices to convince our saint that he really was so: but he was too well acquainted with them to be imposed on. This holy pope died soon after, on the 28th of March, in 440, having sat in the see near eight years. See his letters, Anastasius's Pontifical, with the notes of Bianchini, &c.

Footnotes: 1. Ep. 1, ad Episc. Orient. p. 1236. Ep. decret. t. 1. 2. Ep. 6, and Joan. Antioch. contra Nestor.

{671}

ST. GONTRAN, KING AND CONFESSOR.

HE was son of king Clotaire, and grandson of Clovis I. and St. Clotildis. Being the second son, while his brothers Charibert reigned at Paris, and Sigebert in Austrasia, residing at Metz, he was crowned king of Orleans and Burgundy in 561, making Challons on the Saone his capital. When compelled to take up arms against his ambitious brothers and the Lombards, he made no other use of his victories under the conduct of a brave general called Mommol, than to give peace to his dominions. He protected his nephews against the practices of the wicked dowager queens, Brunehault of Sigebert, and Fredegonde of Chilperic, the firebrands of France. The putting to death the physicians of the queen, at her request, on her death-bed, and the divorcing his wife Mercatrude, are crimes laid to his charge, in which the barbarous manners of his nation involved him: but these he effaced by tears of repentance. He governed his kingdom, studying rather to promote the temporal happiness of others than his own, a stranger to the passions of pride, jealousy, and ambition, and making piety the only rule of his policy. The prosperity of his reign, both in peace and war, condemn those who think that human policy cannot be modelled by the maxims of the gospel, whereas nothing can render a government more flourishing. He always treated the pastors of the church with respect and veneration, regarding them as his fathers, and honoring and consulting them as his masters. He was the protector of the oppressed, and the tender parent of his subjects, whom he treated as his children. He poured out his treasures among them with a holy profusion; especially in the time of a pestilence and famine. He gave the greatest attention to the care of the sick. He fasted, prayed, wept, and offered himself to God night and day, as a victim ready to be sacrificed on the altar of his justice, to avert his indignation, which he believed he himself had provoked, and drawn down upon his innocent people. He was a severe punisher of crimes in his officers and others, and, by many wholesome regulations, restrained the barbarous licentiousness of his troops, but no man was more ready to forgive offences against his own person. He contented himself with imprisoning a man who, through the instigation of queen Fredegonde, had attempted to stab him, and he spared another assassin sent by the same wicked woman, because he had taken shelter in a church. With royal magnificence he built and endowed many churches and monasteries. St. Gregory of Tours relates many miracles performed by him both before and after his death, to some of which he was an eye-witness. This good king, like another penitent David, having spent his life after his conversion, though on the throne, in the retirement and penance of a recluse, (as St. Hugh of Cluny says of him, exhorting king Philip I. to imitate his example,) died on the 28th of March, in 593, in the sixty-eighth year of his age, having reigned thirty-one and some months. He was buried in the church of St. Marcellus, which he had founded. The Huguenots scattered his ashes in the sixteenth century: only his skull escaped their fury, and is now kept there in a silver case. He is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. See St. Gregory of Tours, Fredegarius, and Baillet.

{672}

MARCH XXIX.

SS. JONAS, BARACHISIUS, AND THEIR COMPANIONS,

MARTYRS.

From their genuine acts compiled by Esalas, a noble Armenian knight in the troops of king Sapor, an eye witness; published in the original Chaldaic, by Stephen Assemani, Act. Mart. Orient. t. 1, p. 211. They were much adulterated by the Greeks in Metaphrastes. Ruinart and Tillemont think Sapor raised no persecution before his fortieth year: but Assemani proves from these acts, and several other monuments, a persecution in his eighteenth year. See Praef. Gen. and p. 214, app.

A.D. 327.

KING SAPOR, in the eighteenth year of his reign, raised a bloody persecution against the Christians, and demolished their churches and monasteries. Jonas and Barachisius, two brothers of the city Beth-Asa, hearing that several Christians lay under sentence of death at Hubaham, went thither to encourage and serve them. Nine of that number received the crown of martyrdom. After their execution, Jonas and Barachisius were apprehended for having exhorted them to die. The president mildly entreated the two brothers to obey the king of kings, meaning the king of Persia, and to worship the sun, moon, fire, and water. Their answer was, that it was more reasonable to obey the immortal King of heaven and earth than a mortal prince. The Magians were much offended to hear their king called mortal. By their advice the martyrs were separated, and Barachisius was cast into a very narrow close dungeon. Jonas they detained with them, endeavoring to persuade him to sacrifice to fire, the sun, and water. The prince of the Magians, seeing him inflexible, caused him to be laid fiat on his belly with a stake under his navel, and to be beaten both with knotty clubs and with rods. The martyr all the time continued in prayer, saying: "I thank you, O God of our father Abraham. Enable me, I beseech you, to offer to you acceptable holocausts. One thing I have asked of the Lord: this will I seek after.[1] The sun, moon, fire, and water I renounce: I believe and confess the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The judge ordered him next to be set in a frozen pond, with a cord tied to his foot. After supper, and a short nap, he sent for Barachisius, and told him his brother had sacrificed. The martyr said it was impossible that he should have paid divine honors to fire, a vile creature, and spoke much on the immensity and power of God, and with such, eloquence and force that the Magians were astonished to hear him, and said one to another, that if he were permitted to speak in public, he would draw over many from their religion. Whereupon they concluded for the future to hold his interrogatories in the night. In the mean time they caused two red-hot iron plates, and two red-hot hammers, to be applied under each arm, and said to him: "If you shake off either of these, by the king's fortune, you deny Christ." He meekly replied: "I fear not your fire; nor shall I throw off your instruments of torture. I beg you to try without delay all your torments on me. He who is engaged in combat for God is full of courage." They ordered melted lead to be dropped into his nostrils and eyes; and that he should then be carried to prison, and there hung up by one foot. Jonas, after this, being brought out of his pool, the Magians said to him: "How do you find yourself this morning? We imagine you passed the {673} last night out very uncomfortably." "No," replied Jonas; "from the day I came into the world, I never remember a night more sweet and agreeable: for I was wonderfully refreshed by the remembrance of Christ's sufferings." The Magians said: "Your companion hath renounced." The martyr, interrupting them, answered: "I know that he hath long ago renounced the devil and his angels." The Magians urged: "Take care lest you perish, abandoned both by God and man." Jonas replied: "If you are really wise, as you boast, judge if it be not better to sow the corn than to keep it hoarded up. Our life is a seed sown to rise again in the world to come, when it will be renewed by Christ in immortal light." The Magians said: "Your books have drawn many aside." Jonas answered: "They have indeed drawn many from worldly pleasures. When a servant of Christ is in his sufferings inebriated with love from the passion of his Lord, he forgets the transitory state of this short life, its riches, estates, gold, and honors; regardless of kings and princes, lords and noblemen, where an eternity is at stake, he desires nothing but the sight of the only true King, whose empire is everlasting, and whose power reaches to all ages." The judges commanded all his fingers and toes to be cut off, joint by joint, and scattered about. Then they said to him: "Now wait the harvest to reap other hands from this seed." To whom he said: "Other hands I do not ask. God is present, who first framed me, and who will give me new strength." After this, the skin was torn off the martyr's head, his tongue was cut out, and he was thrown into a vessel of boiling pitch; but the pitch by a sudden ebullition running over, the servant of God was not hurt by it. The judges next ordered him to be squeezed in a wooden press till his veins, sinews, and fibres burst. Lastly, his body was sawn with an iron saw, and, by pieces, thrown into a dry cistern. Guards were appointed to watch the sacred relics, lest Christians should steal them away. The judges then called upon Barachisius to spare his own body. To whom he said: "This body I did not frame, neither will I destroy it. God its maker will again restore it and will judge you and your king." Hormisdatscirus, turning to Maharnarsces, said: "By our delays we affront the king. These men regard neither words nor torments." They therefore agreed that he should be beaten with sharp-pointed rushes; then that splinters of reeds should be applied to his body, and by cords strait drawn and pulled, should be pressed deep into his flesh, and that in this condition his body, pierced all over with sharp spikes, armed like a porcupine, should be rolled on the ground. After these tortures, he was put into the screw or press, and boiling pitch and brimstone were poured into his mouth. By this last torment he obtained a crown equal to that of his brother. Under their most exquisite tortures they thought they bought heaven too cheap. Upon the news of their death, Abtusciatus, an old friend, came and purchased their bodies for five hundred drachms and three silk garments, binding himself also by oath never to divulge the sale. The acts are closed by these words: "This book was written from the mouths of witnesses, and contains the acts of the saints, Jonas, Barachisius, and others, martyrs of Christ, who by his succor fought, triumphed, and were crowned, in whose prayers we beg place may be found, by Esaias, son of Adabus of Arzun, in Armenia, of the troop of royal horsemen, who was present at their interrogatories and tortures, and who wrote the history of their conflicts." They were crowned on the 29th of the moon of December. This was the 24th of that month, in the year of Christ 327, of Sopar II. the 18th. The Roman Martyrology mentions them on the 29th of March.

* * * * *

Those powerful motives which supported the martyrs under the sharpest {674} torments, ought to inspire us with patience, resignation, and holy joy, under sickness and all crosses or trials. These are the times of the greatest spiritual harvest, by the exercise of the most perfect virtues. For nothing is more heroic in the practice of Christian virtue, nothing more precious in the sight of God, than the sacrifice of patience, submission, constant fidelity and charity in a state of suffering. Under sickness we are too apt eagerly to desire health, that we may be able to do something for God, and to discharge the obligations of our profession, as we persuade ourselves. This is a mere invention of self-love, which is impatient under the weight of humiliation. Nothing, indeed, is more severe to nature than such a state of death, and there is nothing which it is not desirous of doing, to recover that active life, which carries an air of importance by making an appearance in the tumultuous scene of the world. But how much does the soul generally lose by such an exchange! Ah! did we but truly know how great are the spiritual advantages and riches, and how great the glory of patience founded upon motives of true charity, and how precious the victories and triumphs are which it gains over self-love, we should rejoice too much in a state of suffering and humiliation ever to entertain any inordinate desires of changing it. We should only ask for health in sickness under this condition, if it be more expedient for God's honor and our spiritual advancement. With St. Paul, we should find a joy and delight in a state of privation and suffering, in which we enter into a true sense of our absolute weakness, feel that we are nothing, and have no reliance but on God alone.

Footnotes: 1. Psa. xxvi 4.

SS. ARMOGASTES, ARCHINIMUS, AND SATURUS,

MARTYRS.

GENSERIC, the Arian king of the Vandals, to Africa, having, on his return out of Italy, in 457, enacted new penal laws, and severer than any he had till then put in force against Catholics, count Armogastes was on that occasion deprived of his honors and dignities at court, and most cruelly tortured. But no sooner had the jailers bound him with cords, but they broke of themselves, as the martyr lifted up his eyes to heaven; and this happened several times. And though they afterwards hung him up by one foot with his head downwards for a considerable time, the saint was no more affected by this torment than if he had lain all the while at his ease on a feather-bed. Theodoric, the king's son, thereupon ordered his head to be struck off: but one of his Arian priests diverted him from it, advising him to take other measures with him to prevent his being looked upon as a martyr by those of his party, which would be of disservice to the opposite cause. He was therefore sent into Byzacena to work in the mines; and some time after, for his greater disgrace, he was removed thence into the neighborhood of Carthage, and employed in keeping cows. But he looked upon it as his glory to be dishonored before men in the cause of God. It was not long before he had a revelation that his end drew near. So having foretold the time of his death, and given orders to a devout Christian about the place where he desired to be interred, the holy confessor, a few days after, went to receive the rewards of those that suffer in the cause of truth.

Archinimus, of the city Mascula, in Numidia, resisted all the artifices which the king could use to overcome his faith, and was condemned to be beheaded, but was reprieved while he stood under the axe. Satur, or Saturus, was master of the household to Huneric, by whom he was threatened to be deprived of his estate, goods, slaves, wife, and children for his faith. {675} His own wife omitted nothing in her power to prevail with him to purchase his pardon at the expense of his conscience. But he courageously answered her in the words of Job: "You have spoken like one of the foolish women.[1] If you loved me, you would give me different advice, and not push me on to a second death. Let them do their worst: I will always remember our Lord's words: If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, his wife and children, his brethren and sisters, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."[2] He suffered many torments, was stripped of all his substance, forbid ever to appear in public, and reduced to great distress. But God enriched him with his graces, and called him to himself. See St. Victor Vitensis, Hist. Persec. Vandal, l. 1, n. 14.

Footnotes: 1. Job ii. 9. 2. Luke xiv. 26.

ST. EUSTASIUS, OR EUSTACHIUS,

ABBOT OF LUXEU,

SUCCEEDED his master St. Columban in that charge, in 611. He sanctified himself by humility, continual prayer, watching, and fasting; was the spiritual father of six hundred monks, and of many holy bishops and saints, and died in 625. He is named in the Martyrologies of Ado, and in the Roman. See his life by Jonas, his colleague, in the Bollandists, and in Mabillon.

ST. GUNDLEUS, CONFESSOR.

THIS saint, who was formerly honored with great devotion in Wales, was son to the king of the Dimetians in South-Wales. After the death of his father, though the eldest son, he divided the kingdom with his six brothers who nevertheless respected and obeyed him as if he had been their sovereign. He married Gladusa, daughter of Braghan, prince of that country, which is called from him Brecknockshire, and was father of St. Canoe and St. Keyna. St. Gundleus had by her the great St. Cadoc, who afterwards founded the famous monastery of Llancarvan, three miles from Cowbridge, in Glamorganshire. Gundleus lived so as to have always in view the heavenly kingdom for which we are created by God. To secure this, he retired wholly from the world long before his death, and passed his time in a solitary little dwelling near a church which he had built. His clothing was sackcloth, his food barley-bread, upon which he usually strewed ashes, and his drink was water. Prayer and contemplation were his constant occupation, to which he rose at midnight, and he subsisted by the labor of his hands: thus he lived many years. Some days before his death he sent for St. Dubritius and his son St. Cadoc, and by their assistance, and the holy rites of the church, prepared himself for his passage to eternity. He departed to our Lord towards the end of the fifth century, and was glorified by miracles. See his life in Capgrave and Henschenius, from the collection of John of Tinmouth. See also bishop Usher.

ST. MARK, BISHOP AND CONFESSOR.

SOME Greeks rank among the saints on this day, Mark, bishop of Arethusa, in Syria, in the fourth age. When Constantius put to death his uncle, {676} Julius Constantius, brother of Constantine the Great, with his eldest son; the two younger, Gallus and Julian, narrowly escaped the sword. In that danger Mark concealed Julian, and secretly supplied him with necessaries for his subsistence. When Julian became emperor, he commanded that the temples which had been demolished by Christians, during the two preceding reigns, should be rebuilt at their expense. Mark had, by the authority of Constantius, demolished a very magnificent temple which was held in great veneration by the idolaters: he had also built a church, and converted a great number of infidels. Authorized by the law of Julian, the heathens of Arethusa, when they saw themselves uppermost, fell on the Christians; and Mark, finding that they were ready to show their resentment against him in particular, which they had long concealed, he at first, pursuant to the gospel precept, betook himself to flight to escape their fury. But understanding that they had apprehended some of his flock instead of him, he returned and delivered himself up to the persecutors, to animate others in the same cause by his example and instructions. They seized him soon after his return, dragged him through the streets by the hair, or any part they could lay hold of, without the least compassion for his age, or regard for his virtue and learning. Having stripped him, and scourged him all over his body, joining ignominy and insults with cruelty, they threw him into the stinking public jakes. Having taken him from thence, they left him to the children, ordering them to prick and pierce him, without mercy, with their writing-styles, or steel pencils. They bound his legs with cords so tight as to cut and bruise his flesh to the very bone; they wrung off his ears with small strong threads; and in this maimed, bloody condition, they pushed him from one to another. After this they rubbed him over with honey and fat broth; and shutting him up in a kind of cage, hung him up in the air where the sun was most scorching, at noonday, in the midst of summer, in order to draw the wasps and gnats upon him, whose stings are exceeding sharp and piercing in those hot countries. He was so calm in the midst of his sufferings, that, though so sorely wounded and covered with flies and wasps, he bantered them as he hung in the air; telling them, that while they were grovelling on the earth, he was raised by them towards heaven. They frequently solicited him to rebuild their temple, but though they reduced their demands by degrees to a trifling sum, he constantly answered, that it would be an impiety to give them one farthing towards such a work. This indeed would be to concur to idolatrous worship; but his demolishing the temple would have been against the order of law and justice, had he done it without public authority. At length the fury of the people was turned into admiration of his patience, and they set him at liberty; and several of them afterwards begged of him to instruct them in the principles of a religion which was capable of inspiring such a resolution. Having spent the remainder of his life in the faithful discharge of the duties of his station, he died in peace under Jovian or Valens. He is not named in the Roman Martyrology, nor venerated by the church among the saints. He had been long engaged in the errors and intrigues of the Semi-Arians; but the encomiums given him by St. Gregory Nazianzen, Theodoret, and Sozomen, when they relate his sufferings, show that towards the end of the reign of Constantius, he joined in the orthodox communion.

{677}

MARCH XXX.

ST. JOHN CLIMACUS, ABBOT.

From his life written by Daniel, a monk of Raithu, soon after his death, and from his own works. See Bulteau, Hist Monast. d'Orient, and d'Andilly, or rather his nephew, Le Maitre, in his life prefixed to the French translation of his works. See also Jos. Assemani, in Cal. Univ. ad 30 Martii, t. 6, p. 213.

A.D. 605.

ST. JOHN, generally distinguished by the appellation of Climacus, from his excellent book entitled Climax, or the Ladder to Perfection, was born about the year 525, probably in Palestine. By his extraordinary progress in the arts and sciences, he obtained very young the surname of the Scholastic. But at sixteen years of age he renounced all the advantages which the world promised him, to dedicate himself to God in a religious state, in 547. He retired to Mount Sinai, which, from the time of the disciples of St. Antony and St. Hilarion, had been always peopled by holy men, who, in imitation of Moses, when he received the law on that mountain, lived in the perpetual contemplation of heavenly things. Our novice, fearing the danger of dissipation and relaxation, to which numerous communities are generally more exposed than others, chose not to live in the great monastery on the summit, but in a hermitage on the descent of the mountain, under the discipline of Martyrius, a holy ancient anchoret. By silence, he curbed the insolent itch of talking about every thing, an ordinary vice in learned men, but usually a mark of pride and self-sufficiency. By perfect humility and obedience, he banished the dangerous desire of self-complacency in his actions. He never contradicted, never disputed with any one. So perfect was his submission, that he seemed to have no self-will. He undertook to sail through the deep sea of this mortal life securely, under the direction of a prudent guide, and shunned those rocks which he could not have escaped, had he presumed to steer alone, as he tells us.[1] From the visible mountain he raised his heart, without interruption, in all his actions, to God, who is invisible; and, attentive to all the motions of his grace, studied only to do his will. Four years he spent in the trial of his own strength, and in learning the obligations of his state, before he made his religious profession, which was in the twentieth year of his age. In his writings, he severely condemns engagements made by persons too young, or before a sufficient probation. By fervent prayer and fasting he prepared himself for the solemn consecration of himself to God, that the most intense fervor might make his holocaust the more perfect: and from that moment he seemed to be renewed in spirit; and his master admired the strides with which, like a mighty giant, the young disciple advanced, daily more and more, towards God by self-denial, obedience, humility, and the uninterrupted exercises of divine love and prayer.

In the year 560, and the thirty-fifth of his age, he lost Martyrius by death, having then spent nineteen years in that place in penance and holy contemplation. By the advice of a prudent director, he then embraced an eremitical life in a plain called Thole, near the foot of Mount Sinai. His cell was five miles from the church, probably the same which had been built a little {678} before, by order of the emperor Justinian, for the use of the monks, at the bottom of this mountain, in honor of the Blessed Virgin, as Procopius mentions.[2] Thither he went every Saturday and Sunday to assist, with all the other anchorets and monks of that desert, at the holy office and at the celebration of the divine mysteries, when they all communicated. His diet was very sparing, though, to shun ostentation and the danger of vain-glory, he ate of every thing that was allowed among the monks of Egypt, who universally abstained from flesh, fish, &c. Prayer was his principal employment; and he practised what he earnestly recommends to all Christians, that in all their actions, thoughts, and words, they should keep themselves with great fervor in the presence of God, and direct all they do to his holy will.[3] By habitual contemplation he acquired an extraordinary purity of heart, and such a facility of lovingly beholding God in all his works, that this practice seemed in him a second nature. Thus he accompanied his studies with perpetual prayer. He assiduously read the holy scriptures, and fathers, and was one of the most learned doctors of the church. But, to preserve the treasure of humility, he concealed, as much as possible, both his natural and acquired talents, and the extraordinary graces with which the Holy Ghost enriched his soul. By this secrecy he fled from the danger of vain-glory, which, like a leech, sticks to our best actions, and sucking from them its nourishment, robs us of their fruit. As if this cell had not been sufficiently remote from the eyes of men, St. John frequently retired into a neighboring cavern, which he had made in the rock, where no one could come to disturb his devotions, or interrupt his tears. So ardent were his charity and compunction, that his eyes seemed two fountains, which scarce ever ceased to flow; and his continual sighs and groans to heaven, under the weight of the miseries inseparable from his moral pilgrimage, were not to be equalled by the vehemency of the cries of those who suffer from knives and fire. Overcome by importunities, he admitted a holy anchoret named Moyses to live with him as his disciple.

God bestowed on St. John an extraordinary grace of healing the spiritual disorders of souls. Among others, a monk called Isaac, was brought almost to the brink of despair by most violent temptations of the flesh. He addressed himself to St. John; who perceived by his tears how much he underwent from that conflict and struggle which he felt within himself. The servant of God commended his faith, and said: "My son, let us have recourse to God by prayer." They accordingly prostrated themselves together on the ground in fervent supplication for a deliverance, and from that time the infernal serpent left Isaac to peace. Many others resorted to St. John for spiritual advice: but the devil excited some to jealousy, who censured him as one who, out of vanity, lost much time in unprofitable discourse. The saint took this accusation, which was a mere calumny, in good part, and as a charitable admonition; he therefore imposed on himself a rigorous silence for near a twelvemonth. This his humility and modesty so much astonished his calumniators, that they joined the rest of the monks in beseeching him to reassume his former function of giving charitable advice to all that resorted to him for it, and not to bury that talent of science which he had received for the benefit of many. He who knew not what it was to contradict others, with the same humility and deference again opened his mouth to instruct his neighbor in the rules of perfect virtue: in which office, such was the reputation of his wisdom and experience, that he was regarded as another Moses in that holy place.

St. John was now seventy-five years old, and had spent forty of them in {679} his hermitage, when, in the year six hundred, he was unanimously chosen abbot of Mount Sinai, and superior-general of all the monks and hermits in that country. Soon after he was raised to this dignity, the people of Palestine and Arabia, in the time of a great drought and famine, made their application to him as to another Elias, begging him to intercede with God in their behalf. The saint failed not with great earnestness to recommend their distress to the Father of mercies, and his prayer was immediately recompensed with abundant rains. St. Gregory the Great., who then sat in St. Peter's chair, wrote to our holy abbot,[4] recommending himself to his prayers, and sent him beds, with other furniture and money, for his hospital, for the use of pilgrims near Mount Sinai. John, who had used his utmost endeavors to decline the pastoral charge, when he saw it laid upon him, neglected no means which might promote the sanctification of all those who were entrusted to his care. That posterity might receive some share in the benefit of his holy instructions, John, the learned and virtuous abbot of Raithu, a monastery-situate towards the Red Sea, entreated him by that obedience he had ever practised, even with regard to his inferiors, that he would draw up the most necessary rules by which fervent souls might arrive at Christian perfection. The saint answered him, that nothing but extreme humility could have moved him to write to so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue; but that he received his commands with respect, though far above his strength, never considering his own insufficiency. Wherefore, apprehensive of falling into death by disobedience, he took up his pen in haste, with great eagerness mixed with fear, and set himself to draw some imperfect outlines as an unskilful painter, leaving them to receive from him, as a great master, the finishing strokes. This produced the excellent work which he called Climax, or the ladder of religious perfection. This book being written in sentences, almost in the manner of aphorisms, abounds more in sense than words. A certain majestic simplicity, an inexpressible unction and spirit of humility, joined with conciseness and perspicuity, very much enhance the value of this performance: but its chief merit consists in the sublime sentiments, and perfect description of all Christian virtues, which it contains. The author confirms his precepts by several edifying examples, as of obedience and penance.[5] In describing a monastery of three hundred and thirty monks, which he had visited near Alexandria in Egypt, he mentions one of the principal citizens of that city, named Isidore, who, petitioning to be admitted into the house, said to the abbot: "As iron is in the hands of the smith, so am I in your hands." The abbot ordered him to remain without the gate, and to prostrate himself at the feet of everyone that passed by, begging their prayers for his soul struck with a leprosy. Thus he passed seven years in profound humility and patience. He told St. John, that during the first year he always considered himself as a slave condemned for his sins, and sustained violent conflicts. The second year he passed in tranquillity and confidence; and the third with relish and pleasure in his humiliations. So great was his virtue, that the abbot determined to present him to the bishop in order to be promoted to the priesthood, but the humility of the holy penitent prevented the execution of that design; for having begged at least a respite, he died within ten days. St. John could not help admiring the cook of this numerous community, who seemed always recollected, and generally bathed in tears amidst his continual occupation, and asked him by what means he nourished so perfect a spirit of compunction, in the midst of such a dissipating laborious employment. He said, that serving the monks, he represented to himself that he was serving not men, but God in his servants {680} and that the fire he always had before his eyes, reminded him of that fire which will burn souls for all eternity. The moving description which our author gives of the monastery of penitents called the Prison, above a mile from the former, hath been already abridged in our language. John the Sabaite told our saint, as of a third person, that seeing himself respected in his monastery, he considered that this was not the way to satisfy for his sins. Wherefore, with the leave of his abbot, he repaired to a severe monastery in Pontus, and after three years saw in a dream a schedule of his debts, to the amount in appearance of one hundred pounds of gold, of which only ten were cancelled. He therefore repeated often to himself: "Poor Antiochus, thou hast still great debt to satisfy." After passing over thirteen years in contempt and the most fervent practices of penance, he deserved to see in a vision his whole debt blotted out. Another monk, in a grievous fit of illness, fell into a trance, in which he lay as if he had been dead for the space of an hour: but recovering, he shut himself up in his cell, and lived a recluse twelve years, almost continually weeping, in the perpetual meditation of death. When he was near death, his brethren could only extort from him these words of edification: "He who hath death always before his eyes, will never sin." John, abbot of Raithu, explained this book of our saint by judicious comments, which are also extant. We have likewise a letter of St. John Climacus to the same person, concerning the duties of a pastor, in which he exhorts him in correcting others to temper severity with mildness, and encourages him zealously to fulfil the obligations of his charge; for nothing is greater or more acceptable to God than to offer him the sacrifice of rational souls sanctified by penance and charity.

St. John sighed continually under the weight of his dignity, during the four years that he governed the monks of Mount Sinai: and as he had taken upon him that burden with fear and reluctance, he with joy found means to resign the same a little before his death. Heavenly contemplation, and the continual exercise of divine love and praise, were his delight and comfort in his earthly pilgrimage: and in this imitation of the functions of the blessed spirits in heaven he placeth the essence of the monastic state.[6] In his excellent maxims concerning the gift of holy tears, the fruit of charity,[7] we seem to behold a lively portraiture of his most pure soul. He died in his hermitage on the 30th day of March, in 605, being fourscore years old. His spiritual son George, who had succeeded him in the abbacy, earnestly begged of God that he might not be separated from his dear master and guide, and followed him by a happy death within a few days. On several Greek commentaries on St. John Climacus's ladder, see Montfaucon, Biblioth. Coisliana, pp. 305, 306.

* * * * *

St. John Climacus, speaking of the excellence and the effects of charity, does it with a feeling and energy worthy of such a subject. "A mother," says he,[8] "feels less pleasure when she folds within her arms the dear infant whom she nourishes with her own milk, than the true child of charity does, when united, as he incessantly is, to his God, and folded as if were in the arms of his heavenly Father.[9]—Charity operates in some persons so as to carry them almost entirely out of themselves. It illuminates others, and fills them with such sentiments of joy, that they cannot help crying out: The Lord is my helper and my protector: in him hath my heart confided, and I have been helped. And my flesh hath flourished again, and with my will I will give praise to him.[10] This joy which they feel in their hearts, is reflected on their countenances; and when once God has united, or, as we may say, {681} incorporated them with his charity, he displays in their exterior, as in the reflection of a mirror, the brightness and serenity of their souls: even as Moses, being honored with a sight of God, was encompassed round by his glory." St. John Climacus composed the following prayer to obtain the gift of charity: "My God, I pretend to nothing upon this earth, except to be so firmly united to you by prayer, that to be separated from you may be impossible: let others desire riches and glory; for my part, I desire but one thing, and that is, to be inseparably united to you, and to place in you alone all my hopes of happiness and repose."

Footnotes: 1. Gr. l. 2. Procop. l. 5 de aedif. Justin. 3. S. Jo. Clim. gr. 27, n. 67. 4. St. Greg. l. 11; Ep. 1, l. 12; Ep. 16, t. 2, p. 1091. 5. Gr. 4 and 5. 6. Gr. 1. 7. Gr. 7, 27, 30. 8. Grad. 30, n. 12. 9. Gr {} n. 14. 10. Ps. xxvii.

S. ZOZIMUS, BISHOP OF SYRACUSE,

WAS successor to the holy bishop Peter; and faithfully discharged all the duties of a worthy pastor until his death, which happened in 660. His, name is mentioned in the Roman and Sicilian Martyrologies. See the Bollandists and Baillet.

ST. REGULUS, OR RIEUL,

WHO having converted the country of Senlis to the faith, about the same time that St. Dionysius preached in France, was made first bishop of Senlis, and died in peace in the midst of his flock. See the Bollandists and Tillem. t. 4, p. 719.

MARCH XXXI.

SAINT BENJAMIN, DEACON, M.

From Theodoret, Hist. Eccles. l. 5, c. 39, &c.

A.D. 429.

ISDEGERDES, son of Sapor III., put a stop to the crael persecutions against the Christians in Persia, which had been begun by Sapor II., and the Church had enjoyed twelve years' peace in that kingdom, when, in 420, it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of one Abdas, a Christian bishop, who burned down the Pyraeum, or temple of fire, the great divinity of the Persians. King Isdegerdes threatened to demolish all the churches of the Christians, unless he would rebuild it. Abdas had done ill in destroying the temple, but did well in refusing to rebuild it; for nothing can make it lawful to contribute to any act of idolatry, or to the building a temple, as Theodoret observes. Isdegerdes therefore demolished all the Christian churches in Persia, put to death Abdas, and raised a general persecution against the Church, which continued forty years with great fury. Isdegerdes died the year following, in 421. But his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with greater inhumanity. The very description which Theodoret, a contemporary writer, and one that lived in the neighborhood gives of the cruelties he exercised on the Christians, strikes us with {682} horror: some were flayed alive in different parts of the body, and suffered all kinds of torture that could be invented: others, being stuck all over with sharp reeds, were hauled and rolled about in that condition; others were tormented divers other ways, such as nothing but the most hellish malice was capable of suggesting. Among these glorious champions of Christ was St. Benjamin, a deacon. The tyrant caused him to be beaten and imprisoned. He had lain a year in the dungeon, when an ambassador from the emperor obtained his enlargement, on condition he should never speak to any of the courtiers about religion. The ambassador passed his word in his behalf that he would not: but Benjamin, who was a minister of the gospel, declared that he could not detain the truth in captivity, conscious to himself of the condemnation of the slothful servant for having hid his talent. He therefore neglected no opportunity of announcing Christ. The king, being informed that he still preached the faith in his kingdom, ordered him to be apprehended; but the martyr made no other reply to his threats than by putting this question to the king: What opinion he would have of any of his subjects who should renounce his allegiance to him, and join in war against him. The enraged tyrant caused reeds to be run in between the nails and the flesh both of his hands and feet, and the same to be thrust into other most tender parts, and drawn out again, and this to be frequently repeated with violence. He lastly ordered a knotty stake to be thrust into his bowels to rend and tear them, in which torment he expired in the year 424. The Roman Martyrology places his name on the 31st of March.

* * * * *

St. Ephrem, considering the heroic constancy of the martyrs, makes on them the following pious reflections: "The wisdom of philosophers, and the eloquence of the greatest orators, are dumb through amazement, when they contemplate the wonderful spectacle and glorious actions of the martyrs: the tyrants and judges were not able to express their astonishment when they beheld the faith, the constancy, and the cheerfulness of these holy champions. What excuse shall we have in the dreadful day of judgment, if we who have never been exposed to any cruel persecutions, or to the violence of such torments, shall have neglected the love of God and the care of a spiritual life? No temptations, no torments, were able to draw them from that love which they bore to God: but we, living in rest and delights, refuse to love our most merciful and gracious Lord. What shall we do in that day of terror, when the martyrs of Christ, standing with confidence near his throne, shall show the marks of their wounds? What shall we then show? Shall we present a lively faith? true charity towards God? a perfect disengagement of our affections from earthly things? souls freed from the tyranny of the passions? silence and recollection? meekness? alms-deeds? prayers poured forth with clean hearts? compunction, watchings, tears? Happy shall he be whom such good works shall attend. He will be the partner of the martyrs, and, supported by the treasure of these virtues, shall appear with equal confidence before Christ and his angels. We entreat you, O most holy martyrs, who cheerfully suffered most cruel torments for God our Saviour and his love, on which account you are now most intimately and familiarly united to him, that you pray to the Lord for us miserable sinners, covered with filth, that he infuse into us the grace of Christ, that it may enlighten our souls that we may love him, &c."[1]

Footnotes: 1. St. Ephrem. Hom. In SS. Martyres. t. 3. Op. Gr. et Lat. p. 251. ed Vatic. an. 1746.

{683}

ST. ACACIUS, OR ACHATES, BISHOP OF ANTIOCH IN ASIA MINOR, C.

ST. ACACIUS was bishop of Antioch, probably the town of that name in Phrygia, where the Marcionites were numerous. He was surnamed Agathangel, or Good-angel, and extremely respected by the people for his sanctity. It was owing to his zeal that not one of his flock renounced Christ by sacrificing to idols during the persecution of Decius, a weakness which several of the Marcionite heretics had betrayed. Our saint himself made a glorious confession of his faith; of which the following relation, transcribed from the public register, is a voucher.

Martian, a man of consular dignity, arriving at Antioch, a small town of his government, ordered the bishop to be brought before him. His name was Acacius, and he was styled the buckler and refuge of that country for his universal charity and episcopal zeal. Martian said to him: "As you have the happiness to live under the Roman laws, you are bound to love and honor our princes, who are our protectors." Acacius answered: "Of all the subjects of the empire, none love and honor the emperor more than the Christians. We pray without intermission for his person, and that it may please God to grant him long life, prosperity, success, and all benedictions; that he may be endowed by him with the spirit of justice and wisdom to govern his people; that his reign be auspicious, and prosperous, blessed with joy, peace, and plenty, throughout all the provinces that obey him." MARTIAN.-"All this I commend; but that the emperor may be the better convinced of your submission and fidelity, come now and offer him a sacrifice with me." ACACIUS.-"I have already told you that I pray to the great and true God for the emperor; but he ought not to require a sacrifice from us, nor is there any due to him or to any man whatsoever." MARTIAN.-"Tell us what God you adore, that we may also pay him our offerings and homages." ACACIUS.-"I wish from my heart you did but know him to your advantage." MARTIAN.-"Tell me his name." ACACIUS.-"He is called the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob." MARTIAN.-"Are these the names of gods?" ACACIUS.-"By no means, but of men to whom the true God spoke; he is the only God, and he alone is to be adored, feared, and loved." MARTIAN.-"What is this God?" ACACIUS.-"He is the most high Adonia, who is seated above the cherubims and seraphims." MARTIAN.-"What is a seraph?" ACACIUS.-"A ministering spirit of the most high God, and one of the principal lords of the heavenly court." MARTIAN.-"What chimeras are these? Lay aside these whims of invisible beings, and adore such gods as you can see." ACACIUS.-"Tell me who are those gods to whom you would have me sacrifice?" MARTIAN.-"Apollo, the saviour of men, who preserves us from pestilence and famine, who enlightens, preserves, and governs the universe." ACACIUS.-"Do you mean that wretch that could not preserve his own life: who, being in love with a young woman, (Daphne,) ran about distracted in pursuit of her, not knowing that he was never to possess the object of his desires? It is therefore evident that he could not foresee things to come, since he was in the dark as to his own fate: and as clear that he could be no god, who was thus cheated by a creature. All know likewise that he had a base passion for Hyacinth, a beautiful boy, and was so awkward as to break the head of that minion, the fond object of his criminal passion, with a quoit. Is not he also that god who, with Neptune, turned mason, hired himself to a king, (Laomedon of Troy,) and built the walls of a city? Would you {684} oblige me to sacrifice to such a divinity, or to Esculapius, thunderstruck by Jupiter? or to Venus, whose life was infamous, and to a hundred such monsters, to whom you offer sacrifice? No, though my life itself depended on it, ought I to pay divine honors to those whom I should blush to imitate, and of whom I can entertain no other sentiments than those of contempt and execration? You adore gods, the imitators of whom you yourselves would punish." MARTIAN.-"It is usual for you Christians to raise several calumnies against our gods; for which reason I command you to come now with me to a banquet in honor of Jupiter and Juno, and acknowledge and perform what is due to their majesty." ACACIUS.-"How can I sacrifice to a man whose sepulchre is unquestionably in Crete? What! Is he risen again?" MARTIAN.-"You must either sacrifice or die." ACACIUS.-"This is the custom of the Dalmatian robbers; when they have taken a passenger in a narrow way, they leave him no other choice but to surrender his money or his life. But, for my part, I declare to you that I fear nothing that you call do to me. The laws punish adulterers, thieves, and murderers. Were I guilty of any of those things, I should be the first man to condemn myself. But if my whole crime be the adoring of the true God, and I am on this account to be put to death, it is no longer a law but an injustice." MARTIAN.-"I have no order to judge but to counsel you to obey. If you refuse, I know how to force you to a compliance." ACACIUS.-"I have a law which I will obey: this commands me not to renounce my God. If you think yourself bound to execute the orders of a man who in a little time hence must leave the world, and his body become the food of worms, much more strictly am I bound to obey the omnipotent God, who is infinite and eternal, and who hath declared, Whoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father." MARTIAN.-"You now mention the error of your sect which I have long desired to be informed of: you say then that God hath a son?" ACACIUS.-"Doubtless he hath one." MARTIAN.-"Who is this son of God?" ACACIUS.-"The Word of truth and grace." MARTIAN.-"Is that his name?" ACACIUS.-"You did not ask me his name, but what he is." MARTIAN.-"What then is his name?" ACACIUS.-"Jesus Christ." Martian having inquired of the saint by what woman God had this son, he replied, that the divine generation of the Word is of a different nature from human generation, and proved it from the language the royal prophet makes use of in the forty-fourth psalm. MARTIAN.-"Is God then corporeal?" ACACIUS.-"He is known only to himself. We cannot describe him; he is invisible to us in this mortal state, but we are sufficiently acquainted with his perfections to confess and adore him." MARTIAN.-"If God hath no body, how can he have a heart or mind?" ACACIUS.-"Wisdom hath no dependence or connection with an organized body. What hath body to do with understanding?" He then pressed him to sacrifice from the example of the Cataphrygians, or Montanists, and engage all under his care to do the same. Acacius replied: "It is not me these people obey, but God. Let them hear me when I advise them to what is right; but let them despise me, if I offer them the contrary and endeavor to pervert them." MARTIAN.-"Give me all their names." ACACIUS.-"They are written in heaven, in God's invisible registers." MARTIAN.-"Where are the magicians, your companions, and the teachers of this cunningly devised error?" by which he probably meant the priests. ACACIUS.-"No one in the world abhors magic more than we Christians." MARTIAN.-"Magic is the new religion which you introduce." ACACIUS.-"We destroy those gods whom you fear, though you made them yourselves. We, on the contrary, fear not him whom we have made with our hands, but him who created us, and who is the Lord and Master of all nature: who {685} loved us as our good father, and redeemed us from death and hell as the careful and affectionate shepherd of our souls." MARTIAN.-"Give the names I require, if you would avoid the torture." ACACIUS.-"I am before the tribunal, and do you ask me my name, and, not satisfied with that, you must also know those of the other ministers? Do you hope to conquer many; you, whom I alone am able thus to confound? If you desire to know our names, mine is Acacius. If you would know more, they call me Agathangelus, and my two companions are Piso, bishop of the Trojans, and Menander, a priest. Do now what you please." MARTIAN.-"You shall remain in prison till the emperor is acquainted with what has passed on this subject, and sends his orders concerning you."

The emperor Decius having read the interrogatory, recompensed Martian by making him governor of Pamphilia, but admired so much the prudence and constancy of Acacius, that he ordered him to be discharged, and suffered him to profess the Christian religion.

This his glorious confession is dated on the 29th of March, and happened under Decius in 250, or 251. How long St. Acacius survived does not appear. The Greeks, Egyptians, and other oriental churches, honor his name on the 31st of March; though his name occurs not in the Roman Martyrology. See his authentic acts in Ruinart, p. 152; Tillemont, t. 2, p. 357; Fleury, t. 2; Ceillier, t. 3, p. 560.

ST. GUY, C.

HE is called by the Germans Witen, and was forty years abbot of Pomposa, in the dutchy of Ferrara, in Italy, a man eminent in all virtues, especially patience, the love of solitude, and prayer. He died in 1046. The emperor, Henry III., caused his relics to be translated to Spire, which city honors him as its principal patron. See his life, by a disciple, in the Acta Sanctorium of Henschenius, and another, shorter, of the same age.

END OF VOLUME ONE.

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