FEASTS OF DECEMBER
Saint Eligius, Bishop
From Butler's Lives
Eligius was born at Chaptelat around the year 588; the son of an artisan who, recognizing his talent for engraving, apprenticed him to the goldsmith Abbo, master of the mint at Limoges. In time his work became known to King Clotaire II, who ordered him to construct a throne adorned with gold and precious stones. Impressed with his honesty and the quality of his work, Clotaire promoted him first to head the royal mint, and then to positions of national diplomacy. In 641 Eligius was elected bishop of Noyon and Tournai, and began to work among the infidels found within his diocese. He established houses of nuns and monks, worked to protect those in slavery, and promoted the cult of local saints, personally making reliquaries for their remains. He remained a counsellor to the Queen-regent, St. Bathildis. Having been bishop for nineteen years, he fell ill of the fever, and died on December 1st, 660.
Saint Bibiana, Virgin & Martyr
Bibiana was a Roman virgin, distinguished on account of the nobility of her family, but now far more distinguished for her confession of Christ. In the reign of the foul tyrant, Julian the Apostate, her father Flavian, although he was an ex-Prefect, was branded as a slave and banished to Aquapendente, not far from Rome, where he soon died a martyr for his faith. His wife, Dafrosa, and his two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, were first imprisoned in their own house, with the idea of starving them to death ; but the mother was afterwards taken outside the city and beheaded. Bibiana and her sister Demetria, after the death of their holy parents, were stripped of all they had in the world. Apronianus, Governor of the city, who hankered after their property, continued to persecute them, but although they were destitute of all human support, God, who gives bread to the hungry, fed them, and kept them in health, life, and strength, to the wonder of their enemies.
Apronianus then attacked them to make them worship the gods of the Gentiles, and promised them the restoration of their property, the favor of the Emperor, and a great marriage for each of them, if they would give way, and, on the other hand, imprisonment, stripes, and death. But neither promises nor threats availed, for they remained firm in the faith, being resolved rather to die than to pollute themselves by doing according to the deeds of the heathen ; and, as for the iniquity of the Governor, they loathed it continually. At length the strength of Demetria gave way, and she fell down suddenly, and died in the Lord, before the eyes of her sister Bibiana. Then Bibiana was put into the hands of an artful woman named Rufina, to seduce her if possible ; but she had known the law of Christ from her childhood, and kept the lily of her purity undefiled, triumphing over the efforts of that vile person, and disappointing the lust of the Governor.
Then, when Rufina saw that her false words availed not, she took to blows, and scourged Bibiana daily, but the saint was not staggered in her holy resolution. At last the Governor, mad with baffled lust, when he found his labor was thrown away, ordered his lictors to strip her naked, hang her up by the hands to a pillar, and flog her to death with whips weighted with lead. When all was over, her sacred body was thrown out for the dogs to eat. It lay two days in the Forum Tauri, but the animals would not touch it ; and, at last, a Priest, named John, took it, and buried it by night beside the graves of her mother and sister, near the Licinian Palace. This is the place where there is still a church, dedicated in the name of St. Bibiana. When this church was being restored by Urban VIII, the bodies of these three holy women, Bibiana, Demetria, and Dafrosa, were found, and were re-buried under the High Altar.
Saint Francis Xavier, Confessor
Francis was born of noble parents, at Xavier, in the diocese of Pampelona.
Having gone to Paris, he there became the companion and disciple of Saint
Ignatius. Under such a master, he arrived at so high a degree of contemplation
of divine things, as to be sometimes raised above the ground: which occasionally
happened to him while offering Mass before crowds of people. He had merited
these spiritual delights by his severe mortifications of the body; for he never
allowed himself either to eat flesh meat, or wine, or even wheaten bread, and
ate only the coarsest food; he frequently abstained, for the space of two or
three days, from every sort of nourishment. He scourged himself so severely with
disciplines, to which were fastened pieces of iron, as to be frequently covered
with blood. His sleep, on the ground, was extremely short.
Such austerity and holiness of life had fitted him for the labors of an
apostle; so that when John III, king of Portugal, asked of Pope
Paul III, that some of the newly founded society might be sent to the
Indies, that Pontiff, by the advice of St. Ignatius, selected Francis for so
important a work, appointing and empowering him as apostolic nuncio. Having
reached those parts, he was shortly found to be divinely gifted with the
knowledge of the exceedingly difficult and varied languages of the several
countries. It sometimes even happened, that while preaching in one language to
the people of several nations, each heard him speaking in their own tongue. He
traveled over innumerable provinces, always on foot, and not infrequently
barefooted. He carried the Faith into Japan and six other countries. He
converted to Christ many hundred thousands in the Indies, and baptized several
princes and kings. And yet, though he was doing such great things for God, he
was so humble, that he never wrote to St. Ignatius, then General of the Society,
but on his knees.
God blessed this zeal for the diffusion of the Gospel by many and
extraordinary miracles. The saint restored sight to a blind man. By the sign of
the cross he changed salt water into fresh, sufficient for many days, for a crew
of five hundred men, who were dying from thirst. The water was afterwards taken
into several countries, and being given to sick people, effected their cure. He
raised several dead men to life; one of these had been buried on the previous
day, so that the corpse had to be taken out of the grave; two others were being
carried to the grave when the saint took them by the hand, raised them from the
bier, and restored them to their parents. Being continually gifted with the
spirit of prophecy, he foretold many future events, or such as were happening in
most distant parts. At length, full of merit, and worn out by his labors, he
died on the second day of December, in Sancian, an island off the coast of
China. His corpse was twice buried in unslaked lime, but was found after several
months to be incorrupt; blood flowed from it and it exhaled a pleasing
fragrance. When his body was brought to Malacca, a raging pestilence immediately
abated. Numerous miracles, worked through the intercession of this man of God
brought about his canonization by Gregory XV. Pope Pius X declared him the
heavenly patron of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and its work.
Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor
Saint Peter Chrysologus, Bishop & Doctor
Peter, called in Greek Chrysologus, or "Of the Golden Words," on account of his wonderful eloquence, was born of respectable parents at Imola, near Ravenna. He displayed a very early leaning to godliness, and became a disciple of Cornélius of Rome, Bishop of Imola. This prelate, having experience of his learning and holiness of life, soon ordained him Deacon. On the death of the Archbishop of Ravenna, the people of that place elected a successor, and sent him, according to custom, to Rome, to be confirmed in his appointment by Pope Sixtus III. The Archbishop elect accordingly set forth, along with the ambassadors of the people of Ravenna and Cornélius, Bishop of Imola, attended by Peter the Deacon. While they were yet on the way, the holy Apostle Peter and Apollinaris the Martyr appeared to the Supreme Pontiff in a dream, leading a young man between them, whom they commanded him to make Archbishop. As soon as the embassy arrived at Rome the Pope knew in Peter the young man of his dream, chosen of God to the Archbishopric. Wherefore he set aside him that the people of Ravenna had presented, and preferred Peter to that Metropolitan Church, in the year of our Lord, 433. The ambassadors of the people of Ravenna took it ill, till they heard the vision : then they gave themselves up to the will of God, and received the new Archbishop with great reverence.
Peter being against his will consecrated Archbishop, arrived at Ravenna, where he was received with great joy by the Emperor Valentinian, the Empress-Mother Galla Placidia, and all the people. And this one thing he asked of them, that, as he, for the saving of their souls, had not refused to bear the heavy weight of the Archbishopric, so they would strive to follow his warnings, and live in submission to the law of God. He took the bodies of the two Saints, namely, Barbatian the Priest, and German, Bishop of Auxerre, and caused them to be embalmed with rich ointments and honorably buried, and he kept the cowl and haircloth shirt of German for a legacy for himself. At Classis, three miles from Ravenna, he built a Baptistery of extraordinary size, and several splendid churches, in honor of the blessed Apostle Andrew and other Saints. He preached a most severe sermon against the acting and dancing of masked men and women during the New Year time, in which discourse he said among other things, He that jests with the devil will never rejoice with Christ. By command of Pope Leo I he addressed an Epistle to the Council of Chalcedon against the heretic Eutyches. He also confuted Eutyches himself in another letter, which is likewise published in the new editions of the Acts of the Council, and is matter of Church History.
When he preached in public his vehemence was such that he sometimes became speechless from excitement. This happened to him once when he was preaching on the subject of the woman who had an issue of blood. The congregation on this occasion were so wrought up, that they filled the whole place with tears, cries, and prayers, and Peter afterwards thanked God, who had turned his failure to the profit of their souls. When he had ruled the Church of Ravenna in holiness for about eighteen years, God gave him knowledge that the end of his labours was at hand, and he returned to his home at Imola, to die. When he arrived at Imola, he entered the church of St. Cassian, and offered upon the high altar a great crown of gold, set with stones of great price, a golden chalice and a silver paten. Water poured out of these vessels hath often healed hydrophobia and fevers. Some of the people of Ravenna had followed the Archbishop, but he now dismissed them, with a charge to use great prudence in the choice of his successor. Then he fell to prayer, that God would mercifully receive his spirit, asking the same likewise for the sake of his patron St. Cassian, and so he passed in peace to a better life, on a 2nd of December, about the year of our Lord 450. His holy body was buried, amid the sorrow and veneration of the whole city, hard by the remains of St. Cassian, where it lieth even to this day, guarded with great reverence. One arm was cut off and sent to Ravenna, where it is preserved in the Ursian Church, in a reliquary of gold and precious stones.
Also on December 4
Barbara was the daughter of a rich heathen named Dioscorus. She was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. An offer of marriage which was received through him she rejected. Before going on a journey her father commanded that a bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this she was ill-treated by him and dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. The father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed. Another Christian named Juliana suffered the death of a martyr along with Barbara. A pious man called Valentinus buried the bodies of the saints; at this grave the sick were healed and the pilgrims who came to pray received aid and consolation.
The traditions vary as to the place of martyrdom: one makes Heliopolis in Egypt the site of the martyrdom, while other accounts give Nicomedia. Other accounts say Tuscany, Rome, or Antioch. It is likely that local veneration of the saint has caused her devotees to place her martyrdom close at hand. It is certain that before the ninth century she was publicly venerated both in the East and in the West, and that she was very popular with the Christian populace.
The legend that her father was struck by lightning caused her to be regarded by the common people as the patron saint in time of danger from thunder-storms and fire, and later by analogy, as the protector of artillerymen and miners. She was also called upon as intercessor to assure the receiving of the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist at the hour of death. An occurrence of the year 1448 did much to further the spread of the veneration of the saint in this last regard. A man named Henry Kock was nearly burnt to death in a fire at Gorkum; he called on Saint Barbara, to whom he had always shown great devotion. She aided him to escape from the burning house and kept him alive until he could receive the last sacraments. In the Greek and present Roman calendars the feast of Saint Barbara falls on 4 December. Saint Barbara has often been depicted in art; she is represented standing in a tower with three windows, carrying the palm of a martyr in her hand; often also she holds a chalice and sacramental wafer; sometimes cannon are displayed near her.
Saint Sabbas, Abbot
Saint Sabbas, Abbot
Sabbas was born at Mutalaska in Cappadocia, near Cæsarea, in 439. His father, and army officer, was ordered to Alexandria, leaving Sabbas in the care of his brother-in-law. Harshly used, Sabbas ran away to another uncle who treated him with kindness, but who demanded the property being administered on Sabbas' behalf by the first uncle. The resulting animosity convinced Sabbas to retire to a monastery. He refused several offers made by his family to coax him from the monastic life. Ultimately he retreated to the desert, establishing a laura (an eremitical monastery) in the desert near Jericho. His sanctity drew followers, including his widowed mother who established a hospital on a neighboring hill. Sabbas was ordained priest in order to minister to these hundred fifty or so religious. Legend has him sharing a cave with a lion who Sabbas partially domesticated. When the lion became too much trouble, he obeyed Sabbas' order to vacate their common cave. In 493, the Patriarch of Jerusalem appointed him archimandrite (arch-abbot would be a similar western title) over all hermit-monks in Palestine. The patriarch twice sent him on diplomatic missions to the emperor; the first time, in 551, in connection with Anastasius' persecution of those who refused to accept the Eutychian heresy; and the second time, at age 95, to seek relief from Justinian after the Samaritan revolt ravaged the area around Jerusalem. Returning ill from the second mission he died on December 5th, 532.
Saint Nicholas, Bishop
Saint Nicholas, Bishop
Nicholas was born of a noble family at Patara, in the province of Lycia. His birth was the fruit of his parent's prayers. Evidences of his great future holiness were given from his very cradle. For when he was an infant, he would take his food only once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and then not till evening; whilst on all other days he frequently took the breast: he kept up this custom of fasting during the rest of his life. Having lost his parents when he was a boy, he gave all of his goods to the poor. Of his Christian kindheartedness there is the following noble example. One of his fellow citizens had three daughters; but being too poor to obtain for them honorable marriages, he was of a mind to abandon them to lives of prostitution. Nicholas, having come to know the case, went to the house during the night and threw in the window a sum of money sufficient for the dower of one of the daughters; he did the same a second and a third time; and thus the three were married to respectable men.
Having given himself wholly to the service of God, he set out for Palestine, that he might visit and venerate the holy places. During this pilgrimage, which he made by sea, he foretold to the mariners on embarking, though the heavens were then serene and the sea tranquil, that they would be overtaken by a frightful storm. In a very short time the storm arose. All were in the most imminent danger, when he quelled it by his prayers. His pilgrimage ended, he returned home, giving to all men the example of the greatest sanctity. He went, by an inspiration from God, to Myra, the metropolis of Lycia, which had just lost its bishop by death and where the bishops of the province had come together for the purpose of electing a successor. While they were holding council for the election, they were told by a revelation from heaven that they should choose him who on the morrow should be the first to enter the church, his name being Nicholas. Accordingly, the requisite observations were made, when they found Nicholas to be waiting at the church door. They took him, and to the delight of all, made him bishop of Myra. During his episcopate he never flagged in the virtues looked for in a bishop; chastity, which he had indeed always preserved, gravity, assiduity in prayer, watching, abstinence, generosity and hospitality, meekness in exhortation, and severity in reproving.
He befriended widows and orphans with money, advice, and every service in his
power. So zealous a defender was he of all who suffered oppression, that, on one
occasion, three tribunes having been condemned by the emperor Constantine, who
had been deceived by calumny, and having heard of the miracles wrought by
Nicholas, they recommend themselves to his prayers though he was living at a
very great distance from the place. The saint appeared to Constantine, and
looking angrily upon him, obtained from the terrified emperor their deliverance.
Having, contrary to the edict of Diolcetian and Maximian, preached in Myra the
truth of the Christian Faith, he was captured by the servants of the two
emperors. He was taken off to a great distance and thrown into prison, where he
remained until Constantine, having become emperor, ordered his release and the
saint returned to Myra. Shortly afterwards he repaired to the Council which was
being held at Nicea; where he took part with the three hundred and eighteen
fathers in condemning the Arian heresy. Scarcely had he returned to his see,
than he was taken with the sickness of which he soon died. Looking up to heaven
and seeing the angels coming to meet him, he began the psalm, "In Thee, O
Lord, have I hoped"; and having come to those words, "Into Thy hands I
commend my spirit," his soul took flight to the heavenly country. His body,
having been translated to Bari in Apulia, is the object of universal veneration.
Vigil of the Immaculate Conception Saint Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor
Vigil of the Immaculate Conception
Saint Ambrose, Bishop & Doctor
Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was the son of another Ambrose, a Roman citizen, and was born when his father was Prefect of Gaul. A swarm of bees settled upon his face when he was in his cradle, which was considered an omen of his future eloquence. He received a liberal education at Rome. He was afterwards, under the Prefect Probus, made governor of Liguria and Aemília, and so came with authority to Milan. Auxentius, an Arian, who had been intruded into the Bishopric of Milan, happening to die, the most violent disputes arose about the choice of a successor. Ambrose came to the church in his official capacity, and urged upon the contending factions, in a long and powerful speech, the necessity of keeping the public peace ; whereupon a child suddenly cried out, Ambrose, Bishop, and the whole assembly took it up, and unanimously called for his election.
Ambrose refused, and would not yield to their prayers, whereupon they carried their petition to the Emperor Valentinian. It was very pleasing to this Prince that those he had appointed as judges should be chosen Bishops, as also the Prefect Probus, who had, as it were prophetically, said to him when he appointed him, Go and govern them more like a Bishop than a Judge. When the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, Ambrose yielded, and received Baptism (for until then he was only a Catechumen), Confirmation and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the 7th of December, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders. Being made Bishop, he showed himself a stout upholder of the Catholic faith, and the discipline of the Church, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other heretics, and, among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, Augustine.
the murder of the Emperor Gratian, Ambrose was sent as an ambassador to Maximus,
by whom he had been slain, and, as he refused to repent, the Bishop renounced
his communion. After the massacre which the Emperor Theodosius had
commanded at Thessalonica, he refused to permit that Prince to enter a church.
The Emperor pleaded that he was no worse than David, who had been guilty of
adultery and murder, to which Ambrose answered him, As thou hast followed him in
his sin, follow him also in his repentance. Then Theodosius humbly did
public penance laid upon him by the Bishop. At length the Saint was worn
out with his continual labor and care for the Church (for the which also he
composed many excellent books), and foretold that the day of his death was at
hand, though he had not then fallen into his last sickness. As he lay
dying, Honoratus, Bishop of Vercelli, heard a voice from God three times crying
to him that the hour of Ambrose's departure was come, whereupon he went to him
quickly, and gave him the sacred Body of our Lord. When he had received
it, the Saint, still praying, with his hands stretched out in the form of a
cross, gave his spirit to God, upon the 4th day of April, in the year of Christ
Immaculate Conception of Our Lady
Immaculate Conception of Our Lady
The virtue and greatness of the blessed and glorious ever Virgin Mary, has been revealed by God by the message of an Angel, in these words : "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee : blessed art thou among women." It was fitting that a fullness of grace should be poured into that Virgin who had given to God glory and to man a Savior, who brought peace to earth, who gave faith to the Gentiles, put an end to wickedness, given law to life, and made the crooked ways straight. Truly, she is full of grace. To others grace is given little by little; in Mary grace dwells at once in its fullness. Truly, she is full of grace. We believe that the holy Fathers and Prophets had grace ; but they were not full of grace. But into Mary came a fullness of all the grace which is in Christ, albeit otherwise than as it is in Him. Therefore is it said : "Blessed art thou among women," that is, Blessed art thou above all women. The fullness of blessing in Mary utterly neutralized in her any effects of the curse of Eve. In her praise Solomon writes in the Canticles, "Rise up, my dove, my fair one, for the winter is past, the rain is over and gone." And again, "Come from Lebanon, my Spouse, come and be crowned."
Not without reason is she bidden to come from Lebanon, for Lebanon is so named on account of its stainless and glistening whiteness. The earthly Lebanon is white with snow, but the lonely heights of Mary's holiness are white with purity and grace, brilliantly fair, whiter far than snow, sparkling with the gifts of the Holy Ghost―she is undefiled like a dove, all clean, all upright, full of grace and truth. She is full of mercy, and of the righteousness that has looked down from heaven, and therefore is she without stain because in her there has never been any corruption. She has encompassed a man in her womb, says holy Jeremias, but she did not conceive by the will of a fallen man. The Lord, says the Prophet, has created a new thing in the earth: "a woman shall encompass a man." Truly, it is a new thing. Truly, it was a new work of power, greater than all other works, when God, whom the world cannot bear, and whom no man shall see and live, entered the lodging of her womb, breaking not the blissful cloister of her virgin flesh. And in her body he was borne, the Infinite enclosed within her womb. And from her womb he came forth, so that it was fulfilled which was spoken of the Prophet Ezekiel, saying: "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it ; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut." Hence also in the Song of Songs it is said of her: "A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed," thy perfumes are a garden of delights. Truly a garden of delights, filled with the perfumes of all flowers, rich with the sweet savor of grace. And the most holy Virgin herself is a garden enclosed, where into sin and Satan have never entered to sully the blossoms, a fountain sealed, sealed with the seal of the Trinity.
In answer to the petitions of the whole Church, Pope Pius IX decided solemnly to proclaim by his supreme and infallible pronouncement the victory of the Virgin Mother of God in her Conception over the dreadful enemy of the human race -- a doctrine wonderfully set forth in Holy Scripture, in the venerable tradition of the continuing consensus of the Church, as also in the common agreement of all bishops and faithful, and in the outstanding acts and constitutions of the Holy See. And therefore, on December 8th, 1854, in the Vatican Basilica, in the presence of a vast assembly of the Fathers of the Roman Church, including cardinals and bishops from the most distant countries, and with the applause of the whole world, he solemnly declared and defined: The doctrine which holds that the most blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege granted her by God, was preserved from any stain of original sin, is a doctrine taught and revealed by God, and is therefore to be believed with firmness and constancy by all the faithful.
Within the Octave of the Immaculate
Peter Fourier born at Mirecourt, in Lorraine, in 1565, was educated at the Jesuit college at Pon-Mousson. He established a school in his home but soon joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine at Chaumousey. Ordained in 1589, his humility and sense of unworthiness kept him from the celebration of Mass for several months. He returned for additional work in Theology, ultimately earning the doctorate. On his return he served as procurator of the monastery and vicar of the abbey parish, experiencing ridicule in his attempts to improve the observance of the abbey. In 1597 he was assigned to Mattaincourt, a village contaminated with Calvinism and rotten with evil living. He served the parish for thirty years, bringing about spiritual improvement by working to mitigate the evils of poverty and lack of education. In 1616, together with Blessed Alix Le Clercq, he established an order of nuns, vowed to the free education of children. In 1622, the Bishop of Toul had him appointed visitor to the Canons Regular in order to bring about their reform. A loyal subject of the house of Lorraine, he died on December 9, 1640, in exile, refusing to swear allegiance to Louis XIII.
Our Lady of Loretto
Our Lady of Loretto
It was during the pontificate of Celestine V, in 1291, when the
Christians had lost the holy places of Palestine, that the house wherein was
achieved the mystery of the Incarnation in the womb of Mary, was translated by
the angels from Nazareth into Dalmatia or Sclavonia, and placed by them on a
hill in a little town called Terasatto. The miracles which were continually
being wrought in this holy house, the official enquiry made by chosen deputies
who visited Nazareth in order to attest to the translation, and, lastly, the
universal belief of all countries, and the pilgrims who went from all parts to
venerate a sanctuary which had ever been dear to Christians -- all this seemed
proof enough of a miracle. But God gave another testimony, of which the whole
people of Italy and Dalmatia were the witnesses. Three years and seven months
had elapsed since this first translation, when, in the year 1294, the holy house
was carried across the Adriatic Sea to the territory of Recanati, and placed in
a forest on the property of a lady called Loretta. The inhabitants of Dalmatia
were deeply afflicted; nothing could have been a greater trial to them. As a
slight consolation to themselves they erected a church on the spot where the
house had stood; it was dedicated to our Lady, and was served later on by the
Franciscan fathers. Over the porch was placed this inscription: This is the
place where stood the holy House of Nazareth, which now is honored in the
territory of Recanati. Many of the people of Dalmatia went to live in Italy near
the holy house, where they instituted the society of Corpus D¢mini (known under
the name of Sclavonians), which lasted even to the pontificate of Paul III.
Further investigations took place, each further confirming the authenticity of
the holy house. During 1295, the house was translated a third, fourth, and fifth
time as local strife threatened the honor due to this holy place and proved a
danger to the numerous pilgrims that came to visit. It rests finally on the high
road, and the town now known as Loretto has grown up around it.
Melchiades, also called Miltiades, was born in North Africa, and was elected to the papacy on July 2, probably in 311. After the battle at the Milvian Bridge, where Constantine defeated Maxentius on October 28, 312, the victorious emperor marched into Rome, and early in 313 toleration was granted to Christians (and to other religions) throughout the empire. This was followed by the bestowal of privileges on the Church and the removal of legal disabilities. Christian captives were released, and all celebrated the victory of Christ with hymns of praise, honoring God day and night with prayer that the peace which had been granted after ten years of violent persecution might not be taken away. But amidst these rejoicings, the Church was disturbed by the beginnings of the Donatist schism in Africa. It arose out of the appointment of Cæcilian as bishop of Carthage, whom the party of Donatus alleged to be invalidly consecrated because (it was said) he had delivered up the sacred books under persecution. The Donatists held the erroneous doctrine that sacraments given by an unworthy minister are invalid and that sinners cannot be members of the Church. At the request of Constantine, the Pope called a synod of Italian and Gaulish bishops at Rome, which decided that Cæcelian's election and consecration were good and valid. St. Augustine, speaking of the moderation which the Pope used in this connection, called Melchiades an excellent man, a true son of peace and father of Christians. He is commemorated as a martyr because, says the Roman Martyrology, he suffered many things during the persecution of Maximian, before election as pope.
Within the Octave of the Immaculate
Damasus was a Spaniard, a man of eminence and of great learning in the Scriptures. In 381 he convoked the First Council of Constantinople, wherein he crushed the wicked heresy of Eunomius and Macedonius. He confirmed the condemnation of the Council, at Rímini, which condemnation had already been pronounced by Liberius. This Council of Rímini was that in which, to use the language of St. Jerome, Valens and Ursacius brought it about through trickery that the Faith of Nicea was abrogated by mob law, and the world afterwards groaned in amazement to find itself Arian.
Pope Damasus built two basilicas, first St. Lawrence's, near Pompey's Theatre, which he magnificently enriched, and endowed with houses and farms ; and, secondly, another, over the Catacombs on the Ardeatine Way. He also consecrated the Platónia, where the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul lay for some time, and decorated it with elegant inscriptions in poetry composed by himself. He wrote on the subject of virginity both in prose and verse, and likewise many other poems on various subjects.
He ordained that false accusers should be punished for the
offences which they had falsely laid to the charge of their neighbors. He
established the usage, which already prevailed in many churches, of singing the
Psalms, both by day and by night, by alternate choirs, and of adding at the end
of each Psalm the words, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy
Ghost. It was at his command that St. Jerome revised the translation of
the New Testament to accord with the Greek text. He ruled the Church for
seventeen years, two months, and twenty-six days. He held five Advent
ordinations, wherein he ordained thirty-one Priests, eleven Deacons, and
sixty-two Bishops for divers Sees. At length he fell asleep in the Lord,
in the reign of Theodosius the Elder, aged nearly eighty years, and full of
righteousness, truth, and judgment. He was buried beside his mother and
sister in the Church which he had himself founded on the Ardeatine Way.
His relics were afterwards taken to the Basilica of St. Lawrence, which is
thence sometimes called San Lorenzo in Damaso.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
In Mexico, in the year 1531, according to holy tradition, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, appeared on Mount Tepeyac to a recently baptized Christian, Juan Diego, and gave him a message for Bishop Juan de Zumrraga -- a commission which she urgently repeated -- that a church was to be built there in her honor. The bishop, however, asked for a sign. Two days later the neophyte set out to get a priest to administer the Last Sacraments to his uncle, and he took a route that would not bring him too near the place of the apparitions. But his loving Mother favored him with a third visit, assured him of his uncle's good health, and had him gather some roses that had sprung up out of season. These she arranged in his tilma or cloak, and she told him to take them to the bishop. As the roses cascaded to the floor of the bishop's audience chamber, a picture of Mary, miraculously imprinted on the tilma, was visible by all present. The image was at first kept in the bishop's oratory, and then moved to the hermitage that had been built on Mount Tepeyac, and then finally placed in the great basilica which became the goal of crowds of Mexican pilgrims, drawn there by their devotion to Mary and by the reports of frequent miracles. Having the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe as an ever present protectress, the Mexican bishops with the approval of all their people, chose her as the primary patron of the Mexican nation. This choice was duly approved by the apostolic authority of Pope Benedict XIV. On Columbus day, October 12, 1895, Pope Leo XIII, acting through the Archbishop of Mexico, adorned the holy image with a golden crown. Saint Pius X declared Our Lady of Guadalupe Patroness of all of Latin America.
Within the Octave of the Immaculate
Lucy was a maiden of Syracuse, the daughter of a noble Christian family. Her mother Eutychia, being afflicted with an issue of blood, went with her to Catania, to pray before the body of the blessed Agatha. Lucy, by her earnest prayers at the grave, ordained her mother's cure, through the intercession of Agatha, and then immediately begged her to give to Christ's poor the whole dowry which had been set apart for herself. As soon, therefore, as they returned to Syracuse, they sold the property, and distributed the money among the poor.
When this came to the ears of one to whom her parents had betrothed her against her will, he accused Lucy before Paschasius the Prefect of being a Christian. The Prefect could not move her to commit idolatry, either by his entreaties or by his threats ; nay, the more he strove to persuade her, so much the bolder did she become in her confession. Then, seeing that he could prevail nothing, Words, said he, will cease when we come to blows. To whom the virgin answered : God's servants will never want words, for the Lord Christ hath said : When ye shall stand before kings and governors, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak, for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost which speaks in you.
Then Paschasius asked her, saying, Is the Holy Ghost in thee? Whereto she answered, They that live in chastity and piety are the temples of the Holy Ghost. Then, said he, I will send thee to be prostituted in a brothel, and get the Holy Ghost out of thee. To whom she made reply, Thou canst not prostitute my will. If thou cause this poor body to be violated, the crown of my soul's purity will be brighter through suffering. Then he bade them take her to the place of shame but by the power of God it became impossible to move her. Whereupon, being inflamed with anger, he had pitch, resin, and boiling oil poured upon her, and then set on fire. But the fire did not take hold upon her. Therefore he practiced many other cruelties upon her, and at last thrust a sword through her neck. When Lucy had received this wound, she began to speak of the peace of the Church, which it should enjoy after the death of Diocletian and Maximian, and presently returned her soul into the hands of God. She testified on the thirteenth day of December. Her body was buried at Syracuse, but afterwards taken to Constantinople, and lastly to Venice.
Eusebius, Bishop & Martyr
Eusebius was a Sardinian by birth, first a Lector of the Roman Church, and then Bishop of Vercelli. It seemed specially designed by Providence that he should be called to govern that Church, for the electors, who had never before known him, passed over, with a strange unanimity, all their own fellow-citizens, and chose Eusebius, as soon as they had seen him. He was the first Bishop in the Western Church who established an Order of Regular Clergy, to combine the active with the contemplative life. At this time the storm of Arian blasphemy and sin was sweeping far and wide over the West, and Eusebius set himself to fight against it so manfully, that his unshaken faith brought back Liberius again to life and hope. This Pope, knowing that the Spirit of God was in him, sent him with his Legates to the Emperor Constantius, to plead the cause of the Catholic Faith. His earnestness prevailed with that Prince, so that he obtained all that was asked for, and, among other things, permission for a Council to be summoned.
The year following, the Council met at Milan, and Eusebius, by the invitation of the Emperor, and the desire and command of the Papal Legates, attended. Here the Arians, assembled in a perfect synagogue of Satan, and all furiously raging together against holy Athanasius, found Eusebius one of the stoutest enemies of their faction. As soon as he entered the Council, he delivered a long harangue, wherein he remarked that, of those there gathered together, some were notoriously defiled with heresy, and therefore he proposed that everyone should first of all subscribe the Nicene Creed, before proceeding to any other business. The Arians, in a violent passion, refused, whereupon he on his part refused to subscribe any proceedings against Athanasius, and even skillfully procured the withdrawal of the signature of the holy martyr Denys, then Bishop of Milan, which they had falsely procured by preying on his simplicity. The Arians were now entirely enraged, and, after many persecutions, procured a decree of banishment against Eusebius. The Saint shook off the dust of his feet against them, and, defying alike the threats of Caesar and the drawn swords of the soldiery, accepted the sentence as one of the dignities of his office. He was sent to Beth-shan in the Holy Land, suffering hunger, thirst, stripes, and all manner of violence, but for the Faith's sake he despised this life, and feared not death, but freely delivered his body to the tormentors.
He wrote a solemn letter from Beth-shan, addressed to the clergy and people of Vercelli and that neighborhood, full of constancy, devotion, and piety, describing the frightful cruelty and brazen impudence of the Arians. From this letter we know how completely they failed to scare him by their threats and their inhuman brutality, or to seduce him by their serpent-like cunning into receiving their communion. In consequence of his unshaken resolution, he was moved from Beth-shan into Cappadocia, and then again, to the deserts of Upper Egypt. He suffered exile until the death of Constantius, after which he was allowed to return to his flock. First, however, he took care to attend the Council at Alexandria, called to heal the wounds of the Church, and, afterwards, like a skilful physician, he made a progress through all the provinces of the East, strengthening those that were weak in the Faith, and confirming them in Christian doctrine. Then, with the same healthful results, he passed through Illyricum into Italy, who, at his coming, laid aside her garments of mourning. After his return, he published an expurgated edition of Origen's Commentary on the Psalms, and likewise of the works of Eusebius of Caesarea, both which he translated from Greek into Latin. At length, distinguished by all these great works, he passed to that crown of glory which fadeth not away, promised to them who suffer for the truth. He departed this present life at Vercelli in the reign of Valentinian and Valens.
Expectancy of the Blessed Virgin
Expectancy of the Blessed Virgin
The feast of our Lady's Expectancy, which is kept not only throughout the whole of Spain but in many other parts of the world, owes its origin to the bishops of the tenth Council of Toledo in 656. These prelates thought there was an incongruity in the ancient practice of celebrating the feast of the Annunciation on the twenty-fifth of March, inasmuch as this joyful solemnity frequently occurs at the time when the Church is intent on the Passion of our Lord, so that it is sometimes obliged to transfer it into the Easter time, with which it is out of harmony for another reason; they therefore decreed that, henceforth in the Church of Spain there should be kept, eight days before Christmas a solemn feast with an octave in honor of the Annunciation, and as a preparation for the great solemnity of our Lord's Nativity. In the course of time, however, the Church in Spain saw the necessity of returning to the practices of the Church of Rome, and of those of the whole world which solemnize the twenty-fifth of March as the day of our Lady's Annunciation and the Incarnation of the Son of God. But such had been, for ages, the devotion of the people for the feast of the eighteenth of December that it was considered requisite to maintain some vestige of it. They discontinued, therefore, celebrating the Annunciation on this day; but the faithful were requested to consider, with devotion, what must have been the sentiments of the Holy Mother of God during the days immediately prior to giving Him birth. A new feast was instituted under the name of "the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin's delivery." A similar custom was found in the Church of Milan, which celebrated the Office of our Lady's Annunciation on the sixth and last week of their Advent, and called the whole week following "the week of the Expectation."
22 Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
Frances Xavier was born in the town of Sant' Angelo in the diocese of Lodi. Even from her early years she adopted a way of life that centered on God. At the age of thirteen she vowed her virginity to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. She twice attempted to enter the religious life, but because of her delicate health her petitions were not accepted. She taught school at Lodi until the bishop put her in charge of an orphanage. He also urged her to found a new religious missionary congregation. Accordingly, when she was thirty years old she instituted the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart at the chapel of our Lady of Grace in Codogno. In doubt as to which direction to go, she accepted as God's will the directions of Pope Leo XIII to sail westward to the Americas, and eventually she crossed the ocean twenty-four times. In North America she earned the name, "Mother of the Italians." With her mind always fixed on God and her heart always trusting in Him, she used to address the Blessed Virgin Mary as the mother of her congregation. Her institute enjoyed a remarkable growth; she herself founded sixty-seven houses. Finally, at Chicago, on the 22nd of December, 1917, she "finished the course." Later her body was transferred to New York. Pope Pius XI declared her among the Blessed, and Pius XII enrolled her among the virgin saints.
Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst kindle the
flame of Thy Most Sacred Heart in the holy Virgin Frances Xavier Cabrini, guided her
far across the world to win souls for Thyself, and caused her to raise up a new
religious family in Thy Church. Grant, that through her intercession we too may
be endowed with the virtues of Thy Sacred Heart and may succeed in reaching the
haven of eternal happiness.
Vigil of Christmas
Vigil of Christmas
Why must she who conceives the Lord be not simply a virgin, but a betrothed virgin? First, that through genealogy of Joseph the (Davidic) origin of Mary may be demonstrated. Second that she might not be stoned as an adulteress by the Jews. Third, that she may have a protector during the flight into Egypt. The Martyr Ignatius adds a fourth reason for our Lord's being conceived by one who is betrothed: that His birth may be hidden from the devil, who thinks that this is the child of a married woman, not of a virgin.
"She was found, before they came together, to be with child by the Holy Ghost." Her condition was discovered by no one else but Joseph; concerning his future wife, he had almost the privilege of a husband to know everything about her. The qualification, "before they came together" does not imply that afterwards they did come together. The Scripture is merely indicating that up to this time they had not done so.
"But Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wishing to expose her to reproach, was minded to put her away privately." If anyone is joined to a fornicator, he becomes one body with her; and it is a precept of the Law that not only the one who commits a crime, but anyone who is silently aware of it, is guilty of sin. Then how can Joseph be called a just man, when he is hiding his wife's crime? The question is not to the point. The point is that Joseph was a just man, and his conduct becomes a piece of evidence in Mary's favor. What he knew was not her crime (there was none to be known), but her chastity. What he did not know was the mystery of how she had conceived; and by his silence he kept hidden from the public the circumstance that was a source of wonder to him.
Nativity of Our Lord
Nativity of Our Lord
In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of
the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception now being accomplished, (All Kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man. The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. Now Lord, on us have mercy.
Saint Thomas of Canterbury
Saint Thomas of Canterbury
Thomas was born in England in the city of London. He succeeded Theobald as bishop of Canterbury. He had previously acquitted himself with much honor as the king's chancellor, and was strenuous and unflinching in his duty as bishop; for when Henry II, King of England, in an assembly of bishops and nobles of the realm, passed certain laws inconsistent with the interests and honor of the Church, the bishop withstood the King's avarice so courageously that neither fair promises nor threats could draw him over to the King's side, and being in danger of imprisonment, he privately withdrew. Not long after all his relatives, young and old, all his friends and household, were banished, and such of them as had attained the age of discretion were made to promise on oath that they would go to Thomas, as perhaps he, who could not be made to swerve from his holy purpose by any personal consideration, might relent at the heart-rending spectacle of the sufferings of those who were dear to him. But he regarded not the demands of flesh and blood, neither did he permit the feelings of natural affection to weaken the firmness required of him as bishop.
He therefore repaired to Pope Alexander III, from whom he met with a kind reception, and who commended him on his departure to the Cistercian monks at Pontigny. As soon as Henry came to know this he strove to have Thomas expelled from Pontigny, and for this purpose sent threatening letters to the General Chapter at Cîtaeux. Whereupon the holy man, fearing lest the Cistercian Order should be made to suffer on his account, left the monastery of his own accord, and betook himself to the hospitable shelter to which he had been invited by Louis, King of France. There he remained until, by the intervention of the Pope and Louis the King, he was called home from his banishment, to the joy of the whole kingdom. Whilst resuming the intrepid discharge of the duty of a good shepherd, certain calumniators denounced him to King Henry as one who was plotting sundry things against the country and the public peace. Wherefore the King was heard frequently complaining that there was only on Priest in his kingdom with whom he could not be in peace.
Certain wicked satellites concluded from this expression of the King that he would be pleased at their ridding him of Thomas. Accordingly they stealthily entered Canterbury, and finding that the bishop was in the church officiating at Vespers, they began their attack. The clergy were using means to prevent them from entering the church, when the Saint coming to them forbade their opposition, and opening the door, thus spoke to them, "The church is not to be guarded like a citadel, and I am glad to die for God's Church." Then turning to the soldiers, he said, "I command you in the name of God that you hurt not any of them that are with me." After this he knelt down, and commending himself and his church to God, to the Blessed Mary, to St. Denis, and to the other patron saints of his cathedral, with the same courage that he had shown in resisting the King's execrable laws, he bowed down his head to the impious murderers, on the fourth of the Calends of January (December 29th), in the year of our Lord 1171. His brains were scattered on the floor of the church. God having shown the holiness of His servant by many miracles, he was canonized by the same Pope Alexander III.