FEASTS OF FEBRUARY
Saint Ignatius, B. M.
Ignatius was the third bishop of Antioch, St. Peter the Apostle being the first. During the persecution under Trajan, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and was sent in chains to Rome. During this voyage, which was made by sea, he had to stop at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, was bishop. From this city he wrote several epistles: one to the Ephesians, a second to the Magnesians, a third to Trallians, a fourth to the Romans. When he had left Smyrna, he addressed an epistle to the Philadelphians and the Smyrneans, and one to Polycarp himself, recommending to him his church of Antioch. It is in this last named letter that he quotes from the Gospel which I have lately translated a passage bearing testimony to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I cannot pass by this mention of so great a man, without citing a few sentences from the epistle which he wrote to the Romans. "From Syria," he says, "Even unto Rome, I am fighting with wild beasts, both by sea and land, both night and day, for I am fastened to ten leopards, I mean to the soldiers who have care of me. When I show them a kindness, they grow more brutal. Their injuries are my instruction, but I am not thereby justified. I long for the wild beasts that are prepared for me, which I heartily wish may rush upon me and torture me and devour me, and not be afraid to touch me, as has happened with other Martyrs. Nay, if they refuse to approach me, I will make them come on, I will rush upon them, that so they may devour me. Pardon me, my little children: I know what is for my own welfare.
"Now do I begin to be a disciple of Christ, and care for nothing in this world, that so I may find Jesus. Let fire, or the cross, or wild beasts, or the breaking of my bones, or the cutting of me to pieces, or the shattering of my whole body, yea, all the tortures of the devil -- let them all come upon me, only let me enjoy my God." When he was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts, and heard the roaring of the lions, his impatience to suffer made him exclaim: "I am the wheat of Christ; let me be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, that I am become the pure bread." He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan's reign. His relics ar at Antioch, at the cemetery outside the Daphne gate.
Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
From the Book of Exodus Ch. xiii: 1-3, 11-13
The Lord spoke to Moses and said, "Consecrate to me every first born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and of beast, for it belongs to me." Moses said to the people, "When the Lord, your God, has brought you into the land of the Chanaanites, which He swore to you and your fathers He would give you, you shall dedicate to the Lord every son that opens the womb; and all the male firstlings of your animals shall belong to the Lord. Every firstborn of an ass you shall redeem with a sheep. If you do not redeem it, you shall break its neck. Every first-born son you must redeem."
The Lord said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, and thou shalt say to them: When a woman having received seed shall bear a man child, she shall be unclean for seven days, according to the days of the separation of her flowers. And on the eighth day the infant shall be circumcised: But she shall remain three and thirty days in the blood of her purification. She shall touch no holy thing, neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, according to the custom of her monthly courses, and she shall remain in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
"And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, or a young pigeon or a turtle(dove) for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest. Who [the priest] shall offer them before the Lord, and shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her who beareth a man child or a maid child. And if her hand find not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtle(dove)s, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and another for sin: and the priest shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed."
It was once foretold: Mother Sion says, "The Man was made man in her, and the Most High founded her Himself." Oh, the omnipotence of Him that is born! Oh, the magnificence of Him who has descended to earth! While He was still being carried in the womb, He was hailed by John the Baptist from His mother's womb. While He was being presented in the temple, He was recognized by the old Simeon, famous, full of years, tested and crowned. Then he recognized Him, then he adored Him, then he said, "Now, Lord, Thou dost dismiss Thy servant in peace, because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."
Simeon's departure from this world was being deferred so that he might see the Newborn through whom the world was made. The old man recognized the Child, and through the Child became a child. He was rejuvenated in old age, he who was filled with faith. Simeon the old man held Christ the Child, while Christ ruled the old man Simeon. The Spirit had told him that he would not taste death until he had seen the birth of the Lord's Anointed. Christ was born and the old man's yearning was satisfied in the world's old age. He comes to the old man, He who found the world grown old.
Simeon did not wish to stay a long time in this world, and yet he desired to see Christ in this world, singing with the prophet and saying, "Show us, O Lord, Thy kindness, and grant us Thy salvation." And at last, so that you might know that this was his joy, he ended by saying, " Now Thou dismiss Thy servant in peace, because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." The Prophets sang that the maker of heaven and earth would come on earth among men; the Angel announced that the Creator of flesh and spirit would come in the flesh; John in his mother's womb saluted the Savior in Mary's womb; Simeon the old man recognized God in the Child.
†A Reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time, when the days of Mary's purification were fulfilled according to the Law of Moses, they took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." And to offer a sacrifice according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just a devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when His parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he also took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: "Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace. Because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
A homily of St. Ambrose, Bishop
"And behold, there was in Jerusalem a man named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, and looking for the consolation of Israel." See, the Lord's incarnation was confirmed not only by Angels, prophets, and shepherds, but also by old men and just men. Every age group, each sex, and many miraculous events offer support to out faith. The Virgin becomes a mother, the barren one gives birth, the dumb man speaks, Elizabeth prophesies, the Magi adore, one still hidden in his mother's womb leaps for joy, a widow breaks out in praise and song, a just man waits expectantly.
Rightly is he called a just man, since he begs grace not for himself, but for his people. He preferred to be loosed from the bonds of his mortal body; but he waited that he might see the Promised One. For he knew how "blessed are the eyes that see Him." "He also received Him into his arms and blessed God, saying, 'Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace.'" See how this just man, still enclosed in his body as by a prison, see how he longs to be freed and be with Christ. For, to be freed and be with Christ is surely preferable.
If you, too, seek to be delivered from the body, then come to the temple, come to Jerusalem, and there wait expectantly for the Lord's Anointed. Receive in your arms the Word of God; embrace it with your works, the arms, as it were, of your faith. Then you will be released, and you will not taste death because you have seen Life. How lavishly has grace been poured out upon mankind as a result of the Lord's incarnation! Nor was the gift of prophecy withheld from believers -- only from unbelievers. Behold, Simeon prophesies! He prophesies that Christ Jesus our Lord came for the fall and the rise of many; that He would pass sentence on the merits both of the just and the godless; that according to the manner of our works He, the true and just Judge, would mete out punishment or reward.
Saint Blaise, Bp.M.
Blaise, whose signal virtues made him dear to the people of Sebaste in Armenia, was chosen bishop of that city. When the emperor Diocletian waged his cruel persecution against the Christians, the saint hid himself in a cave on Mount Argeus, and there he remained some time concealed, but was at length discovered by some soldiers of the governor Agricolaus, while they were hunting. They led him to the governor, who gave orders that he should be put in prison. During his imprisonment, many sick people, attracted by the reputation of his sanctity, came to him, and he healed them. Among these was a boy, whose life was despaired of by the physicians, on account of his having swallowed a bone, which could not be extracted from his throat. The saint was twice brought before the governor, but neither fair promises nor threats could induce him to offer sacrifice to the gods. Whereupon he was beaten with rods, and then his flesh was torn with iron hooks while he lay stretched on the rack. At length he was beheaded, and nobly gave testimony to the faith of Christ our Lord on this very day.
St. Andrew Corsini, Bp. M.
Andrew was born at Florence, of the noble Corsini family. He was the fruit of his parents' prayers and was consecrated by them to the blessed Virgin. His future was thus shown by God to his mother. She dreamt that she had given birth to a wolf, which went to the church of the Carmelites, and, as it crossed the threshold, changed into a lamb. Though his early education was calculated to form him to piety, and to everything that suited his high birth, by degrees, he fell into a vicious manner of life, notwithstanding the frequent reproaches made him by his mother. But, as soon as he was told that he had been consecrated by his parents to the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, and had heard of his mother's vision, he entered the order of the Carmelites. The devil ceased not to molest him, even then, with manifold temptations; but nothing could make him change his resolution of entering the religious life. Shortly after his profession, he was sent to Paris for a course of study. Having completed it, and taken his degrees, he returned to Italy, and was made superior of his order in the province of Tuscany.
It happened about that time that the church of Fiesole lost its bishop, and Andrew was chosen as his successor. But looking upon himself as unworthy of such a dignity, he his himself so that no on knew where he was. But a child, who had not yet received the use of speech, miraculously revealed the place, outside the town, where he was; upon which, the saint, fearing that further refusal would constitute a resistance to the divine will, was consecrated bishop. Thus exalted to so great a dignity, he applied himself more than ever to the practice of humility, which had always been his favorite virtue. To the zeal of a good pastor, he united tender compassion for the poor, abundant almsgiving, a life of prayer, long watchings, and other virtues; all which, together with the gift of prophecy he had received, gained for him a great reputation for sanctity.
Pope Urban V, hearing of his great merits, sent him as his legate to Balogna, that he might quell a sedition that had arisen in that city. The fulfillment of this charge cost him much suffering; but such was his prudence, that he succeeded in restoring peace among the citizens, and so preventing further bloodshed; he then returned to Fiesole. Not long after this, being worn out by ceaseless labors and bodily mortifications, and having been told by the Blessed Virgin of the precise day of his death, he passed from this life to the kingdom of heaven in the year of our Lord thirteen hundred and seventy-three, and in the seventy-first year of his age. Great was the reputation of his name on account of the many and wonderful miracles wrought through his intercession, and at length he was canonized by Urban VIII. His body reposes in the church of his Order at Florence, where it is held in great veneration; the citizens often having experienced his protection in times of calamity.
The Apparition of Our Lady Immaculate
Breviary ex Guéranger
In the fourth year after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the blessed Virgin vouchsafed to appear on several occasions to a poor but pious and innocent child named Bernadette, in a rocky cavern overlooking the grotto of Massabielle on the banks of the Gave near the town of Lourdes in the diocese of Tarbes in France. She showed herself as a young and gracious figure, robbed in white, with a white veil and blue sash, and golden roses on her bare feet. At the first apparition on February 11th, 1858, she taught the child to make the Sign of the Cross correctly and devoutly, and, taking a chaplet from her own arm, encouraged her by example to say her rosary. This was repeated at subsequent apparitions. On the second day, Bernadette, who feared an illusion of the devil, in all simplicity cast holy water at the apparition, who smiled more graciously than before. At the third apparition, Bernadette was invited to repeat her visits to the grotto for fifteen days, during which the Blessed Virgin conversed with her, exhorted her to pray for sinners, kiss the ground and do penance, and finally commanded her to tell the priests that a chapel was to be built in the place and processions held. She was also bidden to drink and wash in the water, and then a spring, until then invisible, gushed out of the ground. On the feast of the Annunciation, the child earnestly begged the Lady who had so often visited her to reveal her name, and the Blessed Virgin, joining her hands and raising her eyes to heaven, said: "I am the Immaculate Conception."
Rumors of favors received at the holy grotto spread rapidly, and the crowds of devout visitors increased daily, so that the Bishop of Tarbes, who had been impressed by the candor of Bernadette, found it advisable to hold a judicial enquiry into the facts. In the course of the fourth year he gave sentence, recognizing the supernatural character of the apparition, and permitting devotions to our lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception to be held in the grotto. A chapel was soon built and since then every year has witnessed innumerable pilgrimages from France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and all parts of Europe and America. The name of Our Lady of Lourdes has become famous all over the world, and cures are obtained everywhere by the use of the water of the spring. Lourdes has been enriched by a grateful world with splendidly decorated churches, where countless banners bear witness to the favors received, and to the desire of peoples and cities to adorn the house of the blessed Virgin, who is honored there as in her own palace. The days are filled with prayers, hymns, and solemn ceremonies, and the nights are sanctified by the pious supplications of countless people who walk in procession carrying torches, and singing the praises of the blessed Virgin Mary.
All men know, in spite of the coldness of the world, these pilgrims have received faith, restored the observance of the Christian religion, and increased devotion to the Immaculate Virgin. The Faithful are led by their priests in this marvelous development of faith and devotion. The Bishops make frequent visits to the holy spot, lead pilgrimages, and take part in the ceremonies, and the Cardinals of Holy Church are often seen in the humble quality of pilgrims. The Roman Pontiffs have shown their devotion to our Lady of Lourdes, and have bestowed remarkable favors on her sanctuary. Pius IX enriched it with indulgences, gave it the privilege of an Arch confraternity and the title of minor basilica, and delegated the Apostolic Nuncio in France to crown in his name the statue of the Mother of God. Leo XIII also granted many favors, including the jubilee of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apparition. He encouraged pilgrimages and ordained that the consecration of the Rosary Church should be performed in his name. Moreover, he crowned all of these favors by conceding, at the request of many bishops, the celebration of a solemn feast under the title of the Apparition of Our Lady Immaculate, with a proper Office and Mass. Finally, Pius X, out of devotion to the Mother of God, granted the petition of many prelates that this feast should be extended to the Universal Church.
Saint Catherine of Ricci
From Butler's Lives
Catherine was born in 1522 to a well known Florentine family and given the name of Alexandrina at Baptism. When she was thirteen she took the name of Catherine at her religious clothing, in the Dominican convent of St. Vincent at Prato. She suffered agonizing pain from a complication of diseases, but sanctified her sufferings by her exemplary patience, derived in great part from constant meditation on the passion of Christ. She was still young when appointed novice mistress, sub-prioress, and then prioress in perpetuity. Catherine is famous for her extraordinary series of ecstasies in which she beheld and enacted the scenes which preceded our Lord's crucifixion. They began when she was twenty years old and were renewed every week for twelve years. She regularly lost consciousness at midday on Thursday, and, except for receiving Communion of Friday, spent twenty-eight hours in contemplation of the Passion. The movements of her body agreed with the scenes she witnessed in her ecstasy. She received the stigmata, which in her case included a ring of espousal embedded under the flesh of the forefinger of her left hand. As these mystical experiences were disruptive of convent life, all of the nuns were asked to pray that they might end, which they did in 1554. She died in 1590 at age sixty-eight after a long illness, and was canonized in 1747.
Saint Valentine, Priest & Martyr
From Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints
Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Mauris and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all of his attempts to make Valentine renounce the Faith ineffectual, commanded him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards to be beheaded; this sentence being carried out on February 14, about the year 270. Pope Julius I is said to have built a church near Ponte Mole to his memory, which for a long time gave name to the gate now called Porta de Popolo, but formerly Porta Valentini. The greatest part of his relics are now in the church of St. Praxedes. His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr in the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, the Roman Missal, and in the Martyrology on this day. To abolish the heathen's lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the 15th of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.
St. Faustinus and Jovita, Martyrs
Breviary ex Guérangr
The two brothers, Faustinus and Jovita, were born of a noble family in Brescia. During the persecution under Trajan they were led captive through various cities in Italy, in each of which they were made to endure most cruel sufferings by reason of their brave confession of the Christian faith, which nothing could induce them to deny. At Brescia they were for a long time confined in chains; then were exposed to wild beasts, and cast into fire, from neither of which tortures did they receive hurt or harm. From Brescia they were sent to Milan, still fettered with the same chains: and there their faith was put to the test of every torment that cruelty could devise; but like gold is tried by fire, their faith shone the brighter by these sufferings. After this they were sent to Rome, where they received encouragement from Pope Evaristus; but there also, they were made to endure most cruel pains. At length they were taken to Naples, and there, again, put to sundry tortures; after which they were bound hand and foot, and cast into the sea; but were miraculously delivered by angels. Many persons were converted to the true faith by seeing their courage in suffering and the miracles they wrought. Finally they were led back to Brescia, at the commencement of the reign of the Emperor Adrian; there they were beheaded, and received the crown of a glorious martyrdom.
Saint Gilbert of Sempringham, Confessor
From Butler's Lives
Gilbert was born at Sempringham in Lincolnshire, and in due course was ordained priest. For some time he taught in a free school, but the advowson of the parsonages of Sempringham and Terrington being in the gift of his father, Gilbert was presented by him to the combined benefice in 1123. He gave their revenues to the poor, reserving only a small sum for bare necessaries.
By his care, his parishioners were led to sanctity of life, and he drew up a rule for seven young women who lived in strict enclosure in a house adjoining the parish church of St. Andrew at Sempringham. This foundation grew and Gilbert found it necessary to add first lay-sisters and then lay-brothers to work the nuns' land. In 1147 he went to Cîteaux to ask the abbot to take over the foundation. This the Cistercians were unable to do, and Gilbert was encouraged by Pope Eugenius III to carry on the work himself. Finally, Gilbert added a fourth element, of canons regular, as chaplains to the nuns. Thus the double houses of the Gilbertines came into being, the only medieval order of English origin. The nuns had the Rule of St. Benedict and the canons that of St. Augustine. A canon, the master general, ruled the order. Severe in discipline, after the manner of CÎteaux, the Gilbertines insisted on simple furnishings even at the altar and chanted the office in a humble monotone.
Gilbert served as master general until the loss of his sight. He led a mortified existence, giving his food to the poor, wearing a hair shirt, sleeping in a chair, and spending much of the night in prayer. He was accused of rendering aid to the political exile, St. Thomas of Canterbury; a charge, which while untrue, he refused to refute for fear of seeming to side with King Henry II against the liberty of the Church. He died in 1189 at the age of 106, and was canonized in 1202 by Pope Innocent III.
Saint Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople & Martyr
From Butler's Lives of the Saints
Flavian, priest and treasurer of the church of Constantinople, succeeded St. Proclus as patriarch in 447. In response to a demand for a bribe by Chrysaphius, an agent of the Emperor Theodosius II, Flavian sent the customary blessed bread as a sign of communion and benediction; thereby gaining the animosity of a powerful court favorite. He fell into further disfavor by refusing to cooperate in an attempt to banish the emperor's sister to a convent, and by excomunicating the monophysite monk Eutyches. When the excommunication was confirmed by Pope Leo I in a letter to Flavian known as Saint Leo's "Tome," Chrysaphius enlisted Dioscorus, the patriarch of Alexandria, in summoning a council at Ephesus that would come to be known as the "Robber Synod" on account of the violence with which it opened on August 8, 449. In the accompanying confusion St. Flavian was thrown to the ground and beaten so severely that he died shortly thereafter. His memory was soon vindicated, as Theodosius died the following year; Chrysaphius was executed by order of the new emperor Marcian, whose consort St. Pulcheria restored Flavian's remains to Constantiople; and when the Council of Chalcedon deprived Dioscorus of his see and sent him into exile.
also February 17
Adapted from Butler's Lives of the Saints
Christianity was first preached in China in the seventh century by heretical Nestorian missionaries. The first mission from the Catholic West was established in 1294 at Khanbaliq (now Peking) by the Franciscan friar, John of Monte Corvino; the first permanent settlement was made by the Jesuits during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; in 1631 they were followed by Dominicans, two years later by the Franciscans again, in 1680 by the Augustinian friars, and by priests of the Paris Foreign Mission in 1683.
Francis-Regis Clet was born at Grenoble in 1748, and joined the Congregation of the Mission (Lazarists) at the age of twenty-one. Departing for China in 1791, he spent nearly thirty years in the mission, always under official scrutiny, often under persecution, and sometimes in isolation from other priests. In 1818 a strange and inexplicable darkness occurred one morning in Peking. The Emperor, heretofore tolerant of Christian preachers, was frightened, convinced that the local deities were offended and that all foreign religions must be suppressed. Father Clet was apprehended and sentenced to repeated beating of his face, after which he was strangled three times, the last of which was fatal. It was February 17, 1820.
Louis Gabriel Taurin Dufresse went to China as a priest at the age of twenty-six, and worked for seven years in the province of Szechwan, till in 1785 he was denounced and went into hiding. To protect his colleagues, he gave himself up and was deported to Manilla, where he remained for four years till he accompanied the Vicar Apostolic, Msgr. de Saint-Martin back to Szechwan. In 1800 Msgr. Dufresse was consecrated bishop, and the following year succeeded to the vicariate. During a period of relaxed persecution forty thousand heathen were converted. But in 1811 a decree ordered the search for all foreign preachers in Peking; the search was extended to the provinces and persecution began again in Szechwan worse than ever. On September 14, 1815 Msgr. Dufresse was sentenced to beheading. With his last blessing, he stirred the crowd to proclaim their willingness to die for Jesus Christ, as many of them did. The head of the Martyr was displayed on a pole for a week before the Christians were allowed to give him a decent burial.
John Lantrua, born in 1760 in Liguria, became a Franciscan at the age of seventeen, and entered China in 1799. He labored, almost alone, in the provinces of Hupeh and Hunan. In the end, his little chapel was burnt to the ground, and all his effects seized. By force his feet were dragged over a crucifix so that the authorities might claim his defection from the Faith; this he denied vigorously at his trial. He was strangled and his body exposed to infamy on February 7, 1816.
Augustus Chapdelaine was born near Coutances in 1814. After the loss of the family farm he was free to study for the priesthood, becoming a curate in 1844. Feeling a call to the foreign missions in 1851, he departed for China after a brief period of training at the house of the Missions. After long delays he reached his destination, soon to be denounced by the relative of a Christian convert. Yet, the local Mandarin proved friendly and Augustus returned to productive work. He labored strenuously, and, in spite of an imperfect knowledge of the language made many converts. Under the rule of a new Mandarin he was again denounced and sentenced to be beaten on the face three hundred times with a rattan. Suffering this punishment without complaint and quickly returning to health provoked the Mandarin to think a spell had been employed. A dog was killed and its blood thrown over Augustus to dispel the magic. At a second hearing the missionary was sentenced to receive 300 blows in the face with a heavy shoe sole. Many of his teeth were knocked out and his jaw fractured. Unable to raise a ransom of one thousand tæls, reduced to three hundred, sentence of death was passed and he was subject to slow martyrdom by the torture of the cage. When life was extinct his head was struck off, and three jets of blood spouted heavenwards, deeply impressing the spectators that something extraordinary had taken place.
Others among the Chinese Martyrs include: the laymen Peter Lieu, strangled after encouraging his sons in prison (1834), Paul Lieu (1818) and John-Baptist Lo (1861); the lay catechist Jerome Lu (1858) and the seminarist Joseph Shang (1861); John Peter Néel, a French priest who was beheaded in 1862, together with his Chinese catechist, Martin; Agnes Sao Kuy, a young maiden killed by torture at Kwangsi (1856); and the school teacher Agatha Lin, beheaded at Maoken in 1858. Francis de Capillas (January 15), Peter Sanz and Companions (May 26), Gregory Grassi and Companions (July 9) and John Perboyre (September 11).
Saint Simeon, Bishop and Martyr
Breviary ex Guerangér
Simeon the son of Cleophas was ordained bishop of Jerusalem, and was St. James' immediate successor in that see. In the reign of the Emperor Trajan he was accused to the Counsel Atticus of being a Christian and a relation of Christ; for at this time, all they that were of the house of David were seized. After having endured various tortures, Simeon was put to death by the same punishment which our Savior suffered, and all the beholders were filled with astonishment to see how, at his age (for he was a hundred and twenty years old), he could go through the intense pains of crucifixion without showing a sign of fear or irresolution.
Marie Bernard, "Bernadette" was the first child of Fran‡ois Soubirous and Louise Castérot, baptized on January 9th, 1844, precisely one year after their wedding in the parish church of St. Peter's in Lourdes in the diocese of Tarbes in France. Bernadette's parents were good but extremely poor, and she suffered all of her life from poor health; respiratory problems complicated by the cold and damp conditions under which the family was forced to live. In the fourth year after the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette, in a rocky cavern overlooking the grotto of Massabielle on the banks of the Gave near the town of Lourdes. Our Lady showed herself as a young and gracious figure, robbed in white, with a white veil and blue sash, and golden roses on her bare feet. At the first apparition on February 11th, 1858, she taught the child to make the Sign of the Cross correctly and devoutly, and, taking a chaplet from her own arm, encouraged her by example to say her rosary. This was repeated at subsequent apparitions. On the second day, Bernadette, who feared an illusion of the devil, in all simplicity cast holy water at the apparition, who smiled more graciously than before. At the third apparition, Bernadette was invited to repeat her visits to the grotto for fifteen days, during which the Blessed Virgin conversed with her, exhorted her to pray for sinners, kiss the ground and do penance, and finally commanded her to tell the priests that a chapel was to be built in the place and processions held. She was also bidden to drink and wash in the water, and then a spring, until then invisible, gushed out of the ground. On the feast of the Annunciation, the child earnestly begged the Lady who had so often visited her to reveal her name, and the Blessed Virgin, joining her hands and raising her eyes to heaven, said: "I am the Immaculate Conception." Rumors of favors received at the holy grotto spread rapidly, and the crowds of devout visitors increased daily, so that the Bishop of Tarbes, who had been impressed by the candor of Bernadette, found it advisable to hold a judicial enquiry into the facts. In the course of the fourth year he gave sentence, recognizing the supernatural character of the apparition, and permitting devotions to Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception to be held in the grotto. At age twenty-two Bernadette entered the sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction of Nevers. She died of the complications of her lifetime affliction with asthma on April 16th, 1879. As part of the ecclesiastical investigation preparatory to her beatification and canonization her body was exhumed in 1909 and found to be incorrupt. She was raised to the honors of the altar on December 8th, 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
Saint Barbatus, Bishop
From Butler's Lives
Tradition holds Barbatus to have been a native of Benevento, who after ordination ministered in the church of St. Basil at Morcona. He was transferred to a church in Benevento where he passed the remainder of his years. Although it was nominally Christian, Barbatus found Lombardy steeped in paganism. They venerated a golden viper and worshipped at a tree on which they hung the skin of a wild beast. He labored incessantly, preaching, praying, and fasting; all to little avail; unable to bring about the conversion of his people until he predicted the coming siege of Benevento by the army of Constans II in 663. They repented of their paganism, whereupon Barbatus was able to comfort them with the prediction that the siege would be raised and the emperor worsted. The saint felled the "sacred" tree with his own hand, and melted down the golden snake to make a chalice. He succeeded Hildebrand of Benevento as bishop and was able to complete the work of eliminating paganism. He attended the sixth General Council at Constantinople against the monothelites. He did not long survive this assembly, for he died on February 29, 682 at the age of seventy.
Saint Eucharius, Bishop
From Butler's Lives
Born at Orleans, Eucharius entered the Benedictine abbey of Jumieges about the year 714. Six or seven years later his uncle, Soavaric, Bishop of Orleans, died and the people and clergy sent a deputation to Charles Martel seeking permission to elect Eucharius to fill the vacant see. Although reluctant to leave the monastery, he was consecrated in 721, and proved himself an exemplary pastor, devoted entirely to the care of his people. Eucharius, however, did not retain the favor of Charles Martel. Eucharius strenuously resisted Charles' confiscations of church revenues, and this was represented to Charles as a personal insult. In 737 Eucharius was exiled to Cologne, and then to Liége. To Charles' chagrin, Eucharius quickly won the favor of the local people and authorities in both places. Eventually he was allowed to retire to the monastery of Saint-Trond near Mæstricht where he ended his life in prayer and contemplation. The legend that he saw Charles Martel burning in hell seems to be spurious, but is occasionally depicted in representations of the saint in art.
Saint Severianus, Bishop & Martyr
From Butler's Lives
In 451 the fourth General Council was called at Chalcedon to pronounce upon the Eutychian or monophysite heresy. Dioceses were being split into factions, which, in some cases, elected rival bishops and refused communion to their opponents. The Council's condemnation of the heresy was accepted at once by a great proportion of the Palestinian monks, but there were many exceptions. Theodosius, a violent and unscrupulous man, expelled Juvenal, the Bishop of Jerusalem, and occupied the see himself. He spread desolation throughout the country, although in certain places he met resistance among those who had the courage to stand firm in their orthodoxy. Of these, no one showed more determination than Severian, the Bishop of Scythopolis, who received as his reward the crown of martyrdom. The soldiers seized him, dragged him out of the city, and then put him to death.
Saint Peter's Chair at Antioch
Here begins the first Epistle of blessed Peter the Apostle.
Chapter i: 1-5
Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen unto the sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, unto obedience to Jesus Christ and the sprinkling of His blood: grace and peace be given you in abundance. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has begotten us again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope, unto an incorruptible inheritance -- undefiled and unfading, reserved for you in heaven. By the power of God you are guarded through faith for salvation, which is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Chapter i: 6-9
Over this you rejoice; though now for a little while, if need be, you are made sorrowful by various trials, that the temper of your faith -- more precious by far than gold whicch is tried by fire -- may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Him, though you have not seen, you love. In him, though you do not see Him, yet believing, you exult with joy unspeakable and triumphant; receiving as the final issue of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Chapter i: 10-12
The prophets who foretold the grace that was to come for you made earnest inquiry and search concerning this salvation. They searched what time of circumstances the Spirit of Christ in them was signifying, when He foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves but to you, they were ministering those things which now have been declared to you by those who preached the Gospel to you by the Holy Ghost sent from heaven. Into these things angels desire to look.
Today's solemn feast was instituted by our forefathers and given the name of "the Chair" because it is said that it was on this day that Peter, the first of the Apostles, was enthroned as bishop. It is most fitting, then, that the churches should celebrate the anniversary of that seat of honor for which the Apostle received for the welfare of the churches according to the Lord's saying, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church."
In this way the Lord named Peter as the foundation of the Church, and so the Church rightly celebrates this foundation on which her whole lofty structure rises up. And it is fitting that the Psalm verse read today says, "Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people, and praise him in the chair of the elders." Blessed be God, who commanded St. Peter the Apostle to be exalted in the Church; for it is right that in the Church this foundation should be honored by which she rises up to heaven.
In celebrating today the feast of this Chair, therefore, we honor the priestly office. Hereby the churches show one another that, by necessity, the greater the honor given the priestly ministry, the greater is the dignity of the Church. And when the religious observance of this solemn feast has so rightly been introduced into the churches, I wonder why that harmful error is growing today among some unfaithful persons who place food and wine on the tombs of the dead, as if souls that have left their bodies required bodily nourishment.
†A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time Jesus, having gone into the district of Cæsarea Philippi, began to ask His disciples, saying, "Who do men say the Son of Man is?" Etc.
A homily of Pope St. Leo
The Lord asks the Apostles what men are thinking about Him: and their answers are those common among men as long as the uncertainty of human understanding is being expressed. But when the disciples are asked what they think, he who is the first in apostolic dignity is the first to confess the Lord. When he had said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus answered him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but My Father who is in heaven." That is, you are blessed because My Father had taught you; you have not been deceived by earthly opinions, but taught by heavenly inspiration; and it is not flesh and blood, but He whose only Son I am who has shown Me to you.
"And I," He said, "say to you" -- that is, as My Father has shown you My divinity, so I will make known to you your excellence. "Thou art Peter" -- that is, as I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes two things into one, the foundation that no man can replace with another, so you also are a rock, for you are made firm by My power, so that you are to share in common participation with Me in what is proper to my power. "And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." On this strength, He says, I will build an eternal temple, and the height of My Church which is to reach into heaven will rise on the firmness of this faith.
The gates of hell shall not do away with this confession, the chains of death shall not bind it. For this voice is the voice of life. And, as He will raise up to heaven those who confess Him, so He will plunge into hell those who deny Him. This is why He says to the most blessed Peter, "I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." A certain force of this power was transmitted to the other Apostles as well, and the essence of this decree has passed on to all the chiefs of the Church; but there is a point in committing to one person that which is meant for all. It is entrusted to Peter in a special way because Peter is to be an example for all those who rule the Church. Therefore Peter's privilege stands, wherever judgment flows from his justice. Nor will either severity or leniency be too great where nothing will be bound and nothing loosed, unless blessed Peter has either loosed or bound it.
Saint Tarasius,Patriarch; of Constantiople
From Butler's Lives
A layman, Tarasius was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople by the court, clergy, and people after having been nominated by his predecessor Paul IV, who had retired to a monastery. Although a patrician, surrounded by the luxuries of the imperial court, Tarasius had led a life of almost monastic severity. He was loath to accept the dignity of the episcopate, feeling that a priest should have been chosen, and being greatly concerned about the imperial policy prohibiting the veneration of sacred images and ikons. However, the Empress-regent Irene, ruling in the stead of her ten year old son Constantine VI, was opposed to this Iconoclasm and cooperated with Tarasius in promoting the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicæa, which, under the legates of Pope Adrian I, restored the veneration of images in 787. Tarasius also labored to abolish simony, restore evenhanded ecclesiastical government, fix a less elaborate life style among the clergy, and establish charitable institutions and hospitals. Shortly after the young Constantine reached maturity he tried to gain Tarasius' permission to divorce the wife he had been pressured to marry by his late father; Tarasius refused and suffered persecution until the Empress Irene deposed her son, blinding him in order to return to power. After five years Irene was deposed by Nicephorus and sent into exile. Tarasius was unaffected by the change of administration and continued as Patriarch. In his last illness, as long as he was able to move, he continued to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Before his death he fell into a trance-like state and appeared to be having an argument with his persecutors; however, in the end the holy man gave up his soul to God in great peace after he had ruled the Patriarchal See for twenty-one years.
Saint Porphyry, Bishop
Porphyry came from a family of Thessalonica in Macedonia. He left family and friends and country at the age of twenty-five and went to Egypt, where he consecrated himself to God in a monastery in the desert of Skete. After a period of years he went to Palestine, where he visited the holy places daily, in spite of debilitating illness. By his refusal of assistance in making the Way of the Cross, he gained the admiration of another pilgrim, one named Mark, whom he dispatched to Thessalonica to settle his inheritance and distribute the proceeds to the poor. On his return, Mark found Porphyry cured of his illness by Jesus Christ. The two took up work in order to support themselves in Jerusalem, Porphyry as a shoe maker and Mark as a copyist. In 393, at the age of forty, Porphyry was ordained priest and given charge of the great relic of the Holy Cross. In 396 he was elected bishop of Gaza without his knowledge, and was brought there by subterfuge and force, although it seems that our Lord gave him at least a suggestion of the task He wished him to undertake in Gaza. As bishop, he labored tirelessly to convert the pagans through good example, assiduous prayer, and the working of miracles. Through the advocacy of St. John Chrysostom and the Empress Eudoxia he obtained orders from the Emperor Arcadius to destroy the pagan temples and raise churches in their place. Many of the pagans were converted, but others were angered, and Porphyry almost lost his life in a riot. With the patronage of the empress, by the time of his death, he had erected beautiful churches and saw the city generally free from the practice of idolatry.