Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

 Fresco of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste in Santa Maria Antiqua, Rome; photo taken by Matthew
 
(The following is excerpted from the 10 March entry in Volume IV of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation of Dom Prosper Guéranger's 'The Liturgical Year' by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"...On the frozen pool, which was their field of battle, these martyrs reminded one another that Jesus had fasted for forty days, and that they themselves were forty in number! Let us, in our turn, compare their sufferings with the lenten exercises which the Church imposes on us; and humble ourselves on seeing our cowardice; or, if we begin with fevour, let us remember that the grand thing is to be faithful to the end, and bring to the Easter solemnity the crown of our perseverance. Our forty martyrs patiently endured the cruellest tortures; the fear of God, and their deep-rooted conviction that He had an infinite claim to their fidelity, gave them the victory....The lives of the saints will be of great help to us...for they will teach us how we are to look upon sin, how to avoid it, and how strictly we are bound to do penance for it after having committed it."

"The Church, in her liturgy, thus relates to us the martyrdom of the soldiers of Sebaste."


10th century A.D. Byzantine ivory relief icon,
the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste,
Bode Museum, Berlin found on Tumblr 

During the reign of the Emperor Licinus, and under the presidency of Agricolaus, the city of Sebaste in in Armenia was honored by being made the scene of the martyrdom of forty [Roman] soldiers, whose faith in Jesus Christ, and patience in bearing tortures, were so glorious. After having been frequently confined in a horrid dungeon, shackled with chains, and having had their faces beaten with stones, they were condemned to pass a most bitter winter night in the open air, and on a frozen pool, that they might be frozen to death. When there, they united in this prayer: 'Forty have we entered on the battle; let us, O Lord, receive forty crowns, and suffer not our number to be broken. The number is an honoured one, for thou didst fast for forty days, and the divine law was given to the world after the same number of days was observed. Elias [Elijah], too, sought God by a forty days' fast, and was permitted to see him.' Thus did they pray.
All the guards, except one, were asleep. He overheard their prayer, and saw them encircled with light, and angels coming down from heaven, like messengers sent by a King, who distributed crowns to thirty-nine of the soldiers. Whereupon, he thus said to himself: 'There are forty men: where is the fortieth crown?' While he was thus pondering one of the number lost his courage; he could bear the cold no longer, and threw himself into a warm bath, which had been placed near at hand. His saintly companions were exceedingly grieved at this. But God would not suffer their prayer to be void. The sentinel, astonished at what he had witnessed, went immediately and awoke the guards; then, taking off his garments, he cried out, with a loud voice, that he was Christian, and associated himself with the martyrs. No sooner did the governor's guards perceive that the sentinel had also declared himself to be a Christian, than they approached the martyrs and broke their legs with clubs.
All died under this torture except Melithon, who was the youngest of the forty. His mother, who was present, seeing that he was still living after his legs were broken, thus encouraged him: 'My son, be patient yet a while. Lo! Christ is at the door, helping thee,' But, as soon as she saw the other bodies being placed on carts, that they might be thrown on the pile, and her son left behind (for the impious men hoped that, if the boy survived, he might be induced to worship the idols), she lifted him up into her arms, and, summing up all her strength, ran after the waggons, on which the martyrs' bodies were being carried. Melithon died in his mother's arms, and the holy woman threw his body on the pile, where the other martyrs were, that as he had been so united with them in faith and courage, he might be one with them in burial, and go to heaven in their company. As soon as the bodies were burnt, the pagans threw what remained into a river. The relics miraculously flowed to one and the same place, just as they were when they were taken from the pile. The Christians took them, and respectfully buried them.

"...Valiant soldiers of Christ...receive the homage of our devotion. Your memory is venerated throughout the whole Church, and your glory is great in heaven. Though engaged in the service of an earthly prince, you were the soldiers of the eternal King: to Him were you faithful, and from Him did you receive your crown of eternal glory. We, also, are His soldiers; we are fighting for the kingdom of heaven. Our enemies are many and powerful; but, like you, we can conquer them, if, like you, we use the arms which God has put in our hands. Faith in God's word, hope in His assistance, humility, and prudence, with these we are sure of victory. Pray for us, O holy martyrs, that we may avoid all compromise with our enemies; for our defeat is certain, if we try to serve two masters...come to our assistance, and get us a share in your brave spirit. A crown is also prepared for us: it is to be won on easier terms than yours; and yet we shall lose it, unless we keep up within us an esteem for our vocation. How many times, in our past lives, have we forfeited that glorious crown! But God, in His mercy, has offered it to us again, and we are resolved on winning it. Oh, for the glory of our common Lord and Master, make intercession for us."

Monday, June 27, 2016

How The Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Returned From Obscurity

 Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help

[The following is excerpted from "Our Lady of Perpetual Help" by Rev. Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R.]

"One day in 1862, the Redemptorist community of the Villa Caserta was assembled at the usual after dinner recreation. In the course of the conversation, the Father in charge of the archives of the Congregation recounted that he had recently discovered in an old tome an account of a church called St. Matthew's, which had formerly stood near the Villa Caserta and which possessed a miraculous picture of Mary under the title of Perpetual Help....a member of the Villa Caserta community heard the archivist's story. Suddenly, as the title of 'Our Lady of Perpetual Help' was mentioned, there flashed into his mind...[an] account of the famous Madonna, once venerated in St. Matthew's under this title....Overjoyed that he was able to impart some authentic information on the subject, [the priest] exclaimed, 'That picture is still in existence. I know where it is, and I have often seen it.' Then he repeated...[his memory] regarding the picture in the [Augustinian] monastery of Santa Maria in Posterula. The Fathers were delighted to hear that the venerable painting had survived...the ravages of time. Perhaps it occurred to them that it would be most fitting that the picture should be restored to public [veneration] in their own church, which stood so near to the site of the old St. Matthew's...."

"The superior general of the Redemptorists, Father Nicholas Mauron....presented himself to the Sovereign Pontiff, [Blessed] Pius IX, and briefly narrated the history of the miraculous image. Then he petitioned the Holy Father to give orders that the picture should be restored to public veneration...Pius IX was deeply moved by the story. He had a tender devotion to the Mother of God...His answer to Father Mauron's petition was immediate.  With his own hand, he wrote the order that the picture should be consigned to the Church of Saint Alphonsus, between St. John Lateran and Saint Mary Major. Father Mauron was commanded to procure for the Augustinian monks another picture, to take the place of the miraculous image in their community chapel....The Augustinians willingly consented to the transfer, and received from Father Mauron a beautiful modern painting of Our Lady. The venerable image was brought to the monastery of St. Alphonsus, where its somewhat faded colors were retouched by a skillful artist."

"Finally, on the afternoon of April 26, 1866, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was once again solemnly enthroned....All the streets and the houses in the vicinity of the church were decorated in festal array. Amid the devout prayers and acclamations of an immense throng, the picture was carried in procession through the neighboring streets, and then was placed over the altar of the church. Doubtless, there were many invisible graces conferred by Our Lady on this occasion; but she also gave two visible signs of her maternal love. A little boy, four years of age, who was dying of gastric fever and meningitis, was carried to the window by his mother as the procession passed by. 'O Mother of God,' prayed the poor woman, 'cure my child or take him to Paradise!' Mary heard the mother's prayer, and in a few days, the little boy was completely restored to health. In a similar manner, Our Lady obtained the cure of a little girl who has been a cripple for several years. On the days following the enthronement of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, thousands of person came from all parts of Rome to pray before the picture. Among these was Pope Pius IX, who visited the church on the afternoon of May 5. After gazing on the picture for a long time in silent devotion, he exclaimed, 'How beautiful it is!' Then he directed that a copy of the painting should be placed in his private oratory...."

"...[T]he rapidity with which the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help has grown, and the extent to which it has spread in the universal Church...are truly marvelous, not to say miraculous. In Italy, there are sanctuaries to the Blessed Virgin under this title at Modena, Fumone di Lazio, Cortona, Polignano, Muro Lucano, Pagani, Alcamo, Busselengo di Verona, and many other places....In Ireland, the cities of Limerick, Belfast, and Dublin are centers of fervent devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Moreover, the extensive missionary labors of the Redemptorist Fathers contributes much toward making her known and loved by the people of this truly Catholic land...."

"But the land that is preeminently the domain of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is America. Probably the most renowned sanctuary in the United States is the shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the church of the same name at Boston. Since the establishment of this shrine in 1871, it has been the scene of hundreds of cure of an apparently miraculous character. The most celebrated incident of this nature took place in 1883, when Miss Grace Hanley of Boston was instantaneously cured of a disease that had baffled the eminent surgeons. The city of St. Louis is another stronghold....The shrines in New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Kansas City are also much frequented. Nor are the Redemptorist Fathers alone the propagators of the devotion. The Fathers of the divine Word and the Josephites do much toward making Our Lady of Perpetual Help loved and venerated...."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our Lady of Guadalupe's Message to St. Juan Diego

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego,
purchased in Albuquerque, New Mexico by Matthew, the blog administrator

Words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego, first apparition at Tepeyac, Mexico on 9 December 1531:
"You must know and be very certain in your heart, my son, that I am truly the perpetual and perfect Virgin Mary, holy mother of the True God through Whom everything lives, the Creator and Master of Heaven and Earth."

"I wish and intensely desire that in this place my sanctuary be erected, so that in it I may show and make known and give all my love, my compassion, my help and protection to the people. I am your merciful mother, the mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me, of those who have confidence in me. Here, I will hear their weeping, their sorrow, and will remedy and alleviate their suffering, necessities, and misfortunes."

"And so that my intentions may be made known, you must go to the house of the bishop of Mexico and tell him that I sent you and that it is my desire to have a sanctuary built there."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sts. René Goupil, Isaac Jogues, and Jean de Lalande

(The following is excerpted from "150 North American Martyrs You Should Know," by Brian O'Neel. 26 September is the feast day of the Jesuit North American Martyrs.)

"...The Iroquois established a trade blockade on the St. Lawrence River. It was a failed attempt to run the blockade that led to the August 2, 1642, capture of Fr. [Saint Isaac] Jogues and Dr. René Goupil, a Jesuit donné (volunteer missionary), as well as their Huron allies...[Goupil] had entered a Jesuit seminary as a young adult but eventually left because of poor health. He went on to obtain a degree in medicine and became a surgeon...."

"Fr. Jogues could have escaped, but when he saw the Indians had captured Goupil, he could not in good conscience leave. and a layman named Guillaume Couture rejected an opportunity to escape because he did not want to leave Fr. Jogues....The Iroquois made everyone strip naked. Then each prisoner had to run a gauntlet, in which a hundred people on each side -- armed with clubs, spiked whips, and fists -- pummeled them. The three Frenchmen got the worst of it."

"The next day the Indians began a forced march of the captives, covering two hundred miles in twelve days. As they staggered along, Fr. Jogues and Dr. Goupil catechized people and baptized those who were willing. The Indians killed one man named Ondouterraon the moment Father finished baptizing him....The natives then placed the prisoners on the stage found in every Iroquois village. Tribe members wrenched out their fingernails with their teeth, stabbed them, and disfigured their fingers. An Indian man forced a Christian woman to bite off Father's left thumb. The natives burned his left index finger and so severely mangled the rest of his digits that even after healing they were a gnarled mess...."

"For the length of his captivity, Dr. Goupil -- whom St. Isaac had initiated as a Jesuit novice shortly after their capture -- baptized terminally ill children. Knowing nothing of disease or medicine, however, the Indians believed that the Sign of the Cross hexed their offspring and caused their deaths. One such instance brought about René's martyrdom."

"An old man caught the doctor crossing his grandson's forehead. This gentleman believed the doctor had called an evil spirit upon the child and that harms would thus befall the boy. The man told his nephew to kill the doctor....The aforementioned nephew smashed a tomahawk into the doctor's head. Goupil collapsed, repeating Jesus's [N]ame with his last breaths. Fr. Jogues immediately knelt down, bemt his head toward Goupil's, and granted him final absolution. He continued kneeling in anticipation of his own death blow, but it never came...."

"A year after his capture, the [Indians] made Jogues a manservant on a fishing trip. His party entered a Dutch village for provisions, and the burgemeester offered to help Father escape. Father asked for the night to pray about it, to which the puzzled mayor replied, yes, by all means, pray. Fr. Jogues only accepted the offer after determining that his leaving wouldn't adversely affect the enslaved Huron Christians...."

"[Jogues] departed for Europe, landing in England on Christmas Eve [1643]. The next day a ship deposited him on French soil....In April 1644, Jogues returned to New France. For two years he stayed at Montreal, helping found that city....he left for the [Iroquois village of] Ossernenon on September 24, 1646 accompanied by the donné Jean de Lalande. He did not believe he would come back. He was proved correct in this....Upon reaching Ossernenon on October 17, the [Indians] captured and stripped Fr. Jogues, de Lalande, and the [French] envoy. The next day, Jogues...was invited to dinner....As Fr. Jogues bent to enter the longhouse of his putative host, a tomahawk split his skull...unlike his first stay with the Iroquouis, he experienced no torture but rather instantaneous death."

"His killers dumped his body in the middle of the village...[de Lalande] felt compelled to attempt a look at Jogues's body. Lalande stuck his head outside the house, and down came some brave's ax, immediately killing him. The [Indians] placed both saints' heads on pikes along the village walls and dumped their bodies into the river."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

St. Anthony Leaves Franciscans and Dominicans Awestruck By His Preaching


Miracle of St. Anthony preaching to the fish of the sea, found at Nobility blog

(The following is excerpted from Chapters 9 and 10 of "Saint Anthony: The Wonder-Worker of Padua," by Charles Warren Stoddard; published by TAN Books.)

"...Father Gratian [the Franciscan Provincial of Bologna] turned to Anthony and desired him to exhort the candidates [to the priesthood for the Franciscans and Dominicans]. The simplicity and beauty of his language and the grace of his manner were greatly in his favor; but he had never yet spoken in public, and since he had become a Friar Minor [Anthony was previously an Augustinian], he had opened no book save only his breviary and the Psalms. Therefore he modestly pleaded his inexperience and his inability he confessed that he was fitter to serve in the refectory than to preach to the learned who were present....The superior was inflexible; and, rejecting all excuses, he directed Anthony to preach out of obedience, and gave him for a text: 'Christ became for us obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.'"

"The young priest arose, trembling with humility; in a low voice, the beauty of which had been often commented upon, he addressed the Franciscans and Dominicans, who were filled with curiosity and expectation. As he proceeded, his voice gathered volume and his speech fire; his cheek flushed with fervor; his body swayed as a reed in the wind; his wrapped gaze seemed fixed upon a heaven invisible to others, and he spoke as one divinely inspired....Is it any wonder that all present were astonished beyond measure, and that they looked upon this maiden effort of the novice as little short of miraculous?..."

"In a torrent of eloquence that thrilled and amazed his listeners, he developed his discourse with the skill of a logician, the art of an orator, the charm of one predestined to the pulpit...On the instant he found himself conspicuous in a life of publicity --- the he had sought in vain to fly from. Now, in deed and in very truth, his inner life was ended; he was henceforth to be known as Anthony the Preacher."

"The [Franciscan] Provincial of Romangna, who was present when Anthony delivered his first sermon, at once appointed the young apostle a preacher in his province; and St. Francis [of Assisi], hearing of the extraordinary effort produced by the sermon, not only confirmed the Provincial's appointment, but greatly enlarged Anthony's sphere of usefulness by giving him leave to preach anywhere and everywhere, whenever an opportunity offered."

[St. Anthony would go on to convert multitudes back to the Catholic faith by his preaching -- to such an extent that he was nicknamed malleus haereticorum - or "the hammer of heretics."]

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Saint George, Martyr

(The following is excerpted from the 23 April entry in Volume VIII of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation of Dom Prosper Guéranger's 'The Liturgical Year' by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

"Saint George is usually represented as killing a dragon; and where the representation is complete, there is also given the figure of a princess, whom the Saint thus saves from being devoured by the monster. This favourite subject of both sacred and profane art is purely symbolical, and is of Byzantine origin. It signifies the victory won over the devil, by the martyr's courageous profession of faith; the princess represents [Saint] Alexandra, who who was converted by witnessing the Saint's heroic patience under his sufferings [St. George was beheaded in the Greek city of Nicomedia in A.D. 303]...."

"...[T]he following historical lesson has recently been approved for the Dioceses of England:"

"George, who among the martyrs of the East has received the name of the Great Martyr, suffered a glorious death for the sake of Christ in the persecution of Diocletian. When shortly afterwards peace was given to the Church under Constantine, the memory of [the Martyr] began to be celebrated. Churches were erected to his honour in Palestine and at Constantinople, and devotion to him spread through the East and into the West. From early times, Christian armies have invoked the protection of St. George, together with Saints Maurice and Sebastian, when going into battle. Special devotion was shown to St. George in England for many centuries, and Pope Benedict XIV declared him the special Protector of that kingdom."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

St. Francis de Sales on St. Joseph the Valiant

Tapestry of the Holy Family being visited by the shepherds in Bethlehem,
sacristy of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church, Washington, DC.

(The following is excerpted from St. Francis de Sales's Conference XIX, The Virtues of St. Joseph, as cited on page 187 of "Reflection of Saint Francis de Sales on Living Jesus," published by the Fraternity Group of the Association of St. Francis de Sales)

"There is no doubt that St. Joseph was more valiant than David and more wise than Solomon; nevertheless, seeing him so humbly working in his carpenter shop, who would have imagined (unless enlightened supernaturally) that he was endowed by God with such marvelous gifts, so closely and so carefully did he keep them concealed! But what must not his wisdom have been, seeing that God committed to his charge His all-glorious Son and chose him to be His guardian! If earthly princes consider it a matter of such great importance to select carefully a tutor fit for their children, think you that the Eternal God in His almighty power and wisdom would not chose from out of the whole of His creation the most perfect man living to be the guardian of His divine and most glorious Son, the Prince of heaven and earth?"

"There is, then, no doubt all [that] St. Joseph was endowed with all gifts and graces required by the charge which the Eternal Father willed to commit to him, over all the temporal and domestic concerns of Our Lord and the guidance of his family, which was compromised of three persons only, representing to us the mystery of the most holy and adorable Trinity. Not that there is any real comparison in this matter excerpting as regards Our Lord, Who is one of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, for the others were but creatures; yet still we may say that it was a trinity on earth representing in some sort the most holy Trinity --- Mary, Jesus, and Joseph; Joseph, Jesus, and Mary --- a trinity worth indeed to be honored and greatly esteemed."