St. William of Norwich

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

St. William of Norwich, Martyr

THIS martyr was another victim of the implacable rage of the Jews against our holy religion. He suffered in the twelfth year of his age. Having been not long bound an apprentice to a tanner in Norwich, a little before Easter, in 1137, the Jews of that city having enticed him into their houses, seized and gagged him: then they bound, mocked and crucified him, in derision of Christ: they also pierced his left side. On Easter-day they put the body into a sack, and carried it into Thorp-wood, now a heath, near the gates of the city, there to bury it; but being discovered, left it hanging on a tree. The body was honoured with miracles, and, in 1144, removed into the church-yard of the cathedral of the Holy Trinity, by the monks of that abbey; and in 1150, into the choir. On the place in Thorp-wood, where the body of the martyred child was found, a chapel was built, called St. William in the wood. Mr. Weever writes that, “the Jews in the principal cities of the kingdom, used sometimes to steal away, circumcise, crown with thorns, whip, torture, and crucify some neighbour’s male-child, in mockery and scorn of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. St. Richard of Pontoise, in France, was martyred by them in that manner. As also St. Hugh, (according to Matthew Paris and John Capgrave,) a child crucified at Lincoln, in 1255. Nevertheless it is a notorious slander of some authors, who, from these singular and extraordinary instances, infer this to have been at any time the custom or maxim of that people. The English calendars commemorated St. William on the 24th of March. See the history of his martyrdom and miracles by Thomas of Monmouth, a contemporary monk; also the Saxon Chronicle of the same age, and Bloomfield’s History of Norfolk. 1 1

Note 1. Pope Benedict XIV. l. 1. de Canon, c. 14. p. 103. shows that children who die after baptism before the use of reason, though saints, ought not to be canonized, because they never practised any heroic degree of virtue; and because this was never authorized by tradition in the church. Martyrs only, or infants, whether baptized or not, which were slain out of hatred to the name of Christ, are to be accepted, as is clear from the example of the Holy Innocents, who are styled martyrs by St. Irenæus, Origen, and other fathers, and the most ancient missals and homilies of fathers on their festival, prove them to have been honoured as such from the primitive ages. Hence infants murdered by Jews, out of hatred to Christ, have been ranked among the martyrs; as St. Simon of Trent, by the authority of the bishop of that city, afterwards confirmed by the decrees of the Popes Sixtus V. and Gregory XIII. also St. William of Norwich, in England, (though this child having attained to the use of reason, is rather to be called an adult martyr) and St. Richard of Pontoise, also about twelve years old, murdered in 1182, by certain Jews in the reign of Philip Augustus, who for this and other crimes banished the Jews out of France, in April, that same year. The body of St. Richard was translated to Paris, and enshrined in the parish church of the Holy Innocents, where his feast is kept on the 30th of March, but at Poutoise on the 25th. The celebrated F. Gaguin has written the history of his martyrdom, with an account of several miracles wrought at his shrine. His head is still shown in that church; the rest of his relics are said to have been carried off by the English, when they were masters of Paris. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

St. Gabriel the Archangel

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

St. Gabriel, Archangel

That bright spirit, whom the Almighty charged with the saving message of the Incarnation of the Son of God, is called the Archangel Gabriel. His first embassy was to the prophet, Daniel. Whilst this Saint was communing with God in prayer the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him, and announced to him the epoch in which the long-expected Messiah would come into the world. These are the words of the Heavenly Spirit: “From the beginning of thy prayers, the word came forth: and I am come to show it to thee, because thou art a man of desires: therefore do thou mark the word, and understand the vision. Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, that transgressions may be finished, and sins may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting justice may be brought, and vision and prophecy may be fulfilled, and the Saint of saints may be anointed. Know thou, therefore, and take notice, that, from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ, the prince, there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; and the street shall be built again, and the walls in straitness of times. And after sixty-two weeks, Christ shall be slain ; and the people, that shall deny him, shall not be His. And a people with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be waste, and after the end of the war the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many, in one week; and in the half of the week the victim and the sacrifice shall fail: and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation; and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation of the end ” (Dan. ix.). These are the words of the Archangel; recorded by the prophet. In this vision, Gabriel not only predicted the time of the advent of the Messiah, but also prophesied the circumstances attending His coming, and the fate of the temple and of the Jewish people. Continue reading

The Seven Dolors of Our Lady

Image may contain: 1 person

The Seven Dolors of Our Lady

This Friday of Passion Week is consecrated, in a special manner, to the sufferings which the Holy Mother of God endured at the foot of the Cross. The whole of next week is fully taken up with the celebration of the mysteries of Jesus’ Passion; and, although the remembrance of Mary’s share in those sufferings is often brought before the Faithful during Holy Week, yet, the thought of what her Son, our Divine Redeemer, goes through for our salvation, so absorbs our attention and love, that it is not then possible to honour, as it deserves, the sublime mystery of the Mother’s Compassion.

It was but fitting, therefore, that one day in the year should be set apart for this sacred duty; and what day could be more appropriate, than the Friday of this Week, which, though sacred to the Passion, admits the celebration of Saints’ Feasts, as we have already noticed? As far back as the 15th century, (that is, in the year 1423,) we find the pious Archbishop of Cologne, Theodoric, prescribing this Feast to be kept by his people (Labb, Concil. t. xiiu p. 365.). It was gradually introduced, and with the connivance of the Holy See, into several other countries; and at length, in the last century, Pope Benedict the Thirteenth, by a decree dated August 22nd, 1727, ordered it to be kept in the whole Church, under the name of the Feast of tlie Seven Dolors of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for, up to that time, it had gone under various names. We will explain the title thus given to it, as also the first origin of the devotion of the Seven Dolors, when our Liturgical Year brings us to the Third Sunday of September, the second Feast of Mary’s Dolors. What the Church proposes to her children’s devotion for this Friday of Passion Week, is that one special Dolour of Mary, her standing at the Foot of the Cross. Among the various titles given to this Feast, before it was extended, by the Holy See to the whole Church, we may mention, Our Lady of Pity, The Compassion of our Lady, and the one that was so popular throughout France, Notre Dame de la Pamoison. These few historical observations prove that this Feast was dear to the devotion of the people, even before it received the solemn sanction of the Church. Continue reading

Passion-tide and Holy Week

Passion-tide and Holy Week

By the Right Rev. Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B.Abbot of the Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Solesmes 1870

The holy liturgy is rich in mystery during these days of the Church’s celebrating the anniversaries of so many wonderful events; but as the principal part of these mysteries is embodied in the rites and ceremonies of the respective days, we shall give our explanations according as the occasion presents itself. Our object in the present chapter, is to say a few words respecting the general character of the mysteries of these two weeks.

We have nothing to add to the explanation, already given in our Lent, on the mystery of forty. The holy season of expiation continues its course until the fast of sinful man has imitated, in its duration, that observed by the Man-God in the desert. The army of Christ’s faithful children is still fighting against the invisible enemies of man’s salvation; they are still vested in their spiritual armour, and, aided by the angels of light, they are struggling hand to hand with the spirits of darkness, by compunction of heart and by mortification of the flesh. Continue reading