Feast of St. Peter’s Chains

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Feast of St. Peter’s Chains

The Holy Church, today, celebrates a special feast in commemoration of the great benefit which God bestowed upon His people by miraculously delivering St. Peter, the visible head of the church, from prison. The entire event is described in the Acts of the Apostles, by St. Luke. Herod Agrippa, a son of Aristobulus, favored by the Roman Emperor Claudius, ruled over Judaea, with the title of king. To give more stability to his reign, he endeavored to make himself beloved by the Jews, for which there was no easier way than to persecute the Christians, especially those who fearlessly proclaimed the Gospel of Christ, as did the holy Apostles. He had, therefore, apprehended, and soon after beheaded, James the Great, brother of St. John, which bloody deed gave the Jews great satisfaction. To increase this, Herod commanded them to seize St. Peter, intending to make away with him in the same manner. His command was executed; Peter was taken prisoner, chained and locked in a narrow dungeon, which was guarded so vigilantly, that he could not escape. It was then near the Easter Festival, after which St. Peter was to be beheaded. The Christians, in deep distress, were praying day and night, that the Almighty would not permit His flock to be so soon deprived of its shepherd.  Continue reading

St. Ignatius of Loyola

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St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus

St. Ignatius, the glorious founder of the Society of Jesus, and the unweary laborer for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls, was born of noble parents in Biscay, a province of Spain, in the castle of Loyola, from which he took his name. His birth took place in 1491, in the same century in which Martin Luther, the well-known heretic, was born, who with Calvin, born in 1506, persecuted the Catholic Church and endeavored to destroy it entirely. God, according to a papal declaration, always watching over His holy Church, would oppose Ignatius to these two new heretics, that through him, and through the Society founded by him, their erroneous doctrines might be thoroughly refuted, and the Catholic faith have powerful protectors, as, in former days, He had opposed Arius by St. Athanasius, Nestorius by St. Cyril, Pelagius by St. Augustine, and other heretics by other apostolic men.  Continue reading

SS. Abdon and Sennen

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SS. Abdon and Sennen, Martyrs

THEY were Persians, but coming to Rome, courageously confessed the faith of Christ in the persecution of Decius in 250. They were cruelly tormented, but the more their bodies were mangled and covered with ghastly wounds, the more were their souls adorned and beautified with divine grace, and rendered glorious in the sight of heaven. The Christians at Rome did not treat them as strangers, but as brethren united to them in the hope of the same blessed country; and after their death carefully deposited their bodies in the house of a subdeacon called Quirinus. In the reign of Constantine the Great, their relics were removed into the ancient burying place of Pontian, so called from some rich man who built it: called also, from some sign, Ad Ursum Pileatum. It afterwards received its name from SS. Abdon and Sennon. It was situated near the Tiber, on the road to Porto near the gates of Rome. The images of these martyrs with Persian bonnets and crowns on their heads, and their names, are to be seen there at this day in ancient sculpture. 1 SS. Abdon and Sennen are mentioned in the ancient Liberian Calendar, and in other Martyrologies; though their modern acts deserve no notice, as Cardinal Noris has demonstrated. 2 1
The martyrs preferred torments and death to sin, because the love of God above all things reigned in their breasts. “We say we are Christians,” says Tertullian; 3 “we proclaim it to the whole world, even under the hands of the executioner, and in the midst of all the torments you inflict upon us to compel us to unsay it. Torn and mangled, and weltering in our blood, we cry out as loud as we are able to cry, That we are worshippers of God through Christ.” Upon which Mr. Reeves observes, that no other religion ever produced any considerable number of martyrs except the true one. Do we ever read of any generation of men so greedy of martyrdom, who thought it long till they were upon the rack, and were so patient, so cheerful and steadfast under the most intolerable torments? Socrates was the only philosopher who can be said to have died for his doctrine; and what a restless posture of mind does he betray, who was esteemed the best and the wisest of the heathens! With what misgivings, and fits of hope and fear, does he deliver himself in that most famous discourse, supposed to have been made by him a little before his death, about a future state? 4 And neither Phædo, Cebes, Crito, Simmias, nor any other of his greatest friends who were present at his death, durst maintain either his innocence, or that doctrine for which he died, in the Areopagus. With what reserve did Plato himself dogmatize concerning the gods whom he worshipped in public, but denied in private! How did he dodge about, disguise himself, and say and unsay the same excellent truths! Only the Christians suffered at this rate, and they held on suffering for several hundred years together, till they had subdued the world by dying for their religion. What could engage such a number of men in such a religion, and support them in it, in defiance of death in the most shocking forms, but evident truth, and a superior grace and strength from above? 2

Note 1. Aringhi Roma Subterranea, l. 1, c. 25.
Note 2. Noris, Diss. 3, de Epochis Syro-Macedonum.
Note 3. Apol. c. 21.
Note 4. Plato in Phædo.

The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler (Metropolitan Press: Baltimore, 1845), Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882)

Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice

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Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice

Martyrs at Rome during the Diocletian persecution (302 or 303). The brothers Simplicius and Faustinus were cruelly tortured on account of their Christian faith, beaten with clubs, and finally beheaded; their bodies were thrown into the Tiber. According to another version of the legend a stone was tied to them and they were drowned. Their sister Beatrice had the bodies drawn out of the water and buried. Then for seven months she lived with a pious matron named Lucina, and with her aid Beatrice succoured the persecuted Christians by day and night. Finally she was discovered and arrested. Her accuser was her neighbor Lucretius who desired to obtain possession of her lands. She courageously asserted before the judge that she would never sacrifice to demons, because she was a Christian. As punishment, she was strangled in prison. Her friend Lucina buried her by her brothers in the cemetery ad Ursum Pileatum on the road to Porto. Soon after this Divine punishment overtook the accuser Lucretius. When Lucretius at a feast was making merry over the folly of the martyrs, an infant who had been brought to the entertainment by his mother, cried out, “Thou hast committed murder and hast taken unjust possession of land. Thou art a slave of the devil”. And the devil at once took possession of him and tortured him three hours and drew him down into the bottomless pit. The terror of those present was so great that they became Christians. This is the story of the legend. Trustworthy Acts concerning the history of the two brothers and sister are no longer in existence. Pope Leo II (682-683) translated their relics to a church which he had built at Rome in honour of St. Paul. Later the greater part of the relics of the martyrs were taken to the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

St. Simplicius is represented with a pennant, on the shield of which are three lilies called the crest of Simplicius; the lilies are a symbol of purity of heart. St. Beatrice has a cord in her hand, because she was strangled. The feast of the three saints is on 29 July.

Acta SS., July, VII, 34-37; Bibliotheca hagiographica latina (Brussels, 1898-1900), 1127-28.

APA citation. Löffler, K. (1912). Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Löffler, Klemens. “Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Pope St. Felix II

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Pope St. Felix II

St. Felix II has the extraordinary distinction of being not only a pope and saint himself, but the great-grandfather of another pope and saint, Gregory the Great. Felix had been married, but his wife had died before he became a priest. He was a member of an old Roman family of senatorial rank.

No sooner was he elected pope than Felix faced the vexing problem posed by Emperor Zeno’s ill-considered attempt to unify the East by compromise. One of the evils which result from politicians meddling in church matters is the tendency to make a deal. And that is just what Zeno did. Alarmed by the hold that the Monophysites had on Egypt and Syria, Zeno issued his famous Henoticon (act of union) and ordered all to subscribe to it. This Henoticon was a creed drawn up by Acacius, the hitherto orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, and Peter, the Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria. It was orthodox in what it said, but implicitly it condoned the Monophysite heresy by omitting the decision of the Council of Chalcedon and the letter of Pope Leo to Flavian. Like so many compromises it pleased few. The more ardent Monophysites refused to follow their leader, Peter, and Pope Felix denounced it. With true spiritual independence, he warned the Emperor not to interfere in theological matters and “to allow the Catholic Church to govern itself by its own laws.”

Pope Felix sent legates to Constantinople to summon Acacius to Rome, but to his dismay the Pope discovered that his legates had approved the election of the Monophysite Peter as patriarch of Alexandria and had communicated with heretics–in short, had sold him out. Felix held a synod at Rome in 484 at which he excommunicated the untrustworthy legates. He also excommunicated Acacius, but the patriarch remained stubborn. Thus started the Acacian schism in which Constantinople was officially separated from the Roman Church over the Henoticon. Even after Acacius died, the schism dragged on until the next century.

In the last years of this pontificate Theodoric led his Ostrogoths into Italy to defeat Odovakar and take over the rule of Italy–all in the name of Emperor Zeno. Though an Arian, Theodoric treated the Church well. It was different in Africa, where in the early years of his reign Felix heard anguished cries for help from the hapless Catholics. Hunneric, the Arian Vandal, ruthlessly harried the poor African Catholics. Pope Felix got Emperor Zeno to bring his influence to bear on the fierce Vandal, but this accomplished little. After Hunneric died, the persecution slackened, and the Pope then helped to get the Church in Africa on its feet. He followed the usual papal policy of mildness towards weak brethren who had given way in the storm.

Pope St. Felix died March 1, 492. He is buried in St. Paul’s on the Ostian Way.