St. Hyginus

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St. Hyginus, Pope and Martyr

HE was placed in the chair of St. Peter after the martyrdom of St. Telesphorus, in the year 139. Eusebius informs us, 1 that he sat four years. The church then enjoyed some sort of calm, under the mild reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius; though several martyrs suffered in his time by the fury of the populace, or the cruelty of certain magistrates. The emperor himself never consented to such proceedings; and when informed of them by the governors of Asia, Athens, Thessalonica, and Larissea, he wrote to them in favour of the Christians, as is recorded by St. Justin and Eusebius. 2 1
But the devil had recourse to other arts to disturb the peace of God’s church. Cerdo, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in the year 140, came from Syria to Rome, and began to teach the false principles which Marcion adopted afterwards with more success. He impiously affirmed that there were two Gods; the one rigorous and severe, the author of the Old Testament; the other merciful and good, the author of the New, and the father of Christ, sent by him to redeem man from the tyranny of the former; and that Christ was not really born of the Virgin Mary, or true man, but such in shadow only and appearance. Our holy pope, by his pastoral vigilance, detected that monster, and cut him off from the communion of the church. The heresiarch, imposing upon him by a false repentance, was again received; but the zealous pastor having discovered that he secretly preached his old opinions, excommunicated him a second time. 3 2
Another minister of Satan was Valentine, who being a Platonic philosopher, puffed up with the vain opinion of his learning, and full of resentment for another’s being preferred to him in an election to a certain bishopric in Egypt, as Tertullian relates, 4 revived the errors of Simon Magus, and added to them many other absurd fictions, as of thirty Æônes or ages, a kind of inferior deities, with whimsical histories of their several pedigrees. Having broached these opinions at Alexandria, he left Egypt for Rome. At first he dissembled his heresies, but by degrees his extravagant doctrines came to light. Hyginus, being the mildest of men, endeavoured to reclaim him without proceeding to extremities; so that Valentine was not excommunicated before the first year of St. Pius, his immediate successor. 3
St. Hyginus did not sit quite four years, dying in 142. We do not find that he ended his life by martyrdom, yet he is styled a martyr in some ancient calendars, as well as in the present Roman Martyrology; undoubtedly on account of the various persecutions which he suffered, and to which his high station in the church exposed him in those perilous times. See Tillemont, T. 2. p. 252. 4

Note 1. Eus. l. 4. c. 11.
Note 2. Eus. l. 4. c. 26.
Note 3. St. Epiph. hær. 41. Iren. l. 3. c. 4. Euseb. &c.
Note 4. Tertull. l. contra Valent. c. 4.

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

Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros

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Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros

(Sometimes spelled JIMÉNEZ).

Franciscan, cardinal, and Primate of Spain, born at Torrelaguna in New Castile, 1436; died at Roa, near Valladolid, 1517. He was educated at Alcalá and Salamanca and, having graduated in canon and civil law, went to Rome in 1459 where he practised for some years as a consistorial advocate. Having attracted the notice of Sixtus V, that pope promised him the first vacant benefice in his native province. This proved to be that of Uzeda, which Carillo, Archbishop of Toledo, wished to bestow upon one of his own followers. Ximénez asserted his claim to it and for doing so was imprisoned by the archbishop, first at Uzeda and afterwards in the fortress of Santorcaz. He was released in 1480, after six years’ confinement, and transferring to the Diocese of Sigüenza, became grand vicar to Cardinal Gonzalez, the bishop of that see. In 1484 he resigned this office to become a Franciscan of the Observantine Congregation in the Friary of St. John at Toledo. From there, after his profession, he was sent to Salzeda, where he was later elected guardian. Continue reading

St. William

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St. William, Confessor, Archbishop of Bourges

A.D. 1209.

WILLIAM BERRUYER, of the illustrious family of the ancient counts of Nevers, was educated by Peter the hermit, archdeacon of Soissons, his uncle by the mother’s side. He learned from his infancy to despise the folly and emptiness of the riches and grandeur of the world, to abhor its pleasures, and to tremble at its dangers. His only delight was in exercises of piety and in his studies, in which he employed his whole time with indefatigable application. He was made canon, first of Soissons, and afterwards of Paris: but he soon took the resolution of abandoning all commerce with the world; and retired into the solitude of Grandmont, where he lived with great regularity in that austere order, till seeing its peace disturbed by a contest which arose between the fathers and lay-brothers, he passed into the Cistercian, then in wonderful odour of sanctity. He took the habit in the abbey of Pontigny, and shining as a perfect model of monastic perfection, was after some time chosen prior of that house, and afterwards abbot, first of Fountaine-Jean, in the diocess of Sens, (a filiation of Pontigny, founded in 1124, by Peter de Courtenay, son of king Lewis the Fat,) and some time after, of Chaalis, near Senlis, a much more numerous monastery, also a filiation of Pontigny, built by Lewis the Fat in 1136, a little before his death. St. William always reputed himself the last among his brethren. The universal mortification of his senses and passions, laid in him the foundation of an admirable purity of heart, and an extraordinary gift of prayer; in which he received great heavenly lights, and tasted of the sweets which God has reserved for those to whom he is pleased to communicate himself. The sweetness and cheerfulness of his countenance testified the uninterrupted joy and peace that overflowed his soul, and made virtue appear with the most engaging charms in the midst of austerities. 1
On the death of Henry de Sully, archbishop of Bourges, the clergy of that church requested his brother Eudo, bishop of Paris, to come and assist them in the election of a pastor. Desirous to choose some abbot of the Cistercian Order, then renowned for holy men, they put on the altar the names of three, written on as many billets. This manner of election by lots would have been superstitious, and a tempting of God, had it been done, relying on a miracle without the warrant of divine inspiration. But it deserved not this censure, when all the persons proposed seemed equally worthy and fit, as the choice was only recommended to God, and left to this issue by following the rules of his ordinary providence, and imploring his light, without rashness, or a neglect of the usual means of scrutiny; prudence might sometimes even recommend such a method, in order to terminate a debate when the candidates seemed equally qualified. God, in such cases, is said sometimes to have miraculously interposed. 2
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St. Agatho

St. Agatho, Pope

AGATHO, a Sicilian by birth, was remarkable for his charity and benevolence, a profound humility, and an engaging sweetness of temper. Having been several years treasurer of the church of Rome, he succeeded Domnus in the pontificate in 679. He presided by his three legates in the sixth general council and third of Constantinople, in 680, in the reign of the pious emperor Constantine Pogonatus, against the Monothelite heresy, which he confuted in a learned letter to that emperor, by the tradition of the apostolic church of Rome: “acknowledged,” says he, “by the whole Catholic church, to be the mother and mistress of all other churches, and to derive her superior authority from St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, to whom Christ committed his whole flock, with a promise that his faith should never fail.” This epistle was approved as a rule of faith by the same council, which declared, that Peter spoke by Agatho. This Pope restored St. Wilfrid to the see of York, and was a great benefactor to the Roman clergy and to the churches. Anastatius says, that the number of his miracles procured him the title of Thaumaturgus. He died in 682, having held the pontificate two years and a half. His feast is kept both by the Latins and Greeks. See Anastatius published by Bianchini, also Muratori and Labbè, Conc. T. 6. p. 1109. 1
The style of this pope’s letters is inferior to that both of his predecessors and successors. The reason he alleges in excusing the legates whom he sent to Constantinople for their want of eloquence, is because the graces of speech could not be cultivated amidst the incursions of Barbarians, whilst with much difficulty they earned their daily subsistence by manual labour; “but we preserve,” said he, with simplicity of heart, “the faith, which our fathers have handed down to us.” The bishops, his legates, say the same thing: “Our countries are harassed by the fury of barbarous nations. We live in the midst of battles, inroads, and devastations: our lives pass in continual alarms and anxiety, and we subsist by the labour of our hands.”

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