St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys
Foundress
(1620-1700)

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys was born in Troyes, France, on Good Friday, April 17, 1620. She was prepared by Divine Providence, over a period of many years, for her future mission. When she was twenty years old, Marguerite saw the Blessed Virgin who looked at her during a procession and smiled at her. From that time on, she abandoned all ornaments and amusements common to her age and entered into a sodality of the Children of Mary, of which she became the President. Ten years later, on the Feast of the Assumption the Child Jesus, in appearance about three years old, made Himself seen by her in the Sacred Host of the monstrance. He kindled in her heart bright flames of divine charity, and inspired in her a great contempt for all earthly goods, with an unquenchable thirst for souls.

In 1653, when she was thirty-three years old, Marguerite Bourgeoys set sail for Canada. The Virgin said to her: Go, I will not abandon you. Four years passed before she could undertake the Christian education of children. In the meantime, her charity was lavished on all; she visited and served the sick, buried the dead, consoled the afflicted, taught catechism to the colonists. From then on, her task would be to form and direct a non-cloistered religious community dedicated to teaching. In 1658 she laid the foundations of her Congregation of Notre Dame Sisters by opening the first school of Ville-Marie (Montreal), in a stable offered by Monsieur de Maisonneuve. She soon found co-workers, whom she initiated their work. The little schools of New France began to spring up on every hill and in every valley.

The social work of Mother Bourgeoys is no less admirable than her educational labors. Her dedication extended to the service of the many young households of those days. She took in, guided and directed the Daughters of the King, sent to be married to the colonists, inculcating in them a sense of the serious duties of a spouse and mother. She remained their counselor for long years, to whom they always turned for comfort and encouragement in the practice of virtue. The ingeniousness of Marguerite became evident from her many varied projects: a workshop for young girls and married women, a vocational school for the formation of her companions in education, the Work of the Tabernacles which she founded with the recluse Jeanne Leber; a pious association for young girls.

After 47 years of labors blessed by heaven and the Blessed Virgin, Marguerite Bourgeoys died, at the age of eighty, with the reputation of a soul eminent in sanctity. In a solemn ceremony at Saint Peter’s in Rome on November 12, 1950, Pius XII declared her Blessed.

St. Arcadius

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St. Arcadius, Martyr

THE TIME of this saint’s martyrdom is not mentioned in his acts; some place it under Valerian, others under Dioclesian; he seems to have suffered in some city of Mauritania, probably the capital, Cæsarea. The fury of the tyrants raged violently, and the devil had instigated his soldiers to wage, like so many wolves, a bloody war against the servants of Jesus. Upon the least suspicion they broke into houses, made rigorous searches, and if they found a Christian, they treated him upon the spot with the greatest cruelty, their impatience not suffering them to wait the bringing him before a judge. Every day new sacrileges were committed; the faithful were compelled to assist at superstitious sacrifices, to lead victims crowned with flowers through the streets, to burn incense before idols, and to celebrate the enthusiastic feasts of Bacchus. Arcadius, seeing his city in great confusion, left his estate, and withdrew to a solitary place in the neighbouring country, serving Jesus Christ in watching, prayer, and other exercises of a penitential life. His flight could not be long a secret; for his not appearing at the public sacrifices made the governor send soldiers to his house, who surrounded it, forced open the doors, and finding one of his relations in it, who said all he could to justify his kinsman’s absence, they seized him, and the governor ordered him to be kept in close custody till Arcadius should be taken. The martyr, informed of his friend’s danger, and burning with a desire to suffer for Christ, went into the city, and presenting himself to the judge, said: “If on my account you detain my innocent relation in chains, release him; I, Arcadius, am come in person to give an account of myself, and to declare to you, that he knew not where I was.” “I am willing,” answered the judge, “to pardon not only him, but you also, on condition that you will sacrifice to the gods.” Arcadius replied, “How can you propose to me such a thing? Do you not know the Christians, or do you believe that the fear of death will ever make me swerve from my duty? Jesus Christ is my life, and death is my gain. Invent what torments you please; but know that nothing shall make me a traitor to my God.” The governor, in a rage, paused to devise some unheard-of torment for him. Iron hooks seemed too easy; neither plummets of lead, nor cudgels could satisfy his fury; the very rack he thought by much too gentle. At last imagining he had found a manner of death suitable to his purpose, he said to the ministers of his cruelty, “Take him, and let him see and desire death, without being able to obtain it. Cut off his limbs joint by joint, and execute this so slowly, that the wretch may know what it is to abandon the gods of his ancestors for an unknown deity.” The executioners dragged Arcadius to the place, where many other victims of Christ had already suffered: a place dear and sweet to all who sigh after eternal life. Here the martyr lifts up his eyes to heaven, and implores strength from above; then stretches out his neck, expecting to have his head cut off; but the executioner bid him hold out his hand, and joint after joint chopped off his fingers, arms, and shoulders. Laying the saint afterwards on his back, he in the same barbarous manner cut off his toes, feet, legs, and thighs. The holy martyr held out his limbs and joints, one after another, with invincible patience and courage, repeating these words, “Lord teach me thy wisdom:” for the tyrants had forgot to cut out his tongue. After so many martyrdoms, his body lay a mere trunk weltering in its own blood. The executioners themselves as well as the multitude, were moved to tears and admiration at this spectacle, and at such an heroic patience. But Arcadius, with a joyful countenance, surveying his scattered limbs all around him, and offering them to God, said, “Happy members, now dear to me, as you at last truly belong to God, being all made a sacrifice to him!” Then turning to the people, he said, “You who have been present at this bloody tragedy, learn that all torments seem as nothing to one, who has an everlasting crown before his eyes. Your gods are not gods; renounce their worship. He alone for whom I suffer and die, is the true God. He comforts and upholds me in the condition you see me. To die for him is to live; to suffer for him is to enjoy the greatest delights.” Discoursing in this manner to those about him, he expired on the 12th of January, the pagans being struck with astonishment at such a miracle of patience. The Christians gathered together his scattered limbs, and laid them in one tomb. The Roman and other Martyrologies make honourable mention of him on this day. 1
We belong to God by numberless essential titles of interest, gratitude, and justice, and are bound to be altogether his, and every moment to live to him alone, with all our powers and all our strength: whatever it may cost us to make this sacrifice perfect and complete, if we truly love him, we shall embrace it with joy and inexpressible ardour. In these sentiments we ought, by frequent express acts, and by the uninterrupted habitual disposition of our souls, to give all we are and have to God, all the powers of our souls, all the senses and organs of our bodies, all our actions, thoughts, and affections. This oblation we may excellently comprise in any of the first petitions of our Lord’s prayer: the following is a form of an oblation to our divine Redeemer which St. Ignatius of Loyola drew up and used to repeat, “O sovereign King, and absolute Lord of all things, though I am most unworthy to serve you, nevertheless, relying on your grace and boundless mercy, I offer myself up entirely to you, and subject whatever belongs to me to your most holy will; and I protest in presence of your infinite goodness, and in presence of the glorious Virgin, your mother, and your whole heavenly court, that it is my most earnest desire, and unshaken resolution, to follow and imitate you the nearest I am able, in bearing all injuries and crosses with meekness and patience, and in labouring to die to the world and myself in a perfect spirit of humility and poverty, that I may be wholly yours, and you may reign in me in time and eternity.”

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

St. Benedict Biscop

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St. Benedict Biscop, Abbot

[Commonly called Bennet.] HE was nobly descended, and one of the great officers of the court of Oswi, the religious king of the Northumbers; he was very dear to his prince, and was beholden to his bounty for many fair estates, and great honours; but neither the favours of so good and gracious a king, nor the allurements of power, riches, and pleasures, were of force to captivate his heart, who could see nothing in them but dangers, and snares so much the more to be dreaded, as fraught with the power of charming. At the age therefore of twenty-five, an age that affords the greatest relish for pleasure, he bid adieu to the world, made a journey of devotion to Rome, and at his return devoted himself wholly to the studies of the scriptures and other holy exercises. Some time after his return to England, Alcfrid, son of king Oswi, being desirous to make a pilgrimage to the shrines of the apostles, engaged Biscop to bear him company to Rome. The king prevented his son’s journey; nevertheless our saint travelled thither a second time, burning with an earnest desire of improving himself in the knowledge of divine things, and in the love of God. From Rome he went to the great monastery of Lerins, then renowned for its regular discipline; there he took the monastic habit, and spent two years in the most exact observance of the rule, and penetrated in every exercise with its true spirit: after this he returned to Rome, where he received an order of Pope Vitalian to accompany St. Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury, and St. Adrian, to England. When he arrived at Canterbury, St. Theodorus committed to him the care of the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul, near that city, which abbacy he resigned to St. Adrian upon his arrival in England. St. Bennet staid about two years in Kent, giving himself up to religious exercises and sacred studies, under the discipline of those two excellent persons. Then he took a fourth journey to Rome, with a view of perfecting himself in ecclesiastical discipline, and the rules and practice of monastic life; for which purpose he made a considerable stay at Rome and other places; he brought home with him a choice library, relics and pictures of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and other saints. When he returned to Northumberland, king Egfrid (in whose father’s court St. Bennet had formerly lived) bestowed on him seventy ploughs or families of land for building a monastery: 1 this the saint founded on the mouth of the river Were, whence it was called Weremouth. When the monastery was built, St. Bennet went over to France, and brought back with him skilful masons, who built the church for this monastery of stone, and after the Roman fashion; for till that time stone buildings were very rare in Britain, even the church of Lindisfarne was of wood, and covered over with a thatch of straw and reeds, till bishop Eadbert procured both the roof and the walls to be covered with sheets of lead, as Bede mentions. 2 St. Bennet also brought over glaziers from France, for the art of making glass was then unknown in Britain. In a fifth journey to Rome, St. Bennet furnished himself with a larger stock of good books, especially the writings of the fathers, also of relics and holy pictures, with which he enriched his own country. 1
His first monastery of Weremouth was entitled from Saint Peter, prince of the apostles: and such was the edification which it gave, that the same king added to the saint a second donation of lands, consisting of forty ploughs; on which Biscop built another monastery, at a place called Girwy, now Jarrow, on the Tine, six miles distant from the former, and this latter was called St. Paul’s; these two monasteries were almost looked upon as one; and St. Bennet governed them both, though he placed in each a superior or abbot, who continued subject to him, his long journey to Rome and other avocations making this substitution necessary. 3 In the church of St. Peter at Weremouth he placed the pictures of the Blessed Virgin, the twelve apostles, the history of the gospel, and the visions in the revelation of St. John: that of St. Paul’s at Jarrow, he adorned with other pictures, disposed in such manner as to represent the harmony between the Old and New Testament, and the conformity of the figures in one to the reality in the other. Thus Isaac carrying the wood which was to be employed in the sacrifice of himself, was explained by Jesus Christ carrying his cross, on which he was to finish his sacrifice; and the brazen serpent was illustrated by our Saviour’s crucifixion. With these pictures, and many books and relics, St. Bennet brought from Rome in his last voyage, John, abbot of St. Martin’s, precentor in St. Peter’s church, whom he prevailed with pope Agatho to send with him, and whom he placed at Weremouth to instruct perfectly his monks in the Gregorian notes, and Roman ceremonies for singing the divine office. Easterwin, a kinsman of St. Bennet, and formerly an officer in the king’s court, before he became a monk, was chosen abbot before our saint set out for Rome, and in that station behaved always as the meanest person in the house; for though he was eminently adorned with all virtues, humility, mildness and devotion seemed always the most eminent part of his character. This holy man died on the 6th of March, when he was but thirty-six years old, and had been four years abbot, whilst St. Bennet was absent in the last journey to Rome. The monks chose in his place St. Sigfrid, a deacon, a man of equal gravity and meekness, who soon after fell into a lingering decay, under which he suffered violent pains in his lungs and bowels. He died four months before our saint. With his advice two months before his death, St. Bennet appointed St. Ceolfrid abbot of both his monasteries, being himself struck with a dead palsy, by which all the lower parts of his body were without life; he lay sick of this distemper three years, and for a considerable time was entirely confined to his bed. During this long illness, not being able to raise his voice to the usual course of singing the divine office, at every canonical hour he sent for some of his monks, and whilst they, being divided into two choirs, sung the psalms proper for the hour of the day or night, he endeavoured as well as he could to join not only his heart, but also his voice with theirs. His attention to God he seemed never to relax, and frequently and earnestly exhorted his monks to a constant observance of the rule he had given them. “You must not think,” said he, “that the constitutions which you have received from me were my own invention; for having in my frequent journeys visited seventeen well ordered monasteries, I informed myself of all their laws and rules, and picking out the best among them, these I have recommended to you.” The saint expired soon after, having received the viaticum on the 12th of January, in 690. His relics, according to Malmesbury, 4 were translated to Thorney abbey, in 970, but the monks of Glastenbury thought themselves possessed at least of part of that treasure. 5 The true name of our saint was Biscop Baducing, as appears from Eddius-Stephen, in his life of St. Wilfrid. The English Benedictins honour him as one of the patrons of their congregation, and he is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology on this day. See his life in Bede’s history of the first abbots of Waremouth, published by Sir James Ware, at Dublin, in 1664. 2

Note 1. A plough, or family of land, was as much as one plough, or one yoke of oxen, could throw up in a year or as sufficed for the maintenance of a family.
Note 2. Hist. l. 3. c. 25.
Note 3. The abbeys of Weremouth and Jarrow were destroyed by the Danes. Both were rebuilt in part, and from the year 1083 were small priories or cells dependent of the abbey of Durham, till their dissolution, 37th of Henry VIII.
Note 4. Malmes. l. 4. de Pontif.
Note 5. See Monast. Ang. T. 1. p. 4. and John of Glastenbury, Hist. Glasten.

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

Pope John VI

Pope John VI

(701-705).

A Greek, the date of whose birth is unknown; d. 11 January, 705. He ascended the papal throne 30 October, 701. Some time during his reign there came to Rome from Sicily Theophylactus, “chamberlain, patricius, and exarch of Italy”. After the treatment which some of his predecessors in the exarchate had meted out to the popes, the Italian people suspected that his visit boded no good to John VI. Accordingly, from all parts the local militias hurriedly marched to Rome, and, encamping without the walls, made manifest their dislike of the exarch. To avoid bloodshed, John sent a number of priests to them, and succeeded in pacifying them; as far at least as the exarch himself was concerned. Before the militias would disband, however, they insisted that certain informers, whose denunciations had put the wealth of some of the citizens into the hands of the grasping officials, should be handed over to them for punishment. Taking advantage of this want of harmony between the exarch and the native Italians attached to the pope, the Lombards renewed their attacks on such parts of Italy as had hitherto resisted them. Several towns belonging to the Duchy of Rome were seized, Gisulf advanced as far as “Horrea” Puteoli — or perhaps the “fundus Horrea” at the fifth milestone on the Via Latina. As “there was no one who had power to resist him by force of arms”, the pope, distressed at the sufferings of the people, sent a number of priests furnished with money into the camp of the Lombard duke. Not only did they ransom all the captives whom Gisulf had taken, but they persuaded him to retire to his own territories. John VI was one of the popes before whom St. Wilfrid of York carried his appeals. Pointing out that the action of the Apostolic See was wont to be consistent, the saint adjured him to confirm in his behalf the decisions of his predecessors (704). This John did, and sent him back to England with letters for King Ethelred and others. It was not, however, till the following year that the papal mandates were obeyed. John sent the pallium to Brithwald, whom “he confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury”. He was buried in St. Peter’s.

Liber Pontificalis, I, 383 sq.; EDDIUS, Vita S. Wilfridi, xlvi sqq.; BEDE, Hist. eccl., V, 19; MONTALEMBERT, Monks of the West, IV (Edinburgh and London, 1879), 323 sqq.; HODGKIN, Italy and her Invaders, VI (Oxford, 1895), 336, 363 sq.; MANN, Lives of the Popes, vol. I, pt. II, p.105 sqq.

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APA citation. Mann, H. (1910). Pope John VI. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Mann, Horace. “Pope John VI.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch

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St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch, Abbot

A.D. 529.

ST. THEODOSIUS was born at Mogariassus, called in latter ages Marissa, in Cappadocia, in 423. He imbibed the first tincture of virtue from the fervent example and pious instructions of his virtuous parents. He was ordained reader, but some time after being moved by Abraham’s example to quit his country and friends, he resolved to put this motion inexecution. He accordingly set out for Jerusalem, but went purposely out of his road, to visit the famous St. Simeon Stylites on his pillar, who foretold him several circumstances of his life, and gave him proper instructions for his behaviour in each. Having satisfied his devotion in visiting the holy places in Jerusalem, he began to consider in what manner he should dedicate himself to God in a religious state. The dangers of living without a guide, made him prefer a monastery to a hermitage; and he therefore put himself under the direction of a holy man named Longinus, to whom his virtue soon endeared him in a very particular manner. A pious lady having built a church under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, on the high road to Bethlehem, Longinus could not well refuse her request, that his pupil should undertake the charge of it; but Theodosius, who loved only to obey, could not be induced by any entreaties to consent to this proposal: absolute commands were necessary to force him to compliance. Nor did he govern long; for dreading the poison of vanity from the esteem of men, he retired into a cave at the top of a neighbouring desert mountain, and employed his time in fasting, watching, prayers, and tears, which almost continually flowed from his eyes. His food was coarse pulse and wild herbs: for thirty years he never tasted so much as a morsel of bread. Many desired to serve God under his direction: he at first determined only to admit six or seven, but was soon obliged to receive a greater number, and at length came to a resolution, which charity extorted from him, never to reject any that presented themselves with dispositions that seemed sincere. The first lesson which he taught his monks was, that the continual remembrance of death is the foundation of religious perfection; to imprint this more deeply in their minds, he caused a great grave or pit to be dug, which might serve for the common burial-place of the whole community, that by the presence of this memorial of death, and by continually meditating on that object, they might more perfectly learn to die daily.  Continue reading