St. Eucherius

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St. Eucherius, Bishop of Orleans, Confessor

OUR saint’s mother who was a lady of eminent virtue, and of the first quality at Orleans, while she was with child of him made a daily offering of him to God, and begged nothing for him but divine grace. When he was born, his parents dedicated him to God, and set him to study when he was but seven years old, resolving to omit nothing that could be done towards cultivating his mind, or forming his heart. His improvement in virtue kept pace with his progress in learning; he meditated assiduously on the sacred writings, especially on St. Paul’s manner of speaking on the world, and its enjoyments, as mere empty shadows, that deceive us and vanish away; and took particular notice that that apostle says, the wisdom of those who love the pleasures and riches of this life is no better than folly before God. 1 These reflections, at length, sunk so deeply into his mind, that he resolved to quit the world. To put this design in execution, about the year 714, he retired to the abbey of Jumiege, on the banks of the Seine, in the diocess of Rouen. When he had spent six or seven years there in the practice of penitential austerities and obedience, Suavaric, his uncle, bishop of Orleans, died: the senate and people, with the clergy of that city, deputed persons to Charles Martel, mayor of the palace, to beg his permission to elect Eucherius to the vacant see. That prince granted their request, and sent with them one of his principal officers of state to conduct him from his monastery to Orleans. The saint’s affliction at their arrival was inexpressible, and he entreated the monks to screen him from the dangers that threatened him. But they preferred the public good to their private inclinations, and resigned him up for that important charge. He was received at Orleans, and consecrated with universal applause, in 721. Though he received the episcopal character with grievous apprehensions of its obligations and dangers, he was not discouraged, but had recourse to the supreme pastor for assistance in the discharge of his duties, and devoted himself entirely to the care of his church. He was indefatigable in instructing and reforming his flock, and his zeal and even reproofs were attended with so much sweetness and charity, that it was impossible not to love and obey him. 1

Charles Martel, to defray the expenses of his wars and other undertakings, and to recompense those that served him, often stripped the churches of their revenues, and encouraged others to do the same. St. Eucherius reproved these encroachments with so much zeal, that flatterers represented it to the prince, as an insult offered to his person; therefore, in the year 737, Charles in his return to Paris, after having defeated the Saracens in Aquitain, took Orleans in his way, ordered Eucherius to follow him to Verneuil upon the Oise, in the diocess of Beauvais, where he then kept his court, and banished him to Cologn. The extraordinary esteem which his virtue procured him in that city, moved Charles to order him to be conveyed thence to a strong place in Hasbain, now called Haspengaw, in the territory of Liege, under the guard of Robert, governor of that country. The governor was so charmed with his virtue, that he made him the distributer of his large alms, and allowed him to retire to the monastery of Sarchinium, or St. Tron’s. Here prayer and contemplation were his whole employment, till the year 743, in which he died on the 20th of February. He is named in the Roman, and other martyrologies. See his original life by one of the same age, with the preliminary dissertation of Henschenius, and the remarks of Mabillon, sæc. 3. Ben. The pretended vision of the damnation of Charles Martel, is an evident interpolation, found only in later copies, and in Surius. 2

Note 1. 1 Cor. vii. 31. iii. 19.

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

Pope Leo XIII

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Pope Leo XIII

Born 2 March, 1810, at Carpineto; elected pope 20 February, 1878; died 20 July, 1903, at Rome. Gioacchino Vincenzo Raffaele Luigi was the sixth of the seven sons of Count Lodovico Pecci and his wife Anna Prosperi-Buzi. There was some doubt as to the nobility of the Pecci family, and when the young Gioacchino sought admission to the Accademia dei Nobili in Rome he met with a certain opposition, whereupon he wrote the history of his family, showing that the Pecci of Carpineto were a branch of the Pecci of Siena, obliged to emigrate to the Papal States in the first half of the sixteenth century, under Clement VII, because they had sided with the Medici.

At the age of eight, together with his brother Giuseppe, aged ten, he was sent to study at the new Jesuit school in Viterbo, the present seminary. He remained there six years (1818-24), and gained that classical facility in the use of Latin and Italian afterwards justly admired in his official writings and his poems. Much credit for this is due to his teacher, Padre Leonardo Garibaldi. When, in 1824, the Collegio Romano was given back to the Jesuits, Gioacchino and his brother Giuseppe entered as students of humanities and rhetoric. At the end of his rhetoric course Gioacchino was chosen to deliver the address in Latin, and selected as his subject, “The Contrast between Pagan and Christian Rome”. Not less successful was his three years’ course of philosophy and natural sciences. Continue reading

St. Barbatus

St. Barbatus, or Barbas, Bishop of Benevento, Confessor

A.D. 682.

ST. BARBATUS was born in the territory of Benevento, in Italy, towards the end of the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, in the beginning of the seventh century. His parents gave him a Christian education, and Barbatus in his youth laid the foundation of that eminent sanctity, which recommends him to our veneration. Devout meditation on the holy scriptures was his chief entertainment; and the innocence, simplicity, and purity of his manners, and extraordinary progress in all virtues, qualified him for the service of the altar, to which he was assumed by taking holy orders as soon as the canons of the church would allow it. He was immediately employed by his bishop in preaching, for which he had an extraordinary talent; and, after some time, made curate of St. Basil’s, in Morcona, a town near Benevento. His parishioners were steeled in their irregularities, and averse from whatever looked like establishing order and discipline amongst them. As they desired only to slumber on in their sins, they could not bear the remonstrances of their pastor, who endeavoured to awake them to a sense of their miseries, and to sincere repentance: they treated him as a disturber of their peace, and persecuted him with the utmost violence. Finding their malice conquered by his patience and humility, and his character shining still more bright, they had recourse to slanders, in which, such was their virulence and success, that he was obliged to withdraw his charitable endeavours amongst them. By these fiery trials, God purified his heart from all earthly attachments, and perfectly crucified it to the world. Barbatus returned to Benevento, where he was received with joy by those who were acquainted with his innocence and sanctity. The seed of Christianity had been first sown at Benevento by St. Potin, who is said to have been sent thither by St. Peter, and is looked upon as the first bishop of this see. We have no names of his successors till St. Januarius, by whom this church was exceedingly increased, and who was honoured with the crown of martyrdom in 305. Totila, the Goth, laid the city of Benevento in ruins, in 545. The Lombards having possessed themselves of that country, repaired it, and King Autharis gave it to Zotion, a general among those invaders, with the title of a duchy, about the year 598, and his successors governed it, as sovereign dukes, for several ages. These Lombards were at that time chiefly Arians; but among them there remained many idolaters, and several at Benevento had embraced the Catholic faith, even before the death of St. Gregory the Great, with their duke Arichis, a warm friend of that holy pope. But when St. Barbatus entered upon his ministry in that city, the Christians themselves retained many idolatrous superstitions, which even their duke, or prince Romuald, authorized by his example, though son of Grimoald, king of the Lombards, who had edified all Italy by his conversion. They expressed a religious veneration to a golden viper, and prostrated themselves before it: they paid also a superstitious honour to a tree, on which they hung the skin of a wild beast, and these ceremonies were closed by public games, in which the skin served for a mark at which bowmen shot arrows over their shoulder. St. Barbatus preached zealously against these abuses, and laboured long to no purpose: yet desisted not, but joined his exhortations with fervent prayer and rigorous fasting, for the conversion of this unhappy people. At length he roused their attention by foretelling the distress of their city, and the calamities which it was to suffer from the army of the emperor Constans, who, landing soon after in Italy, laid siege to Benevento. In their extreme distress, and still more grievous alarms and fears, they listened to the holy preacher, and, entering into themselves, renounced their errors and idolatrous practices. Hereupon, St. Barbatus gave them the comfortable assurance that the siege should be raised, and the emperor worsted: which happened as he had foretold. Upon their repentance, the saint with his own hand cut down the tree, which was the object of their superstition, and afterwards melted down the golden viper which they adored, of which he made a chalice for the use of the altar. Ildebrand, bishop of Benevento, dying during the siege, after the public tranquillity was restored, St. Barbatus was consecrated bishop on the 10th of March, 663; for this see was only raised to the archiepiscopal dignity by Pope John XIII. about the year 965. Barbatus, being invested with the episcopal character, pursued and completed the good work which he had so happily begun, and destroyed every trace or the least remain of superstition in the prince’s closet, and in the whole state. In the year 680 he assisted in a council held by Pope Agatho at Rome, and the year following in the sixth general council held at Constantinople against the Monothelites. He did not long survive this great assembly, for he died on the 29th of February, 682, being about seventy years old, almost nineteen of which he had spent in the episcopal chair. He is named in the Roman Martyrology, and honoured at Benevento among the chief patrons of that city. 1
Many sinners are moved by alarming sensible dangers or calamities to enter into themselves, on whom the terrors of the divine judgment make very little impression. The reason can only be a supine neglect of serious reflection, and a habit of considering them only transiently, and as at a distance; for it is impossible for any one who believes these great truths, if he takes a serious review of them, and has them present to his mind, to remain insensible: transient glances effect not a change of heart. Amongst the pretended conversions which sickness daily produces, very few bear the character of sincerity, as appears by those who, after their recovery, live on in their former lukewarmness and disorders. 1 St. Austin, in a sermon which he made upon the news, that Rome had been sacked by the barbarians, relates, 2 that not long before, at Constantinople, upon the appearance of an unusual meteor, and a rumour of a pretended prediction that the city would be destroyed by fire from heaven, the inhabitants were seized with a panic fear, all began to do penance like Ninive, and fled, with the emperor at their head, to a great distance from the city. After the term appointed for its pretended destruction was elapsed, they sent scouts to the city which they had left quite empty, and, hearing that it was still standing, returned to it, and with their fears forgot their repentance and all their good resolutions. To prevent the danger of penitents imposing upon themselves by superficial conversions, St. Barbatus took all necessary precautions to improve their first dispositions to a sincere and perfect change of heart, and to cut off and remove all dangerous occasions of temptations. 2

Note 1.
The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
The devil was well, the devil no monk was he.
Note 2. S. Aug. Serm. de Excidio Urbis, c. 6. t. 6. p. 627. ed Ben.

Saint Conrad of Piacenza

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Saint Conrad of Piacenza

(† 1351)

Saint Conrad was living peacefully as a nobleman of Piacenza. He had married when quite young and led a virtuous and God-fearing life. One day, when engaged in his usual pastime of hunting, he ordered his attendants to set fire to some brushwood where game had taken refuge. The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly, and the surrounding fields and forest were soon in a state of conflagration. A mendicant who happened to be found near the place where the fire had originated was accused of being the author; he was imprisoned, tried and condemned to death. As the poor man was being led to execution, Conrad, stricken with remorse, declared the man innocent and confessed his own guilt openly. In order to repair the damage of which he had been the cause, as he then volunteered to do, he was obliged to sell all his possessions. He repaid his neighbors for all the losses they had suffered, then retired to a distant region where he took the Third Order habit of Saint Francis, while his wife entered the Order of Poor Clares.

After visiting the holy places in Rome, he went to Sicily and dwelt for forty years in strict penance, sleeping on the bare ground with a stone for pillow, and with dry bread and raw herbs for food. God rewarded his great virtue by the gift of prophecy and the grace of miracles. He died while praying on his knees in 1351, surrounded by a bright light, in the presence of his confessor, who was unaware for some time of his death because of his position. He is invoked especially for the cure of hernias.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C. G. Herbermann with numerous collaborators (Appleton Company: New York, 1908).