St. Agnes of Monte Pulciano

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St. Agnes of Monte Pulciano, Virgin and Abbess

From her life, written by F. Raymund of Capua, general of the Dominicans, thirty years after her death, with the remarks of F. Papebroke, Apr. t. 2, p. 791. Also her life, compiled from authentic instruments, by F. Laurence Surdini Mariani, in 1606; and in French, by F. Roux at Paris, in 1728.

A.D. 1317.

THIS holy virgin was a native Monte Pulciano, in Tuscany. She had scarcely attained to the use of reason, when she conceived an extraordinary relish and ardour for prayer, and in her infancy often spent whole hours in reciting the Our Father and Hail Mary, on her knees, in some private corner of a chamber. At nine years of age she was placed by her parents in a convent of Sackins, of the order of St. Francis, so called from their habit, or at least their scapular, being made of sackcloth. Agnes, in so tender an age, was a model of all virtues to this austere community: and she renounced the world, though of a plentiful fortune, being sensible of its dangers, before she knew what it was to enjoy it. At fifteen years of age she was removed to a new foundation of the Order of St. Dominic, at Proceno, in the county of Orvieto, and appointed abbess by Pope Nicholas IV. She slept on the ground, with a stone under her head in lieu of a pillow; and for fifteen years she fasted always on bread and water, till she was obliged by her directors, on account of sickness, to mitigate her austerities. Her townsmen, earnestly desiring to be possessed of her again, demolished a lewd house, and erected upon the spot a nunnery, which they bestowed on her. This prevailed on her to return, and she established in this house nuns of the Order of St. Dominic, which rule she herself professed. The gifts of miracles and prophecy rendered her famous among men, though humility, charity, and patience under her long sicknesses, were the graces which recommended her to God. She died at Monte Pulciano, on the 20th of April, 1317, being forty-three years old. Her body was removed to the Dominicans’ church of Orvieto, in 1435, where it remains. Clement VIII. approved her office for the use of the Order of St. Dominic, and inserted her name in the Roman Martyrology. She was solemnly canonized by Benedict XIII. in 1726.

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

Christina Alexandra

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Christina Alexandra

Queen of Sweden, child of Gustavus Adolphhus II of Sweden, born at Stockholm, 8 December, 1626; d. at Rome, 19 April, 1689. Her father (d. 1632) was the famous soldier whose interposition in the Thirty Years’ Was wrought so much harm to Catholicism. Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, her mother, had hoped for a son, and was so disappointed at the birth of a daughter that she had little love for the child, who was left to the care of nurses. Gustavus Adolphus, however, was tenderly attached to his daughter; in 1630, when he sailed for Germany, he recommended Christina to the loyalty of his people and put his sister Catherine, who held her court at Stegeborg, in charge of the child’s education. Three years later, Maria Eleonora brought back the body of her husband, Gustavus Adolphus, to Sweden. For a while after this her love seemed to be transferred to the child, but this affectionate relation did not last long. In obedience to the command of her father, Christina was brought up like a boy, and received instruction in the various branches of learning from distinguished men, among whom was the learned Dr. Matthiæ, Bishop of Strengès. The princess was an indefatigable student, and a great reader of good books. Feminine occupations and amusements had no attraction for her, and she was indifferent to dress and finery of all kinds. The mother wished rather to see he daughter lead a life of pleasure, and encouraged her in the enjoyment of wine and other stimulating drinks, so that the country was alarmed for the morals of the heir to the throne, and Christina was sent again to her aunt. When the aunt died she was put under the care of the sister of the celebrated chancellor Axel Oxenstiern. In her new surroundings the great talents of Christina rapidly developed. She soon mastered several languages, gained a comprehensive knowledge of history and politics, and showed in particular a strong liking for theologico-political speculations. At the same time the masculine qualities of her character grew steadily more evident. Her favorite amusement was bear-hunting, and she could outride most men. At 18 (8 December, 1644) she was of age and entered on the duties of government with a strong hand. It was not, however, until two years later she was crowned, the ceremony taking place with great pomp at Stockholm. Continue reading

Basilica of St. Peter

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Basilica of St. Peter


The present Church of St. Peter stands upon the site where at the beginning of the first century the gardens of Agrippina lay. Her son, Caius Caligula, built a circus there, in the spina of which he erected the celebrated obelisk without hieroglyphics which was brought from Heliopolis and now stands in the Piazza di S. Pietro. The Emperor Nero was especially fond of this circus and arranged many spectacles in it, among which the martyrdoms of the Christians (Tacitus, “Annal.”, XV, 44) obtained a dreadful notoriety. The exact spot in the circus of the crucifixion of St. Peter was preserved by tradition through out the centuries, and in the present Church of St. Peter is marked by an altar. Directly past the circus of Nero ran the Via Cornelia which, like all Roman highways, was bordered with sepulchral monuments. In Christian times a small city of churches and hospices gradually arose here, but without this part of Rome being included in the city limits. When in the year 847 the Saracens pillaged the Basilica of St. Peter and all the sanctuaries and establishments there, Leo IV decided to surround the extensive suburb with a wall, interrupted at intervals by exceedingly strong and well-fortified towers. Two of these towers, as well as a fragment of the wall, are still preserved in the Vatican gardens and afford an interesting picture of the manner of fortification. Owing to this circumvallation by Pope Leo the Vatican portion of the city received the name Civitas Leonina, which it has preserved to the present day (Leonine City). The Vatican Hill rises in close proximity to the river Tiber. Between it, the river, and the Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castle of Sant’ Angelo) lies a small plain which was not filled with houses until the early Middle Ages. The Vatican territory did not assume a throughly urban character until the end of the fifteenth century. Continue reading

St. Leo IX

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St. Leo IX. Pope and Confessor

A.D. 1054.

THIS great pope received in baptism the name of Bruno. He was born in Alsace, in 1002, with his body marked all over with little red crosses: which was attributed to the intense meditation of his pious mother on the passion of Christ. 1 He was of the illustrious house of Dapsbourgh, or Asbourgh, in that province, being the son of Hugh, cousin-german to the mother of the pious Emperor Conrad the Salic. He had his education under Berthold, the virtuous and learned bishop of Toul; and, after his first studies, was made a canon in that cathedral. 2 His time was principally divided between prayer, pious reading, and his studies: and the hours of recreation he employed in visiting the hospitals and instructing the poor. When he was deacon, he was called to the court of the Emperor Conrad, and was much honoured by that prince. The young clergyman displayed an extraordinary talent for business; but never omitted his long exercises of devotion, or his usual fasts and other austere mortifications. In 1026, he was chosen bishop of Toul. The emperor endeavoured to persuade him to defer his consecration till the year following: but the saint hastened to the care of the church, of which he was to give an account to God, and was consecrated by his metropolitan, the archbishop of Triers; but refused to take an unjust and dangerous oath which he exacted of his suffragans, that they would do nothing but by his advice. Bruno began to discharge his pastoral office by the reformation of the clergy and monks, whom he considered as the most illustrious portion of the flock of Christ, and the salt of the earth. By his care the monastic discipline and spirit were revived in the great monasteries of Senones, Jointures, Estival, Bodonminster, Middle-Moutier, and St. Mansu or Mansuet. He reformed the manner of celebrating the divine office, and performing the church music, in which he took great delight. A soul that truly loves God, makes the divine praises the comfort of her present exile. The saint was indefatigable in his labours to advance the service of God and the salvation of souls. Amidst his great actions, it was most admirable to see how little he was in his own eyes. He every day served and washed the feet of several poor persons. His life was an uninterrupted severe course of penance, by the practice of secret austerities, and a constant spirit of compunction. Patience and meekness were the arms by which he triumphed over envy and resentment, when many strove to bring him into disgrace with the emperor and others. Out of devotion to St. Peter, he visited once a year the tombs of the apostles at Rome. After the death of Pope Damasus II. in 1048, in a diet of prelates and noblemen, with legates and deputies of the church of Rome, held at Worms, and honoured with the presence of the pious Emperor, Henry III. surnamed the Black, Bruno, who had then governed the see of Toul twenty-two years, was pitched upon as the most worthy person to be exalted to the papacy. He being present, used all his endeavours to avert the storm from falling on his head; and at length begged three days to deliberate upon the matter. This term he spent in tears and prayers, and in so rigorous a fast, that he neither ate nor drank during all that time. The term being expired, he returned to the assembly, and, hoping to convince his electors of his unworthiness, made a public general confession before them of the sins of his whole life, with abundance of tears, which drew also tears from all that were present: yet no man changed his opinion. He yielded at last only on condition that the whole clergy and people of Rome should agree to his promotion. After this declaration, he returned to Toul, and soon after Easter set out for Rome in the habit of a pilgrim; and alighting from his horse, some miles before he arrived at the city, walked to it, and entered it barefoot. He was received with universal acclamations, and his election ratified. He took possession of the see on the 12th of February, 1049, under the name of Leo IX. being about forty-seven years old. He held it only five years, but they were filled with good works. He laboured strenuously in extirpating simony, and the incestuous marriages which many noblemen had presumed to contract. In a journey which he made into Germany, he signalized all his steps with religious actions, held a council at Rheims, and consecrated the new church of St. Remigius, belonging to the abbey, in 1049: and returned from Mentz, by mount Vosge and Richenow, to Rome. In 1050, in a council at Rome, 3 he condemned the new heresy of Berengarius, archdeacon of Angers, a man full of self-conceit, and a lover of novelty, who preached against the mystery of transubstantiation in the holy eucharist. 4 1 Continue reading