The Greater Litanies St. Gregory’s Procession

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The Greater Litanies St. Gregory’s Procession

April 25 is honored in the Liturgy by what is sometimes called Saint Mark’s Procession. The term, however, is not a correct one, inasmuch as the Procession was a privilege peculiar to April 25 previously to the institution of the Evangelist’s Feast, which even as late as the 6th century had no fixed day in the Roman Church. The real name of this Procession is The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place in order to propitiate Heaven. The two Greek words Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy on us) were also called Litany, as likewise were the invocations which were afterwards added to that cry for mercy, and which now form a liturgical prayer used by the Church on certain solemn occasions.

The Greater Litanies (or processions) are so called to distinguish them from the Minor Litanies, that is, processions of less importance as far as the solemnity and concourse of the faithful were concerned. We gather from an expression of St. Gregory the Great that it was an ancient custom in the Roman Church to celebrate, once a year, a Greater Litany, at which all the clergy and people assisted. This holy Pontiff chose April 25 as the fixed day for this Procession, and appointed the Basilica of St. Peter as the Station. Continue reading

Pope St. Nicholas I

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Pope St. Nicholas I

Born at Rome, date unknown; died 13 November, 867.

One of the great popes of the Middle Ages, who exerted decisive influence upon the historical development of the papacy and its position among the Christian nations of Western Europe.

He was of a distinguished family, being the son of the Defensor Theodore, and received an excellent training. Already distinguished for his piety, benevolence, ability, knowledge, and eloquence, he entered, at an early age, the service of the Church, was made subdeacon by Pope Sergius II (844-47), and deacon by Leo IV (847-55). After Benedict’s death (7 April, 858) the Emperor Louis II, who was in the neighbourhood of Rome, came into the city to exert his influence upon the election. On 24 April Nicholas was elected pope, and on the same day was consecrated and enthroned in St. Peter’s in the presence of the emperor. Three days after, he gave a farewell banquet to the emperor, and afterward, accompanied by the Roman nobility, visited him in his camp before the city, on which occasion the emperor came to meet the pope and led his horse for some distance. Continue reading

St. Fidelis

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St. Fidelis, Martyr

St. Fidelis, who received in baptism the name of Mark, was born at Sigmaringen, or Simmeringen, in Suabia, in the year 1577. Although encompassed by temptations, he led a most blameless life from early youth, and preserved his innocence unspotted. He applied himself to study with such untiring energy that he soon ranked highest among his school mates. He studied philosophy at Freiburg in Brisgow, and took the degrees of Doctor of Law and Doctor of Divinity at Dilligen. He then commenced to serve his neighbors in the quality of counsellor. Being a man of great erudition, as well as conscientiousness, he brought all his suits to a fortunate conclusion. He never delayed them, rightly judging this would be a great wrong. This, however, provoked other advocates who were in the habit of protracting all proceedings at law, that they might derive more profit from them. One of these, therefore, went one day to him to remonstrate against his thus hastening with his processes, giving as a reason that what they gained was too little for their maintenance, much less allowing them to save something for their wives and children. Mark was horrified at so godless a request, and turning from the unscrupulous advocate, he raised his eyes to heaven and said with a deep sigh: “Oh! heavenly Father, how great is the wickedness of this world!” From that hour he resolved to change his profession, fearing, that in the course of time he might adopt the principles of his colleagues. After mature reflection, he concluded to go into a Capuchin monastery, in which Order he had a brother whose life was happy and pious. On taking the habit, he received the name “Fidelis” which means ” faithful.” The master of novices, on the day of his investiture, made use of the words of the Apocalypse: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Continue reading

St. Mark the Evangelist

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St. Mark, Evangelist

Two Saints by the name of Mark, are mentioned in Holy Writ. The first is Mark the Evangelist, whose festival we celebrate today. The other is Mark, surnamed John, who assisted St. Paul and St. Barnabas in the promulgation of the Gospel. He of whom we speak here was by birth a Jew, of the tribe of Levi. Some say that he was one of the seventy disciples of Christ, but others, more authentic, say that he was converted on the day of Pentecost by the sermon of St. Peter, and was also baptized by this Apostle. Hence the latter, in his Epistle, calls him his son, because he was through him spiritually born again in holy baptism. For the same reason, St. Paul calls Onesimus his son, and wrote to the Corinthians that he had regenerated them through the Gospel. Continue reading