Carthusian Martyrs of London

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Carthusian Martyrs of London

That there was good reason to go in terror of Henry was made clear by the fate of the handful of monks who upheld the jurisdiction of the pope and the unity of Christendom. On 20 April 1535 John Houghton, Augustine Webster, and Robert Lawrence, the priors of the Charterhouses of London, Beauvale, and Axelhome were arrested. 74 They were committed to the Tower which they entered by the Traitors’ Gate, and in which they remained in foul conditions. They were soon joined by Dr. Richard Reynolds, of the Brigettine monastery at Syon who was reputed to be “the most learned monk in England”. While in the Tower they were subjected to a personal interrogation by Cromwell and the Royal Commissioners who brought with them the Act of Parliament under which it was intended to condemn them if they refused the oath. The priests said that they were ready to consent to all that the law of God permitted. “I admit no exception,” said Cromwell. “Whether the law of God permits it or no, you shall take the oath without any reserve whatsoever, and you shall observe it too.” The prisoners objected that the Catholic Church had always taught the contrary to what was set forth in the Act of Parliament “I care nothing for what the Church has held or taught,” replied Cromwell. “I will that you testify by solemn oath that you believe and firmly hold what we propose to you to profess: that the king is Head of the English Church.” The prisoners answered that the fear of God would not allow them to disobey or abandon the Church, seeing that St. Augustine says that he would not believe even the Gospel if the Holy Catholic Church did not teach him to do so. Continue reading

St. Pius V

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St. Pius V., Pope and Confessor

A.D. 1572.

MICHAEL GHISLERI, known afterwards by the name of Pius V. was born at Bosco, a little town in the diocess of Tortona, on the 27th of January, 1504. He was descended of a noble Bolognese family, but considerably reduced in its splendour and fortunes. In his tender years the most perfect maxims of piety were instilled into him, and he never swerved in the least from those principles during the whole course of his life. He studied grammar under the care of the Dominican friars at Voghera; and giving himself up entirely to the most fervent exercises of religion, took the habit of that Order when he was only fifteen years of age. He was sensible that faint and languishing endeavours never deserve to find the inestimable treasure of true virtue, which they undervalue; they are sure to lose ground, and at length to yield under the repeated assaults of the enemy: whereas fervour breaks down all obstacles in the pursuit of perfection, as so many shadows, and courageously marches on, reckoning all labours the sweetest pleasures, and esteeming as nothing whatever leads not to this great end. It was the young novice’s holy ambition to surpass all others in humility, modesty, and the exercises of mortification, obedience, and devotion. In everything he did, he set no bounds to the ardour of his desires to please God, and accomplish his holy will in the most perfect manner. Thus all his actions were perfect sacrifices of his heart, and the meanest were enhanced by the fervour of his intention. To his studies he joined assiduous prayer, watching, fasting, and the exercises of penance and charity. After the uninterrupted fatigue of the day, it was his sweet refreshment to pour forth his soul in tears and devout prayer or meditation, for several hours before the altar, or in his cell. Having prepared himself by a long and fervent retreat, he was ordained priest, at Genoa, in 1528. He taught philosophy and divinity sixteen years, and was long employed in instructing the novices, and in forming them to piety, and in governing different houses of his Order: in all which offices, he laboured effectually to revive the spirit of its holy founder. He never accepted of any priory but by compulsion, and with tears. No one would he ever allow to absent himself from the choir, or to go out of the convent without some urgent necessity. Constant devotion and study he called the double breast from which religious persons draw a spiritual nourishment, which maintains in them the love of God and contempt of the world. Though he went often to Milan to hear the confession of the Marquis of Guast, governor of the Milanese, he could never be persuaded to buy a cloak to defend him from the rain, saying: “Poor followers of the gospel ought to be content with one tunic.” His journey he performed on foot, in recollection and strict silence, unless he opened his mouth to speak to his companion something on God. Pope Paul IV. in 1556, promoted him to the united bishoprics of Nepi and Sutri, in the ecclesiastical state, notwithstanding the tears he shed in endeavouring most earnestly to decline that dignity. Under his care these diocesses soon assumed a new face. In 1557, he was created cardinal by the same pope under the title of St. Mary upon the Minerva, though generally known by that of the Alexandrian cardinal, from Alexandria, a city in Lombardy, a few miles distant from the place of his birth. His dignities served to render his humility and other virtues more conspicuous, but produced no alteration in his furniture, table, fasts, or devotions. He was most scrupulously cautious in the choice of his few necessary domestics, admitting none but persons of most exemplary piety, and he treated them as his children rather than as his servants. Pope Paul IV. dying in 1559, he was succeeded by Pius IV. of the family of Medicis, who translated our good cardinal to the bishopric of Mondovi, in Piedmont, a church reduced by the wars to a deplorable and calamitous condition. The saint hastened to his new flock; and by his zealous exhortations and other endeavours, re-established peace and union, reformed abuses, and restored the splendour of that church.—But an order of his holiness recalled him to Rome for the dispatch of certain public affairs of the church. When Pius IV. proposed to the sacred college the promotion of Prince Ferdinand of Medicis, only thirteen years old, to the dignity of cardinal, our saint opposed the motion with such vigour, that he made himself admired by the whole consistory for his zeal and prudence. The Emperor Maximilian II. wrote to Pope Pius IV. to desire that priests might be allowed to marry, as a means that might facilitate the return of the modern sectaries to the communion of the church. The whole sacred college saw the inconveniencies of such an abolition of the most holy and ancient canons; but none spoke more vigorously against it than our saint. Though charity will allow all condescension that is possible, here it seemed very unseasonable, on many accounts, to abandon so sacred a spiritual law; and this in favour of men, who had shown no disposition towards a reconciliation with the Catholic church, except she would give up many other points, not only of discipline, but also of her faith and doctrine. 1 Continue reading

St. Monica

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St. Monica, Widow

St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, the great teacher of sacred wisdom, was a native of Africa. She was doubly a mother to the Saint; for, she not only gave him earthly life, but also spiritual life, by regenerating him for Heaven. Her parents, who were Christians and in comfortable circumstances, brought her up in modesty and virtue. She was devoted to pious exercises from early childhood. Having heard from her mother how pleasing in the sight of God it is to overcome sleep at night, and spend the time in prayer, she forthwith began to rise during the night and pray. Nor was she less devoted to the poor. She often deprived herself of food in order to supply the wants of the indigent. She never evinced any pleasure in vainly adorning her person, but always attired herself according to her station in life. In all her words as well as actions, she endeavored to be decorous and retiring. When grown up, it was her desire to live in virginal purity, but was obedient to her parents who wished her to marry. As a wife her conduct was so exemplary that she might be held up as a model for all married people. Patricius, her husband, tormented his pious wife in a thousand different ways, as he was of a violent temper, immoral, and addicted to many vices. Monica always treated him with love and gentleness, never reproaching him for his vices. She never contradicted him when, giving way to passion, he burst out into manifold curses: but waited until his anger had passed away, and then represented his faults to him with Christian calmness. Praying to God unceasingly for his conversion, she gradually changed him so completely, that he at last led a very edifying life. The women who lived in her neighborhood, and who were acquainted with the passionate temper of Patricius, often wondered that he never struck or otherwise brutally treated her, as their husbands did to them. But Monica told them the reason of it, and taught them to be submissive to their husbands, to meet them with love and gentleness, and above all things, never to contradict them when they were angry, but to bear their faults in patience and silence. But just as anxious as Monica was to live in love and peace with her husband, so was she determined not to permit strife and contention among her household, still less other vices. She had three children, two sons and one daughter, and her greatest care was to give them a Christian education. Augustine, her first born, however, was not obedient, especially after the death of his father, but led a wild, licentious life, regarding neither the admonitions, supplications, nor menaces of his pious mother, until at last, he fell into the heresy of the Manichees. Continue reading