St. Ferdinand III

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St. Ferdinand III., King of Castile and Leon, Confessor

HE was eldest son to Alphonsus, king of Leon, and of Berangera of Castile, elder sister 1 of Blanche, mother of St. Lewis of France, and was born about the end of the year 1198 or some time in 1199. Beranga had been obliged by Pope Innocent III. to a separation from Alphonsus of Leon after having borne to him two sons, Ferdinand and Alphonsus, and two daughters, because, though in the third degree of consanguinity, they had been married without a dispensation, which was at that time very difficult to be obtained. But because this marriage had been contracted bona fide by the decrees of the pope, and the states of the two kingdoms, their children were declared their lawful heirs. Berangera returned to her father Alphonsus IX. of Castile, one of the most valiant and virtuous kings that ever reigned in Spain, and who was to her the most tender and best of fathers. He dying in 1214, his son Henry, eleven years of age, succeeded him under the tutorship and regency of his mother, Eleonor of England. But she followed her husband to the grave within twenty-five days; grief for having lost him being the cause of her death. Berangera was charged with the guardianship of her brother and the regency of the kingdom; but out of love of retirement suffered herself to be persuaded to resign both to a nobleman called Don Alvarez, who proved a perfidious, turbulent man, and for several years embroiled all Castile and the neighbouring kingdoms. Berangera was a princess of accomplished prudence and piety, and exercises of devotion were her chief delight. King Henry, by the contrivance of Alvarez, at twelve years of age was married to Mafalda, sister to Alphonsus, king of Portugal, but upon an impediment of consanguinity which was proved before commissaries, Pope Innocent III. declared the marriage null, and Mafalda returning to Portugal, founded a Cistercian nunnery at Arouca, took herself the veil, and lived in such great sanctity as to be honoured among the saints on the 1st of May. The young King Henry died of a wound he received by a tile falling upon his head at Palencia on the 6th of June, 1217, and Berangera put in her claim to the crown; but transferring her right upon her son Ferdinand, surnamed the Saint, caused him, who was in the eighteenth year of his age, to be proclaimed king at Palencia, Valladolid, and Burgos, having first lodged in the archives of the church of this last city, the solemn act of her own resignation. Don Alvarez and other factious spirits filled the kingdom with disturbances and civil wars for several years; but these the young king by his clemency, prudence, and valour, assisted by his mother’s counsels, stifled and overcame. Alvarez was taken and pardoned; and perfidiously renewed his treasonable cabals and broils, both at home and abroad. Though Ferdinand was so great a king, no child ever obeyed a mother with a more ready and perfect submission than he did Berangera to the time of her death, as his ancient historian assures us. 2 By her advice he took to wife, in 1219, Beatrix, daughter of Philip of Suabia, emperor of Germany, a most virtuous and accomplished princess. The happy union of their hearts was never disturbed by the least cloud during the fifteen years of their cohabitation; and their marriage was blessed with a numerous family of seven sons and three daughters. St. Ferdinand was severe in the administration and the execution of the laws, but readily pardoned all personal injuries; and no sooner were rebellions crushed, but he granted general amnesties. His prudence and his constant attention to the care of his people appeared most conspicuous in the happy choice he always made of governors, magistrates, and generals. Rodriguez, archbishop of Toledo and chancellor of Castile, was during thirty years at the head of all his councils, and so perfectly united with Berangera and St. Ferdinand in all their deliberations as to seem to have but one soul with them. To set a curb to inferior tribunals he established the court, since called the Royal Council of Castile, which consists of ten auditors, and to which there lies an appeal from all other courts. A code of laws which he caused to be compiled by the most able lawyers 3 is still used in that kingdom. 1 Continue reading

St. Felix I

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St. Felix I., Pope and Martyr

A.D. 274.

HE was a Roman by birth, and succeeded St. Dionysius in the government of the church in 269. Paul of Samosata, the proud bishop of Antioch, to the guilt of many enormous crimes, added that of heresy, teaching that Christ was no more than a mere man, in whom the Divine Word dwelt by its operation, and as in its temple, with many other gross errors concerning the capital mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation. Two councils were held at Antioch to examine his cause; but by various arts and subterfuges he escaped condemnation. However, in a third, assembled at the same place in 269, being clearly convicted of heresy, pride, and many scandalous crimes, he was excommunicated and deposed, and Domnus was substituted in his room. Paul still maintained himself in the possession of the episcopal house. The bishop, therefore, had recourse to the Emperor Aurelian, who, though a pagan, gave an order that the house should belong to him to whom the bishops of Rome and Italy adjudged it, as Eusebius writes. 1 St. Felix had before declared himself against that heresiarch; for the council had sent the synodal letter to St. Dionysius, who being dead, it had been delivered to St. Felix. It must have been on that occasion that our holy pope wrote to Maximus, bishop of Alexandria, a learned epistle, quoted by the council of Ephesus, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and St. Vincent of Lerins; in which he clearly explained the Catholic doctrine of the whole mystery of the Incarnation. St. Cyril has preserved us a fragment of it. 2 The persecution of Aurelian breaking out, St. Felix, fearless of dangers, strengthened the weak, encouraged all, baptised the catechumens, and continued to exert himself in converting infidels to the faith. He himself obtained the glory of martyrdom; which title is given him by the council of Ephesus, 3 by St. Cyril, 4 and by St. Vincent of Lerins. 5 He governed the church five years, and passed to a glorious eternity in 274. The western Martyrologies name him on the 30th of May. 1
The example of Christ, and of all his saints, ought to encourage us under all trials to suffer with patience, and even with joy. We shall soon begin to feel that it is sweet to tread in the steps of a God-man, and shall find that if we courageously take up our crosses, he will make them light by bearing them with us. The soul will find it sweet to be abandoned by creatures, that she may more perfectly feel their emptiness, and learn that men are false and treacherous. Then will she place her whole confidence in God alone, and cleave to him with her whole heart. Forsaken and forgotten by creatures, she finds no relish but in God who enters her more powerfully, and fills her with his consolations the more sweetly, as she is the more weaned and separated from all earthly things, and more purely adheres to him who never forsakes those who sincerely seek Him. O happy exchange! cries out St. Francis of Sales; the soul thus abandoned in the eyes of men, now possesses God instead of creatures. 2

Note 1. L. 7, c. 80, p. 282.
Note 2. Apologet. p. 852.
Note 3. Act. 1, Conc. t. 1, p. 512.
Note 4. Apol. t. 3, Conc. p. 852.
Note 5. P. 375.

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

Saint Joan of Arc

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Saint Joan of Arc

Virgin, Martyr

Who today does not know the history of the Maid of Orleans, who saved France from the foreign domination of the English, only to be betrayed by the legitimate prince whom her efforts had crowned at Rheims, then burnt at the stake on May 30, 1431? Both in the French and English languages, many books and articles have honored her since her canonization in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

The Holy Father spoke before the bishop of Orleans and others present for the reading of the decree which approved her two final great miracles, needed to proceed with the canonization. He said, We find the memory of Joan of Arc so apt to enkindle love in the French people for their mother country, that we regret being French only in our heart! Many others could say the same, and confirm the exactitude of the proverb: Every Christian has two mother countries — the one where he or she first saw the light of day, and France!

Two years later, Pope Pius XI declared Saint Joan patroness of France with the Most Blessed Virgin, placing her second only to the Mother of God. In that year Monsignor Baudrillart, French historian, wrote that Saint Joan of Arc may be proposed as an example to all young children by her perfect piety; as a model of fidelity to the call of heaven, to all young persons. For artisans, scholars, writers, teachers, she gives excellent example by her respect for truth and her remarkable prudence. Those dedicated to the works of mercy should find inspiration in her charity, visible when she consoled and wept for her wounded and dying enemies. All agricultural workers can invoke her with confidence, for when Joan, with the archbishop of Rheims, rode through the rich fields in the month of August and saw the reapers at work, she expressed a wish, despite the honors she then enjoyed, to die in the midst of the country-folk of France whom she loved. Her illness in prison, her martyrdom in the flames, recommend her intercession to the sick, as also to all who pray for loved ones in purgatory.

Finally, Monsignor Baudrillart concluded, we pray our new Patroness to intercede unceasingly with God and the Most Blessed Virgin that France, its thoughts turned towards the true liberty of God’s children and its own ancient dignity, may truly be today as before, the firstborn daughter of the Church. For centuries that title — conferred because of the early conversion of King Clovis and three thousand of his noble soldiers, baptized on Christmas day of 496 — was the glory of Christian France. It was later magnificently renewed and embellished by the heroic virgin, Joan of Arc.

Almanach Catholique français pour 1923 (Librairie Bloud et Gay: Paris, 1923).