The Commemoration of Saint Paul

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The Commemoration of Saint Paul

(† 67)

Saint Paul was originally Saul of Tarsus, born in that city of Cilicia of Jewish parents, two or three years after the Saviour was born in Bethlehem of Judea. He studied in Jerusalem at the feet of the famous teacher Gamaliel, who later would be converted and listed among the Saints.

While still a young man, Saul was present to oversee, as commanding officer, the stoning of the proto-martyr Stephen. In his restless zeal he pressed on to Damascus, breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of Christ, intending to drag them from their houses and imprison them. But on the road a light from heaven struck him to the earth. He heard a voice which said, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad. He asked who was speaking, and astonished on hearing His Name, inquired what Jesus wanted of him. And then, struck blind, for three days he saw nothing more. But he had been told what to do. He was led by the hand to Damascus, where he remained in the house of a Christian until, three days later, he rose for his baptism by a Christian leader of that city. Then he saw the light of day again, and the brilliance of the full truth for the first time, as another man, a new creature in Jesus Christ.

He left Damascus for a long retreat in Arabia, before he set out at the call of God, and carried the Gospel to the uttermost limits of the known western world, for years living and laboring with no thought but that of Christ crucified, no desire but to dispense himself for Him. He became the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom he had been taught to hate. But he would gladly have been anathema if he could thereby have saved his own countrymen from condemnation, though they sought his life. Perils by land and sea could not dampen his courage, nor sufferings and age dull the tenderness of his heart.

When finally he knew that his hour had come to be dissolved and to be with Christ, as he had long desired, he wrote during his second imprisonment to his spiritual son Timothy, that he had fought the good fight, finished his course, kept the faith”, and that there remained for him to receive the crown of justice which His Lord was preparing for him on the final day. With Saint Peter in his final year he consecrated Rome, the new holy city, by his martyrdom.

Saint Paul has left to the Church fourteen Epistles, which have been a fountainhead of doctrine, elucidating the most basic truths taught by Christ, and constituting the consolation and delight of her greatest Saints. His interior life, insofar as words can express it, lies open before us in these divine writings; it is the life of one who has died forever to himself, and risen again in Christ Jesus. Saint John Chrysostom, his imitator, wrote: The heart of Paul is the Heart of Christ! Nor will his labor cease while the race of man continues. Even now, like a chivalrous knight, he stands alive in our midst, and captivates each of his readers to the obedience of Christ.

Labors of the Apostles

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Labors of the Apostles
Imprimatur by Joannes J. Glennon, 1916

First Years of the Church (A.D. 30-42)

On Pentecost, the harvest feast of the Jews, the Holy Ghost descended on the assembled Apostles and disciples. After Peter’s first sermon, three thousand were added to the Church; and a little later over five thousand more. These early Christians “were persevering in the teaching of the Apostles and in the communion of the breaking of bread and in prayer.” They had a common fund. Seven deacons were appointed to take care of the poor and to assist in the preaching of the word of God. Mathias was chosen as an Apostle soon after the defection of Judas.

Peter and John were accused before the Sanhedrin for having cured a lame man, and were forbidden to teach in the name of Christ. Before long, all the Apostles were imprisoned and scourged. The bitter opposition of the Jews broke out in an open persecution of the Christians; and the first victim, St. Stephen, was stoned to death in the year 36. Persecuted Christianity now gained disciples everywhere. Enlightened by God in the three visions of unclean animals, Peter received the first pagan convert, Cornelius the centurion, into the Church. Continue reading

Saint Peter and Saint Paul

<em>The Virgin and Child with Saints Peter and Paul</em> | Girolamo Figino

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

After the great solemnities of the movable cycle, and the Feast of St. John the Baptist, none is more ancient, nor more universal in the Church, than that of the two Princes of the Apostles. From the beginning, Rome celebrated their triumph on the very day itself which saw them go up from earth to heaven, June 29th. Her practice prevailed, at a very early date, over the custom of several other countries, which put the Apostles’ feast towards the close of December. It was, no doubt, a fair thought which inspired the placing of these Fathers of the Christian people in the cortege of Emmanuel at his entry into this world. But, as we have already seen, today’s teachings have intrinsically an important preponderance in the economy of Christian dogma; they are the completion of the whole Work of the Son of God; the cross of Peter fixes the Church in her stability, and marks out for the Divine Spirit the immutable centre of his operations. Rome, therefore, was well inspired when, leaving to the Beloved Disciple the honour of presiding over his brethren at the Crib of the Infant God, she maintained the solemn memory of the Princes of the Apostles upon the day chosen by God Himself to consummate their labours and to crown, at once, both their life and the whole cycle of mysteries.  Continue reading

Within the Octave of St. John the Baptist

Within the Octave of St. John the Baptist

The Church, honouring the saints in proportion to the part they played in the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, gives to St. John a special place.

Each day in the Mass, as well as at the Confiteor, at the Suscipe and at the Nobis quoque peccatoribus, the name of St. John the Baptist precedes that of the apostles. Is is the same in the Litany of the Saints. His feast immediately precedes that of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul. By ending the mission of the prophets and commencing that of the apostles, he is the link between the Old and the New Testament.

Let us, also, give to St. John the Baptist the place of honour which is due to him in our worship of the saints. The worship must, indeed, be hierarchically ordered so that we may never forget that Jesus is the principal author of our redemption, and that the saints are more or less great as they are more or less united to Him as secondary instruments.

The feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist falls in the season when the Cycle shows us the Church which, as this saint foretold, was born in the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire at Pentecost, and goes on continually developing herself. It is, indeed, to the holy Precursor that she owes it to have known Jesus, the Spouse that makes her the fruitful mother of many souls.

As with the Jews, a friend was the intermediary between the bride and the spouse and prepared the wedding-feast, St. John is called in the Gospel the ” friend of the Spouse”. It is he whom God has chosen to prepare for the Lord, by his preaching and baptism of penance, a perfect people. And after having adorned the bride, he presents the Spouse to her. ” John was the man sent as a witness so that through him all should believe in Jesus.”

Jesus comes to him in the waters of the Jordan and at this divine contact the water acquired the virtue which in baptism causes our souls to be born to supernatural life. As St. John baptizes Christ in the Jordan, he hears the voice of the Father proclaiming that Jesus is His well-beloved Son. He sees the Holy Ghost hovering over him in the form of a dove and he reveals that Jesus is “the Lamb of God”.

Let us remember that after having baptized the Master, the one who is called John the Baptizer has also presided over our own christening, for all the baptistries (particularly that of St. John Lateran in Rome) are dedicated to him, and his image is to be used for the adornment of baptismal fonts. Having thus been brought by him to Jesus, let us also through St. John approach the Eucharist, reciting the words of the Agnus Dei, by which he indicated the Saviour.

Mass as on the feast-day.

Hymn for the Feast of St John the Baptist

1. Ut queant laxis resonare fibris
Mira gestorum Famuli tuorum
Solve polluti Labii reatum
Sancte Joannes.

2. Nuntius celso veniens Olympo,
Te patri magnum fore nasciturum,
Nomen, et vitae seriem gerendae
Ordine promit.

3. Ille promissi dubius superni,
Perdidit promptae modulos loquelae:
Sed reformasti genitus peremptae
Organa vocis.

4. Ventris obstruso recubans cubili
Senseras Regem thalamo manentem:
Hinc parens nati meritis uterque
Abdita pandit.

5. Sit decus Patri, genitaeque Proli,
Et tibi compar utriusque virtus,
Spiritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Temporis aevo.

1. Unloose, great Baptist, our sin-fettered lips;
That with enfranchis’d voice we may proclaim
The miracles of thy transcendent life,
Thy deeds of matchless fame.

2. Oh, lot sublime! an angel quits the skies,
Thy birth, thy name, thy glory to declare
Unto thy priestly sire; while to the Lord He offers
Israel’s prayer.

3. Mistrustful of the promise from on high,
His speech forsakes him at the angel’s word;
But thou on thine eighth day dost re-attune
For him the vocal chord.

4. No marvel; since yet cloister’d in the womb,
The presence of Thy King had thee inspir’d;
What time Elizabeth and Mary sang
With joy prophetic fir’d.

5. Immortal glory to the Father be,
With his Almighty sole-begotten Son,
And Thee, co-equal Spirit, One in Three,
While endless ages run.

St. Irenæus

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St. Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, Martyr

A.D. 202.

THIS saint is himself our voucher that he was born near the times of Domitian, 1 consequently not in the close, as Dupin conjectures, but in the beginning of Adrian’s reign, about the year 120. He was a Grecian, probably a native of Lesser Asia. His parents who were Christians, placed him under the care of the great St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. It was in so holy a school, that he learned that sacred science which rendered him afterwards a great ornament of the Church in the days of her splendour, and the terror of her enemies. St. Polycarp cultivated his rising genius, and formed his mind to piety by precepts and example; and the zealous scholar was careful to reap all the advantages which were offered him by the happiness of such a master. Such was his veneration for his sanctity, that he observed every action and whatever he saw in that holy man, the better to copy his example, and learn his spirit. He listened to his instructions with an insatiable ardour, and so deeply did he engrave them in his heart, that the impressions remained most lively even to his old age, as he declares in his letter to Florinus, quoted by Eusebius. 2 St. Jerom informs us, that St. Irenæus was also a scholar of Papias, another disciple of the apostles. In order to confute the heresies of that age which, in the three first centuries, were generally a confused medley drawn from the most extravagant systems of the heathens and their philosophers, joined with Christianity, this father studied diligently the mythology of the Pagans, and made himself acquainted with the most absurd conceits of their philosophers, by which means he was qualified to trace up every error to its source, and set it in its full light. On this account he is styled by Tertullian, 3 “The most diligent searcher of all doctrines.” St. Jerom often appeals to his authority. Eusebius commends his exactness. St. Epiphanius calls him “A most learned and eloquent man, endowed with all the gifts of the Holy Ghost.” Theodoret styles him, “The light of the western Gauls.” 1 Continue reading