St. Juliana Falconieri

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St. Juliana Falconieri, Virgin

THE ILLUSTRIOUS family of Falconieri in Italy received great honour from the sanctity of this holy virgin. Her father, Charissimus Falconieri, and his pious lady, Reguardata, were both advanced in years, and seemed to have lost all hopes of issue, when in 1270 they were wonderfully blessed with the birth of our saint. Devoting themselves afterwards solely to the exercises of religion, they built and founded at their own expense the stately church of the Annunciation of our Lady in Florence, which for riches and the elegance of the structure, may at this day be ranked among the wonders of the world. B. Alexius Falconieri, the only brother of Charissimus, and uncle of our saint, was with St. Philip Beniti, one of the seven first propagators and pillars of the Order of Servites, or persons devoted to the service of God under the special patronage of the Virgin Mary. Juliana in her infancy seemed almost to anticipate the ordinary course of nature in the use of reason, by her early piety; and the first words she learned to pronounce were the sacred names, Jesu, Maria. Fervent prayer and mortification chiefly took up her attention at an age which seems usually scarcely capable of any thing serious. Such was her angelical modesty, that she never durst lift up her eyes to look any man in the face; and so great was her horror of sin that the very name of it made her almost fall into a swoon. 1 Continue reading

SS. Gervasius and Protasius

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SS. Gervasius and Protasius, Martyrs

ST. AMBROSE calls these saints the protomartyrs of Milan. They seem to have suffered in the first persecution under Nero, or at latest under Domitian, and are said to have been the sons of SS. Vitalis and Valeria, 1 both martyrs, the first at Ravenna, the second at Milan. This latter city was the place which SS. Gervasius and Protasius rendered illustrious bytheir glorious martyrdom and miracles. St. Ambrose assures us, that the divine grace prepared them a long time for their crown by the good example which they gave, and by the constancy with which they withstood the corruption of the world. He adds they were beheaded for the faith. 2 They are said to have been twin brothers. 1
The faithful at Milan, in the fourth age, had lost the remembrance of these saints. Yet the martyrs had not ceased to assist that church in its necessities; and the discovery of their relics rescued it from the utmost danger. The Empress Justina, widow of Valentinian I. and mother of Valentinian the Younger, who then reigned, and resided at Milan, was a violent abettor of Arianism, and used her utmost endeavours to expel St. Ambrose. The Arians did not hesitate to have recourse to the most horrible villanies and forgeries to compass that point. In so critical a conjuncture, our martyrs declared themselves the visible protectors of that distressed church. St. Austin, both in his twenty-second book Of the City of God, 3 and in his Confessions, 4 says, that God revealed to St. Ambrose by a vision in a dream, the place where their relics lay. Paulinus, in his life of St. Ambrose, says, this was done by an apparition of the martyrs themselves. The bishop was going to dedicate a new church, the same which was afterwards called the Ambrosian basilic, and now St. Ambrose the Great. The people desired him to do it with the same solemnity as he had already consecrated another church in the quarter near the gate that led to Rome, in honour of the holy apostles, in which he had laid a portion of their relics. He was at a loss to find relics for this second church. The bodies of Saints Gervasius and Protasius lay then unknown before the rails which enclosed the tomb of SS. Nabor and Felix. St. Ambrose caused this place to be dug up, and there found the bodies of two very big men, with their bones entire, and in their natural position, but the heads separated from their bodies, with a large quantity of blood, and all the marks which could be desired to ascertain the relics. 5 2
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St. Gregory Barbarigo

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St. Gregory Barbarigo

Gregory Barbarigo was born in 1625, of a very old and distinguished Venetian family. A brilliant student, he embraced a diplomatic career and accompanied the Venetian Ambassador, Contarini, to the Congress of Munster in 1648. Then he became a priest and was soon thereafter consecrated as the first Bishop of Bergamo by Pope Alexander VII. Later on, he was elevated to the rank of Cardinal and also given authority over the diocese of Padua. He guided his flock with pastoral wisdom and deep understanding. Gregory Barbarigo worked unceasingly in carrying out the reforms set forth by the Council of Trent. Through his efforts, the seminaries of both Bergamo and Padua were substantially enlarged. At Padua, he also added a library and a printing press. He died in 1697.

Saint Ephrem

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Saint Ephrem

Doctor of the Church
(† 378)

Many wonderful lessons can be derived from the life of this Saint, known in particular for his unfailing and remarkable humility. Born at Nisibe in Syria, his forebears were poor folk, and he as a child tended the herds in the fields. Saint Ephrem would be baptized only as a young adult.

One day, while still an adolescent, he pursued the only cow of a neighbor, throwing stones at the poor beast to see it run, until it fell exhausted and died. To add to his fault, he denied having seen the animal when its owner came to look for it. All his life he wept over this double prevarication, and later he related to the religious who were his followers how he was punished for it: About a month later, he was with a shepherd who drank too much one evening, and through neglect lost the sheep of the owner’s flock when wolves entered into the fold. Ephrem was taken to prison with the shepherd and confined there. From the stories his companions there narrated, he realized that they too were detained for crimes not committed, but that they had committed others which had remained unpunished. Recognizing in these facts the effects of Divine Justice, he was warned to do penance by a severe Angel who appeared to him several times, helping him also to accept his chastisement. He was released after two months, but never forgot the lessons in humility he had received.

Never did Saint Ephrem think himself anything other than a great sinner; we can read in his various writings his self-accusations and his confessions. He had the gift of tears and for years he wept, literally without ceasing, according to the testimony of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote: At times he was weeping over the sins of men, and again over his own. His sighs succeeded his tears, and then brought them forth again. It was also said that the tears he shed so profusely, instead of disfiguring his face, seemed to augment its serenity and grace; all who had seen or heard Saint Ephrem were inspired to venerate his holiness.

The death of Saint James of Nisibe and of another Saint who had lived in a cell near his own solitary dwelling, decided him to make a pilgrimage to Edessa, a very Christian city, to honor the relics of the Apostle Saint Thomas, venerated there. While in Edessa he was ordained a deacon and attached permanently to the church of Edessa, then obliged under obedience to preach. The ministry of preaching is not usually that of deacons, but his virtue and capacities were recognized at once. He had not studied and knew only his own language, but he had absorbed Holy Scripture and profited from his intelligence of it. It is he who wrote: You do not understand all that you read there? If you were traveling and, being thirsty, came upon a spring of fresh water, would you be incensed because you could not drink all of it? No, you would be happy that, on another journey, the spring would still be there to quench your thirst.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa remarked of the preaching of Saint Ephrem: Although his tongue was prompt and the words flowed from his mouth like a torrent, these were too slow to express his thoughts. For this reason he prayed God: Hold back, Lord, the waves of Your grace!’ The sea of understanding which was seeking an outlet through his tongue bore heavily upon him, because the organs of speech did not suffice for what his mind presented to him, for the benefit of others. In the Syrian Liturgy, Saint Ephrem still is called the Harp of the Holy Spirit.

After many years of good works, preaching and writing, for he also had great gifts of poetry and written discourse, he died a holy death in the year 378. This occurred one month after the death of Saint Basil, whom he had visited in Caesarea, wanting to profit from the renowned bishop’s conversation and sermons. They had found great consolation in one another’s company. Saint Ephrem was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XV in October of 1920.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2

Saint Marcus and Saint Marcellianus

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Saint Marcus and Saint Marcellianus

Martyrs
(† 286)

Saint Marcus and Saint Marcellianus were twin brothers of an illustrious family in Rome, who had been converted to the Faith in their youth and were honorably married.

When Diocletian ascended the imperial throne in 284, the pagans raised persecutions; the brothers were then thrown into prison and condemned to be beheaded. Their friends obtained a delay of the execution for thirty days, that they might prevail on them to worship the false gods. Tranquillinus and Martia, their afflicted pagan parents, accompanied by their sons’ wives and their little babes, endeavored to move them by the most tender entreaties and tears. But Saint Sebastian, an officer of the emperor’s household, arriving in Rome soon after their confinement, daily visited and encouraged them.

The issue of the conferences was the happy conversion of the father, mother, and wives, also of Nicostratus, the public stenographer, and soon afterwards of Chromatius, the judge, who set the Saints at liberty and abdicating the magistracy, retired into the country. Marcus and Marcellianus were concealed by a Christian officer of the imperial household, in his apartments in the palace, but they were betrayed by an apostate and reimprisoned. Fabian, a judge who had succeeded Chromatius, condemned them to be bound to two pillars, their feet nailed to them. In this posture they remained a day and a night, and on the following day were stabbed with lances. Their martyrdom occurred in the year 286. Their tomb and that of their father, Saint Tranquillinus, was found in Rome, in 1782, in the church of Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, adjoining that of the martyred pope, Saint Felix II. They are honored particularly in Spain, where the city of Badajoz escaped destruction by their intercession.

Reflection. We know not what we are until we have been tried; that love alone is sincere which has stood the proof. It costs nothing to say we love God above all things, but persecution shows who is a hireling, and who a true pastor, says Saint Bernard.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).