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

St. Ladislas I

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St. Ladislas I., King of Hungary, Confessor

A.D. 1095.

LADISLAS the First, called by the Hungarians St. Lalo, and in old French, Lancelot, was son of Bela king of Hungary, and born in 1041. By the pertinacious importunity of the people he was compelled, much against his own inclination, to ascend the throne in 1080, the kingdom being then elective. He restored the good laws and discipline which St. Stephen had established, and which seem to have been obliterated by the confusion of the times. Chastity, meekness, gravity, charity, and piety were from his infancy the distinguishing parts of his character; avarice and ambition were his sovereign aversion, so perfectly had the maxims of the gospel extinguished in him all propensity to those base passions. His life in the palace was most austere: he was frugal and abstemious, but most liberal to the Church and poor. Vanity, pleasure, or idle amusements had no share in his actions or time, because all his moments were consecrated to the exercises of religion and the duties of his station, in which he had only the divine will in view, and sought only God’s greater honour. He watched over a strict and impartial administration of justice, was generous and merciful to his enemies, and vigorous in the defence of his country and the Church. He added to his kingdom Dalmatia and Croatia, drove the Huns out of his territories, and vanquished the Poles, Russians, and Tartars. He was preparing to command as general-in-chief, the great expedition of the Christians against the Saracens for the recovery of the Holy Land, when God called him to himself on the 30th of July, 1095. He was buried at Waradin, where his relics continue “still to be illustrated by miracles,” says the Roman Martyrology, on the 27th of June, on which day, on account of their translation, it celebrates his festival. He was canonized by Celestine III. in 1198. 1
How useless and impertinent are the scenes and amusements of the world, in which so many squander away that time which was given them to prepare for eternity! How insignificant and capricious are the lives of many who make here the greatest figure! The saints filled all their moments with good works and great actions; and, whilst they laboured for an immortal crown, the greatest share of worldly happiness of which this life is capable fell in their way without being even looked for by them. In their afflictions themselves, virtue afforded them the most solid comfort, pointed out the remedy, and converted their tribulations into the greatest advantages.

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