SS. Justus and Pastor

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SS. Justus and Pastor, Martyrs

THEY were two brothers, who in their tender age overcame, with an heroic courage, the rage and power of Dacian, armed with all the instruments of cruelty. This judge was governor of Spain under Dioclesian and Maximian, and one of the most furious ministers of their cruelty in persecuting the Christians. In his progress through his province in search of the servants of the true God, he arrived at Complutum, now called Alcala de Henares, and having caused the bloody edicts to be read in the market-place, began to put to the most exquisite tortures the Christians who were brought before him. Justus and Pastor, children who were then learning the first elements of literature in the public school of that city (the first being thirteen, the latter only seven years old), hearing of the torments which were inflicted on the generous soldiers of Christ, were fired with a holy zeal to have a share in their triumphs. They threw down their books, ran to the place where the governor was interrogating the confessors, and by their behaviour about the racks and other engines on which the martyrs were tormented, gave manifest proofs of the holy faith which they professed. They were soon taken notice of, apprehended, and presented to the judge. He foamed with rage to see children brave his power and authority, and not doubting but a little correction would allay their courage, commanded them to be most severely whipped. This was executed in the most barbarous manner; but he who makes the tongues of infants eloquent in his praise, gave them strength to baffle all the efforts of the world and hell. The soldiers and spectators were filled with astonishment to see the modest constancy with which in their turns they encouraged and exhorted each other to bear their torments for Christ, and for an eternal crown; and the wonderful cheerfulness and readiness which they discovered to suffer every torture that could be inflicted. The judge, being informed that it was in vain to expect their resolution could ever be vanquished by torments, to cover his shame, gave an order that they should be privately beheaded. This sentence was executed in a field near the town, and their bodies were buried by the Christians on that very spot which their blood had sanctified. A chapel was afterwards built on the place. Their relics are at present enshrined under the high altar of a great collegiate church at Alcala, of which they are the titular patrons. Their martyrdom happened in 304. See Prudentius, hymn. 4. alias 7. St. Isidore, F. Flores, &c.

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

St. Sixtus II

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St. Xystus, or Sixtus II., Pope and Martyr

HE was a Grecian by birth, deacon of the Roman Church under St. Stephen, and upon his demise, in 257 was chosen pope, being the twenty-fifth from St. Peter. St. Dionysius of Alexandria consulted him by three letters on certain difficulties, and recommended to him to bear a little while with the Africans and some among the Asiatics with regard to their error concerning the validity of baptism given by heretics. Accordingly this pope used towards them indulgence, contenting himself with strongly recommending the truth to them; and his successors pursued the same conduct till that error was condemned in the plenary council often mentioned by St. Austin. 1 St. Sixtus is styled by St. Cyprian a peaceable and excellent prelate. Though some have ascribed eight years to his pontificate, it is certain from all the circumstances of his history, that he only sat one year. 2 1 Continue reading

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Matt. xviii; Mark ix; Luke ix.

OUR Divine Redeemer, in order to show us that the sufferings of his servants are usually intermingled with frequent spiritual comforts, and to give us a sensible demonstration of the truth of his promises of an eternal glory reserved for us in the world to come, was pleased to manifest a glimpse of his majesty in the mystery of his Transfiguration. Being in Galilee, about a year before his sacred passion, he chose to be witnesses of his glory the same three beloved disciples who were afterwards to be witnesses of his bloody agony in the garden—namely, St. Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, SS. James and John. He took three, that their evidence might be unexceptionable; but he would not publicly discover his glory, to teach his followers to love the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favours. All pretences contrary to this rule are suggested by blind self-love, not by the spirit of God; they are a disguised pride, and a dangerous illusion. Every true servant of God loves to be hidden and concealed; his motto in the divine gifts, even when he most ardently invites all creatures to magnify the Lord with him for all His unspeakable mercies, is: My secret to myself, my secret to myself. 1 He fears lest he should be at all considered or thought of in what purely belongs to God alone. Jesus therefore would exhibit this miracle in retirement, and he led these three apostles to a retired mountain, as he was accustomed to repair often to some close solitude to pray. The tradition of the Christians in Palestine, of which St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Damascen, and other ancient fathers are vouchers, assures us, that this was mount Thabor, which is exceeding high and beautiful, and was anciently covered with green trees and shrubs, and was very fruitful. It rises something like a sugar loaf, in a vast plain, in the middle of Galilee. This was the place in which the Man-God appeared in his glory. He was transfigured whilst at prayer, because it is usually in this heavenly commerce that the soul receives the dew of divine consolations, and tastes how infinitely sweet and good God is to those who sincerely seek him. Many Christians indeed are strangers to this effect of that holy exercise, because they do not apply themselves to it with assiduity and fervour, or neglect to disengage their affections from creatures by perfect humility, self-denial, and mortification of the senses. Without a great purity of heart no man shall see God. A little bird-lime entangles the feathers of a bird, and holds down the strongest pinion from being able to raise the body in the air. So the least earthly dust clogs the wings of the soul, the least inordinate attachment to creatures is a weight which hinders the perfect union of her affections with God, and the full flow of his graces upon her; but a Christian worthily disposed and fitted by the Holy Ghost to receive the spirit of prayer, by assiduity in that holy exercise purifies his love more and more, transforms his affections, and renders them more and more spiritual and heavenly. Of this, the Transfiguration of our Divine Redeemer was, among other transcending prerogatives, a most noble and supereminent prototype. 1 Continue reading