Saint John Gabriel Perboyre

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Saint John Gabriel Perboyre

Lazarist Priest and Martyr

John Gabriel Perboyre was born in 1802 in the diocese of Cahors in France. From his earliest years, he was noticed for his piety. As a young student in the minor seminary, he was loved and venerated by all his fellow disciples, who called him the Little Jesus. A year before he advanced to the Major Seminary, his vocation was decided upon: I want to be a missionary, he said, and he entered the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Vincent de Paul at Montauban. One of the novices who later was confided to his care said: For many years I had desired to meet a Saint, and when I saw Monsieur Perboyre, it seemed to me God had answered my wish. Several times I said, You will see that Monsieur Perboyre will be canonized.’ The two maxims of this Novice Master were: One does good for souls only by prayer. In all that you do, work only to please God, otherwise, you would waste your time and effort.

John Gabriel was remarkable by his tender devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He returned to the chapel constantly and spent entire hours in adoration. I am never happier, he said, than when I have offered the Holy Sacrifice. His thanksgiving usually lasted for a half hour.

When sent to the missions of China, the young priest laboured under the influence of a sustaining grace. Then, after four years of apostolate, betrayed as his Master had been, he was arrested and underwent the most cruel tortures. While they continued, this athlete of the faith, worthy of Jesus Christ, uttered not one cry of pain. Those in attendance could not conceal their astonishment and could scarcely hold back their tears. Trample on your God, and I will free you! the mandarin cried out. Oh! the martyr replied, how could I so insult my Saviour? And seizing the crucifix, he pressed it to his lips. In 1840, after nine months’ confinement in a fearful prison, he was strangled on a gibbet in the form of a cross.

Reflection: Let us not forget to pray for missionaries, who are often isolated and seemingly abandoned amid the crosses of their difficult lives.

Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, by Abbé L. Jaud (Mame: Tours, 1950).

SS. Protus and Hyacinthus

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SS. Protus and Hyacinthus, Martyrs

THE SAINTS whose victory the church commemorates on this day are honoured among the most illustrious martyrs that ennobled Rome with their blood, when the emperors of the world attempted, with the whole weight of their power, to crush the little flock of Christ. Their epitaph, among the works of Pope Damasus, calls them brothers, and informs us that Hyacinthus sustained the first conflict, but that Protus obtained his crown before him. They are said, in the Acts of St. Eugenia, to have been eunuchs and retainers to that virtuous lady and martyr, who is honoured on the 25th of December. Their martyrdom, and that of Eugenia, is placed in these acts under Valerian, in 257, but the Liberian Calendar assures us, that St. Basilla, who seems to have been a companion of St. Eugenia, received her crown on the 22d of September, in the persecution of Dioclesian, in 304, and was buried on the Salarian Way. St. Avitus, of Vienna, about the year 500; Fortunatus, and others, make mention of St. Eugenia among the most celebrated virgins and martyrs. 1 The ancient calendar, drawn up in the pontificate of Liberius, mentions the festival of Saints Protus and Hyacinthus on the 11th of September, as celebrated at their tomb on the old Salarian Way, in the cemetery of Basilla, who lay buried at some distance. Her name ought rather to be written Bassilla, as it is in the Liberian Calendar; for it is derived from Bassus. This cemetery was afterwards comprised under that of St. Priscilla, who was buried not far off on the new Salarian Way. 2 Saints Protus and Hyacinthus are honoured in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, in the ancient martyrology, published by F. Fronto, and in those of Bede, Usuard, Vandelbert, &c. Pope Damasus, in 366, removed the earth which hid the tomb of these two martyrs from the view of the faithful; and, during his pontificate, a priest named Theodorus built over it a church, as appears from an ancient epitaph, published by Baronius. Anastasius relates, that Pope Symmachus afterwards adorned it with plates and vessels of silver. Pope Clement VIII., in 1592, caused the sacred remains of Saints Protus and Hyacinthus to be removed from this church into the city, and to be deposited in the church of St. John Baptist, belonging to the Florentines; of which translation an account is given us by Sarazanius, an eye-witness, in his notes on the poems of Pope Damasus. A considerable part of their relics was given to the Benedictin abbey at Mulinheim, now called Saligunstat—i. e., seat of the blessed, in the diocess of Mentz, in 829, as Eginhard and others relate; part to the church of St. Vincent, at Metz, about the year 972, &c. See Perier the Bollandist, t. 2, Sept., p. 758. Pope Damasus’s poems, carm. 27, p. 74. Tillemont, Persecut. de Valerien, art. 6. 1
What words can we find sufficiently to extol the heroic virtue and invincible fortitude of the martyrs! They stood out against the fury of those tyrants whose arms had subdued the most distant nations; to whose yoke almost the whole known world was subject, and whose power both kings and people revered. They, standing alone, without any preparation of war, appeared undaunted in the presence of those proud conquerors, who seemed to think that the very earth ought to bend under their feet. Armed with virtue and divine grace, they were an over-match for all the powers of the world and hell; they fought with wild beasts, fires, and swords; with intrepidity and wonderful cheerfulness they braved the most cruel torments, and by humility, patience, meekness, and constancy, baffled all enemies, and triumphed over men and devils. How glorious was the victory of such an invincible virtue! Having before our eyes the examples of so many holy saints, are we yet so dastardly as to shrink under temptations, or to lose patience under the most ordinary trials? 2

Note 1. Avit de Virgin, p. 1312.
Note 2. Bosius and Aringhi, Roma Subterran. l. 3, c. 30, l. 4, c. 34, 37.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume IX: September.
The Lives of the Saints. 1866. September 11

St. Nicholas of Tolentino

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St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Confessor

St. Nicholas was born at St. Angelo in the March of Ancona, but is called Nicholas of Tolentino, from having resided during the last thirty years of his life at the latter place. His parents, Campanus and Amata, were long without issue, and desiring to be blessed with a child, they made a pilgrimage to Bari, to the shrine of the holy bishop St. Nicholas. Having most fervently performed their devotions, they were favored with an apparition of the Saint, who told them that they would have a son, whom they should call Nicholas, and who would become a man of eminent virtue. The truth of this prediction was soon made known. Amata gave birth to a son, who, in accordance with the command of the Saint, was named Nicholas. It was a striking fact, that from his early childhood, Nicholas possessed, in an eminent degree, the spirit of prayer, and when, as is the habit of children, he shed tears, nothing could pacify him more easily than to be told that they would carry him to church. When there he was always quiet, and as he became older, he showed a reverence that was truly angelical. He never spoke a word while in the house of God; never looked curiously about. In his whole conduct there was never seen any childishness or frivolity. Continue reading