Saint Sylvester

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Saint Sylvester

Pope and Confessor
(280-335)

Saint Sylvester was born in Rome. When he reached the age to dispose of his fortune, he took pleasure in giving hospitality to Christians passing through the city. He would take them with him, wash their feet, serve them at table, and in sum give them in the name of Christ, all the care that the most sincere charity inspired. One day Timothy of Antioch, an illustrious confessor of the Faith, arrived in Rome. No one dared receive him, but Sylvester considered it an honor. For a year Timothy, preaching Jesus Christ with unflagging zeal, received at Sylvester’s dwelling the most generous hospitality. When this heroic man had won the palm of martyrdom, Sylvester took up his precious remains and buried them during the night. But he himself was soon denounced to the prefect and accused of having hidden the martyr’s treasures. He replied, Timothy left to me only the heritage of his faith and courage. The governor threatened him with death and had him imprisoned, but Sylvester said to him, Senseless one, this very night it is you who will render an account to God. And the persecutor that evening swallowed a fish bone, and died in fact that night.

Fear of heavenly chastisements softened the guardians, and the brave young man was set at liberty. Sylvester’s courageous acts became known to Saint Melchiad, Pope, who elevated him to the diaconate. He was a young priest when persecution of the Christians grew worse under the tyrant Diocletian. Idols were erected at the street corners, in the market-places, and over the public fountains, so that it was scarcely possible for a Christian to go abroad without being put to the test of offering sacrifice, with the alternative of apostasy or death. During this fiery trial, Sylvester strengthened the confessors and martyrs, and God preserved his life from many dangers. It was indeed he who was destined to succeed the Pope who had recognized his virtues.

His long pontificate of twenty-one years, famous for several reasons, is remembered in particular for the Council of Nicea, the Baptism of Constantine, and the triumph of the Church. Some authors would place Constantine’s Baptism later, but there are numerous and serious testimonies which fix the emperor’s reception into the Church under the reign of Saint Sylvester, and the Roman Breviary confirms that opinion. Constantine, while still pagan and little concerned for the Christians, whose doctrine was entirely unknown to him, was attacked by a kind of leprosy which soon covered his entire body. One night Saint Peter and Saint Paul, shining with light, appeared to him and commanded him to call for Pope Sylvester, who would cure him by giving him Baptism. In effect, the Pope instructed the royal neophyte and baptized him. Thus began the social reign of Jesus Christ: Constantine’s conversion, culminating in the Edict of Milan in 313, had as its happy consequence that of the known world.

Reflection: Never forget to thank God daily for having made you a member of His indefectible Church, and grow daily in your attachment, devotion, and loyalty to the Vicar of Christ. Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia: Where Peter is, there the Church is.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14; 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)

Jesus offered Himself for our salvation from the beginning

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Jesus offered Himself for our salvation from the beginning

“Consider that the divine Word knew that all the sacrifices of goats and bulls offered to the Father in times past had not been able to satisfy for the sins of humankind but that it required a divine person to pay the price of redemption. “My Father” said Jesus, “all the victims previously offered to You have not paid the debt, nor could they have paid the debt, necessary to satisfy Your justice. You have given me my humanity, in order that by shedding my blood, I might please You and save humanity. Behold I come. Here I am. I am ready. I accept everything and I submit myself in everything, to Your will.”

O my Jesus, I am weak, grant me strength against temptation. I am infirm, I hope that Your precious blood will be my medicine. I am a sinner but I hope that Your grace will make me a saint. I acknowledge that I have co-operated with my own ruin but this day, I promise always, to call upon You and in this way co-operate with Your grace.”

Scripture

Neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded.

Let all them be confounded that act unjust things without cause. shew, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.

Psalm xxiv:3-4

From Advent and Christmas Wisdom with St Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)

The Twelve Days of Christmas

We are all familiar with the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

We have all smiled indulgently at the extravagance of the lover who showered upon his beloved so many fantastic and inconvenient gifts. Every day of the Christmas season she received a new token of his love, each more fabulous than the last and increasingly numerous until she was the proud possessor of twenty-three birds, some valuable jewellery, a varied assortment of musicians and entertainers, and eight milkmaids.

But it is more than a rhapsody of strange and delightful nonsense. It is a song of Catholic instruction. Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law – private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic. So the English Catholics created as a memory aid to help children learn their Faith. The “true love” is no earthly suitor, but God Himself, Who gives His wondrous gifts to “me,” every baptized person. Continue reading

Saint Sabinus and his Companions

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Saint Sabinus and his Companions

Bishop of Spoleto and Marytrs
(† 303)

When the cruel edicts of Diocletian and Maximin Hercules were published against the Christians in the year 303, it required more than ordinary force in the bishops and clergy, to encourage the people to undergo martyrdom rather than apostatize. All were forbidden even to draw water or grind wheat, if they would not first incense idols placed for that purpose in the markets and on street corners.

Saint Sabinus, Bishop of Spoleto, with Marcellus and Exuperantius, his deacons, and several other members of his clergy who were worthy of their sacred mandate, were apprehended in Assisi for revolt and thrown into prison by Venustianus, Governor of Etruria and Umbria. He summoned them before him a few days later and required that they adore his idol of Jupiter, richly adorned with gold. The holy bishop took up the idol and threw it down, breaking it in pieces. The prefect, furious, had his hands cut off and his deacons tortured on the rack and burnt with torches until they expired.

Saint Sabinus was put back into prison for a time. He was aided there by a Christian widow of rank, who brought her blind nephew to him there to be cured. Fifteen prisoners who witnessed this splendid miracle were converted to the Faith. The prefect left the bishop in peace for a month, because he himself was suffering from a painful eye ailment. He heard of the miracle and came to the bishop in prison with his wife and two sons, to ask him for help in his affliction. Saint Sabinus answered that if Venustianus would believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized with his wife and children, he would obtain that grace for him. The officer consented, they were baptized, and he threw into the river the pieces of his broken statue. Soon all the new converts gave their lives for having confessed the Gospel, sentenced by Lucius, whom Maximus Hercules sent to Spoleto after hearing of their decision, to judge and condemn them.

As for Saint Sabinus, he was beaten so cruelly that on December 7, 303, he expired under the blows. The charitable widow, Serena, after seeing to his honorable burial near the city, was also crowned with martyrdom. A basilica was later built at the site of the bishop’s tomb, and a number of monasteries in Italy were consecrated under his illustrious name.

Reflection: How powerfully do the martyrs cry out to us by their example, exhorting us to detach from a false and wicked world!

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14

Sermon for Children’s Mass

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Sermon for Children’s Mass:
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas Day
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900

Gospel. Luke ii. 33 – 40. At that time Joseph, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, were wondering at those things, which were spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. Now she at the same hour coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, into their city Nazareth. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom: and the grace of God was in him.  Continue reading