The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

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The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1587

Mary’s troubles began six days after her birth in 1542. It was on that day that her father, King James V of Scotland, died and the infant was declared Queen of the Scots. She was immediately thrust into a caldron of political turmoil containing a broiling mix of the long-standing enmity between Scotland and England, the fragility of the Tudor succession to the English throne, England’s rivalry with France, and the religious violence between Catholics and heretic Protestants.

Young Mary

As the great-granddaughter of England’s Henry VII, Mary was next in line to the crown of England after the apostate Henry VIII’s children – Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. The Scots attempted to remove the threat posed to Henry’s succession by pledging the new-born Mary to marriage with his son Edward. This plan soon self-destructed, however, and the Scots turned to their old ally (and England’s old enemy) France. Mary was sent there at age six for her upbringing and education.

The 18-year-old Mary a confirmed Catholic returned to Scotland in 1561 to reign as Queen of her subjects who had now become Protestant heretics. Contrary to all expectations, Queen and subjects initially achieved an uncomfortable accommodation. However, this situation quickly deteriorated.
In 1565 Mary married her first cousin Henry, Lord Darnley and gave birth to a son – James – the following year. In 1567, her husband was murdered and Mary quickly married the Scottish Earl of Bothwell an action that outraged the Scottish nobility who promptly imprisoned Mary and forced her to abdicate her throne to her one-year-old son, James.
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St. Romuald

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St. Romuald, Founder of the Order of Camaldoll

Ravenna, a well-known town in Italy, received, in the beginning of the tenth century, from God, the grace to become the birthplace of St. Romuald. The first twenty years of his life he passed like a child of the world, who only seeks after pleasure. Dogs, horses, hunting, riding, play, and society, were the only things he enjoyed, and in which he occupied his time. Of praying, visiting the church, listening to the Word of God, reading holy books, or other Christian exercises, he cared to hear and know nothing, until God, by the following incident, opened his eyes and brought him to the knowledge of Himself, and to repentance. His father, Sergius, Duke of Ravenna, had slain, in a duel, one of his best friends. This Romuald had witnessed, and it affected him to such a degree, that he went to Classis into a Benedictine Monastery, where he remained forty days, praying, fasting, and watching. A pious Friar, who waited upon him, endeavored to disgust him with the world, by picturing to him the many and great dangers to which those living in it were exposed. Romuald could not at first reconcile himself to the idea of relinquishing the world, but, after many prayers and the appearance of St. Apollonarius, who was patron of the monastery, he resolved to dedicate his life to the service of God, and entered the monastery. The life he henceforth led was so austere, so penitential, and so strictly in conformity with all the rules of the Order, that others, who were sluggish in the fulfilment of their duties, reproached by his example, regarded him with hatred, and even conspired against his life. As soon as Romuald became aware of this, he left the monastery and retired, with the knowledge and consent of the Abbot, into the desert to Marinus, a hermit renowned for his sanctity, under whose guidance he attained great perfection. With this, his teacher, he went to Venice and induced the Duke, Peter Urseoli, who, besides having committed many crimes, had unjustly taken possession of the Government, to leave Venice, and, with many others, to enter upon a religious life. In this way Romuald caused many others, either by personal persuasion or by letters, to repent and reform. Among these was his own father, whom he had prevailed upon to enter a monastery, and when, some years later he heard of his intention to leave it again, he walked barefooted from France to Ravenna, where his father was. By his fervent exhortations and to his own great happiness, he succeeded in persuading his father to continue his penitential life, after which he returned home, humbly praising and thanking the Almighty. Continue reading


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THE life of St. John of Matha was one long course of self-sacrifice for the glory of God and the good of his neighbor. As a child, his chief delight was serving the poor; and he often told them he had come into the world for no other end but to wash their feet. He studied at Paris with such distinction that his professors advised him to become a priest, in order that his talents might render greater service to others; and, for this end, John gladly sacrificed his high rank and other worldly advantages. At his first Mass an angel appeared, clad in white, with a red and blue cross on his breast, and his hands reposing on the heads of a Christian and a Moorish captive. To ascertain what this signified, John repaired to St. Felix of Valois, a holy hermit living near Meaux, under whose direction he led a life of extreme penance. The angel again appeared, and they then set out for Rome, to learn the will of God from the lips of the Sovereign Pontiff, who told them to devote themselves to the redemption of captives. For this purpose they founded the Order of the Holy Trinity. The religious fasted every day, and gathering alms throughout Europe took them to Barbary, to redeem the Christian slaves. They devoted themselves also to the sick and prisoners in all countries. The charity of St. John in devoting his life to the redemption of captives was visibly blessed by God. On his second return from Tunis he brought back one hundred and twenty liberated slaves. But the Moors attacked him at sea, over- i powered his vessel, and doomed it to destruction, with all on board, by taking away the rudder and sails, and leaving it to the mercy of the winds. St. John tied his cloak to the mast, and prayed, saying, “Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered. O Lord, Thou wilt save the humble, and wilt bring down the eyes of the proud.” Suddenly the wind filled the small sail, and, without guidance, carried the ship safely in a few days to Ostia, the port of Rome, three hundred leagues from Tunis. Worn out by his heroic labors, John died in 1213, at the age of fifty-three.

Reflection.—Let us never forget that our blessed Lord, bade us love our neighbor not only as ourselves, but as He loved us, Who afterwards sacrificed Himself for us.

Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler, Benziger Bros. ed. [1894],
February 8.