A holy Pope and Martyr comes today, laying his bright crown at the foot of the triumphant Cross, whereby he won his victory. It is Alexander, the fifth successor of St. Peter. Let us honor this venerable witness of the Faith, who is now receiving the devout homage of the Church Militant, he who, for these long ages past, has been enjoying in heaven the company of our Risen Jesus. The Passion of his Divine Master was ever present to his mind while here on earth; and the Church has registered in her annals his adding four words to the Canon of the Mass, in which he expresses the fact of our Lord’s having instituted the august mystery of the Eucharist the day before he suffered.
We owe to the same holy Pontiff another institution, most dear to Catholic piety. It is by him that the Church received the sacramental which is such an object of terror to Satan, and which sanctifies everything it touches: Holy Water. This is an appropriate day for our renewing our faith in what regards this powerful element of blessing, which heretics and infidels have so frequently made the subject of their blasphemies, but whose use will ever serve as one of the distinguishing marks between them that are, and them that are not, Children of the Church. Water, the instrument of our regeneration—and Salt, the symbol of immortality, form, under the Church’s blessing, this Sacramental, in which we would have the greatest confidence. The Sacramentals, like the Sacraments, derive their efficacy from the Blood of the Redeemer, the merits of which are applied to certain material objects by the power of the Priesthood of the New Law. Indifference for these secondary means of salvation would be not only an indiscretion, but a sin; and yet, in these days of weak faith, nothing is so common as this indifference. There are Catholics for whom Holy Water is as though there were no such thing in existence; the continual use made of it by the Church is a lesson lost to them; they deprive themselves, without a single regret, of the help wherewith God has thus provided them, both to strengthen their weakness and to purify their souls. May the holy Pontiff Alexander pray for them, that their faith may become more what it ought to be; and that they begin to value the supernatural aids which God, out of pure mercy to them, has so profusely bestowed on his Church.
The following short notice on this holy Pope is given in the Breviary.
Alexander Romanus, Adriano imperatore regens Ecclesiam, magnam partem Romanæ nobilitatis ad Christum convertit. Is constituit, ut tantummodo panis, et vinum in mysterio offerretur: vinum autem aqua misceri jussit, propter sanguinem et aquam quæ ex Jesu Christi latere profluxerunt; et in Canone missæ addidit: Qui pridie quam pateretur. Idem decrevit, ut aqua benedicta sale admixto perpetuo in Ecclesia asservaretur, et cubiculis adhiberetur ad fugandos dæmones. Sedit annos decem, menses quinque, et dies viginti, vitæ sanctitate, et salutaribus institutis illustria. Martyrio coronatus est una cum Eventio et Theodulo presbyteris, sepultusque est via nomentana, tertio ab Urbe lapide, eodem in loco ubi securi percussus fuerat: creatus diverso tempore mense decembri presbyteris sex, diaconis duobus, et episcopis per diversa loca quinque. Eorum corpora postea in Urbem translata in Ecclesia sanctæ Sabinæ condita sunt. In eumdem diem incidit beata mors sancti Juvenalis Narniensis episcopi: qui cum plurimos in ea urbe sanctitate et doctrina Christo peperisset, clarus miraculis in pace quievit, ibique honorifice sepultus est.
Alexander, who was born at Rome, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Adrian, and converted a great portion of the Roman nobles to Christ. He decreed that only bread and wine should be offered in the Mystery, but that water should be mingled with the wine, in memory of the Blood and Water which flowed from the Side of Christ Jesus. He added to the Canon of the Mass these words: Qui pridie quam pateretur. He also decreed that Holy Water, with salt in it, should always be kept in a Church, and that it should be used in the dwellings of the Faithful for the purpose of driving away evil spirits. He governed the Church ten years, five months, and twenty days. He was illustrious for the holiness of his life, and the useful laws which he made. He was crowned with martyrdom together with the Priests Eventius and Theodulus, and was buried on the Nomentan Road, three miles out of Rome, and on the very spot where he had been beheaded. He ordained, in the December of various years, six priests, two deacons, and five bishops for divers places. The bodies of these Saints were afterwards translated to the Church of Saint Sabina in Rome. On this same day occurred the death of blessed Juvenal, Bishop of Narni, who, after having, by his learning and virtue, converted many persons of that city to Christ, and being celebrated for the miracles he wrought, he slept in peace, and was honorably buried in the same city.
Receive, O holy Pontiff, on this day, sacred as it is to the Cross of thy Divine Master, the devout homage of the Christian people. It was by the way of the Cross that thou, this day, ascendedst to heaven; it is but just that thy praise should be mingled with those which we are giving to the sacred instrument of our Redemption. Intercede for us with Him who shed his Blood for us upon this Tree of Life: may he graciously accept our celebration of his triumphant Resurrection, and the hymns we sing in honor of his Cross. Pray for us, that our Faith may increase; that thus we may appreciate the divine economy of the Redemption, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to employ, for our salvation, those very elements which the enemy had perverted to our destruction. Drive far from us that wretched nationalism, which while approving of certain usages of the Church because they happen to fit in with its fancies, presumes to treat all the rest with disdain. Pray also for the holy Church of Rome! She invokes thy name on this thy feast; prove to her that she is still dear to thee.
The Liturgical Year. 1904. Abbot Dom Gueranger, O.S.B. Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B. Imprimatur, 1910.