St. Eleutherius

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St. Eleutherius, Pope and Martyr

HE was by birth a Grecian, and deacon of the church of Rome under Pope Anicetus. He succeeded St. Soter in the pontificate in 176, and governed the church whilst it was beaten with violent storms. Montanus, an ambitious vain man of Mœsia on the confines of Phrygia, sought to raise himself among men by pretending that the Holy Ghost spoke by his mouth, and published forged revelations. His followers afterwards advanced that he was himself the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete Spirit sent by Christ according to his promises to perfect his law. They seem at first only to have been schismatics and enthusiasts; but soon after added heresy and blasphemy, calling Montanus the Holy Ghost in the same manner that Christ is God the Son. They affected an excessive rigour, had many fasts, kept three Lents in the year, refused the communion and absolution to persons who had fallen into any sin of impurity, condemned second marriages as adulteries, and taught that it is unlawful to flee from persecution. Priscilla and Maximilla, two women of the town of Pepuza in Phrygia, vaunted their pretended prophecies, and were the oracles of their deluded votaries. The devil uses all sorts of baits to destroy souls. If many perish by those of pleasure, others fall by pride, which is gratified by a love of singularity, and by an affected austerity. Some who braved the racks and gridirons of the persecutors, and despised the allurements of pleasure, had the misfortune to become the dupes of this wretched enthusiast, and martyrs of the devil. False prophets wear every face except that of a sincere and docile humility, though their austerity towards themselves usually ends in a short time in some shameful libertinism, when vanity, the main-spring of their passions, is either cloyed or finds nothing to gratify it. In this we see the false rigorists of our times resemble those of former ages.  Continue reading

Saint Philip Neri

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Saint Philip Neri

Founder (1515-1595)

Saint Philip, one of the glories of Florence, was born of an illustrious Christian family in that city of Tuscany, in 1515. His parents lived in the fear of God and the observance of His commandments, and raised their son to be obedient and respectful. Already when he was five years old, he was called good little Philip. He lost his mother while still very young, and it seemed he should have died himself when he was about eight or nine years old. He fell, along with a horse, onto a pavement from a certain height. Though the horse landed on top of him, he was entirely uninjured. He attributed his preservation to a special intervention of God, destined to permit him to dedicate his life to the service of God.

He fled from a prospective inheritance to Rome, where he desired to study, and there undertook to tutor the two sons of a nobleman who offered him refuge. He led so edifying a life that word of it reached Florence, and his sister commented that she had never doubted he would become a great Saint. He studied philosophy and theology, and after a short time seemed to need to study no longer, so clear were the truths of God in his mind. He always kept the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas near him for consultation; this and the Holy Bible were his only books.

Saint Philip seemed surrounded by a celestial splendor, the effect of his angelic purity, which he never lost in spite of the many dangers that surrounded him; he came victorious from every combat, through prayer, tears and confidence in God. He often visited the hospitals to serve the sick and assist the poor. At night he would go to the cemetery of Saint Callixtus, where he prayed near the tombs of the martyrs.

He attracted a number of companions who desired to perform these devotions with him. He loved young boys most of all; he wanted to warn them against the world’s seductions and conserve their virtue in all its freshness. He would wait for them and talk to them after their classes; and many whom his examples impressed consecrated themselves to God. Assisted by his excellent confessor, he founded a Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity for the relief of the poor, convalescents, and pilgrims who had no place of refuge. He gave lodging to many in the great jubilee year of 1550, even receiving several complete families in the houses he had obtained.

At the age of 36 he was not yet a priest, and his confessor commanded him under obedience to receive Holy Orders, which he did in the same year of 1551. He joined a society of priests and heard many confessions. Saint Ignatius of Loyola called him Philip the Bell, saying he was like a parish church bell, calling everyone to church, but remaining in his tower — this because he determined so many souls to enter into religion, without doing so himself. He himself was about to follow Saint Francis Xavier’s renowned examples, by going to India with twenty young companions, but was advised by an interior voice to consult a saintly priest. He was then told that the will of God was that he live in the city of Rome as in a desert.

The famous Society of Saint Philip, called The Oratory, began when a group of good priests joined him in giving instructions and conferences and presiding prayers; for them he drew up some rules which were soon approved. He became renowned all over Italy for the instances of bilocation which were duly verified during his lifetime. Many holy servants of God were formed in the Oratory, a society of studious priests, made ready by ten years of preparation in the common life for a service founded on sacerdotal perfection. Saint Philip died peacefully in 1595 on the Feast of Corpus Christi at the age of 80, having been ill for only one day. He bears the noble titles of Patron of Works of Youth, and Apostle of Rome.

Reflection. Philip wished his spiritual children to serve God, like the first Christians, in gladness of heart. He said such was the true filial spirit, expanding the soul, giving it liberty and perfection in action, power over temptations, and aid towards its final perseverance.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5

 

Saint Gregory VII

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Saint Gregory VII

Pope (1029-1085)

Gregory VII, one of the greatest of the Roman Pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all times, was known as Hildebrand before he became Pope. Born in Tuscany in 1020, he was sent to Rome to be educated under his uncle, who was Abbot of Saint Mary’s monastery on the Aventine Hill. It was a time of great danger for the Church, when the Emperors of Germany were claiming it was their role to elect the successors of Saint Peter, the Vicars of Jesus Christ. They sold ecclesiastic dignities at auction or gave them to unworthy favorites, and many sees were occupied by persons who had obtained them with gold. It was this humble monk who had embraced the Benedictine Rule at the famous monastery of Cluny in France, who was chosen to bring a remedy to the current evils. The three great abuses, simony, concubinage, and the custom of receiving investiture from lay hands, seemed to threaten the very foundations of the Church. This great servant of God would never cease to oppose those corruptions of the reign of Christ.

Hildebrand was admired by the bishops of France when for a time he was at the Court of the Emperor Henry III. He returned to Rome with the bishop of Toul, who had been chosen Pope by the Emperor Henry III, and who invited him to accompany him. The young monk reproached him for having received from his relative a favor which should be granted only by the clergy and people of Rome; but when the bishop ceded to his arguments, he said he would accompany him if he would have his election ratified there. This was carried out, and Hildebrand became the right arm of the good Pope Leo IX. He was made a cardinal and named Superior of the Roman monastery of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls, which lay almost in ruins because the major part of its revenues had been usurped by powerful laymen. Hildebrand succeeded in recovering its lands and restored the monastery to its ancient splendor.

When Leo IX died, the clergy and people of Rome sent Hildebrand at the head of a delegation to the Emperor, with full power to elect a Sovereign Pontiff. It was he who chose Pope Victor II, against the Emperor’s wishes, and again he became the right arm of the Pope in the combat against abuses. Pope Victor II sent him as legate to France, to stop the practice of simony in the collation of ecclesiastical benefices. He served as Archdeacon under three more Popes, Stephen II, Nicholas II and Alexander II. Upon the death of the last-named in 1073, he was compelled to fill the vacancy.

Pope Gregory VII immediately called upon the clergy throughout the world to lay down their lives rather than betray the laws of God to the will of princes. Rome was in rebellion due to the ambition of the Cenci, a family of Rome whose history is a series of acts of violence and crimes. Pope Gregory excommunicated them. As a consequence they laid hands on him during the Christmas midnight Mass, wounded him and cast him into prison; the following day the people rescued him. He then was forced to face Henry IV, Emperor of Germany, who openly relapsed into simony and claimed to depose the Pope. The Emperor too was excommunicated. The people turned against Henry and he sought absolution of Gregory at Canossa, but he regrettably did not persevere; he set up an antipope and besieged Gregory in the castle of Saint Angelo in Rome. The aged Pontiff was obliged to flee.

Opinion is unanimous that no Pontiff since the time of the Apostles undertook more labors for the Church or fought more courageously for her independence. While he was saying Mass, a dove was seen to come down on him; the Holy Spirit thus bore witness to the supernatural views which guided him in the government of the Church. Forced to leave Rome, he withdrew to Monte Cassino, and later to the castle of Salerno, where he died in 1085.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 5; Heavenly Friends: a Saint for each Day, by Rosalie Marie Levy (Saint Paul Editions: Boston, 1958).

Saint Urban

Saint Urban, Pope and Martyr.

HE succeeded St. Calixtus in the year 223, the third of the emperor Alexander, and sat seven years. Though the church enjoyed peace under that mild reign, this was frequently disturbed by local persecutions raised by the people or governors. In the acts of St. Cecily this zealous pope is said to have encouraged the martyrs, and converted many idolaters. He is styled a martyr in the sacramentary of St. Gregory, in the Martyrology of St. Jerom published by Florentinius, and in the Greek liturgy. It appears from Fortunatus and several ancient missals, that the festival of St. Urban was celebrated in France with particular devotion in the sixth age. A very old church stood on the Appian road dedicated to God in honour of this saint, near the place where he was first interred, in the cemetery of Prætextatus. His body was there found together with those of SS. Cecily, Tiburtius, and Valerian in 821, and translated by Pope Paschal into the church of St. Cecily. Papebroke shows that it is the body of another martyr of the same name, famous in ancient records, which Nicholas I. sent in 862 to the monks of St. Germanus of Auxerre, and which now adorns the monastery of Saint Urban in the diocess of Challons on the Marne, near Joinville. It is exposed in a silver shrine. See Tillemont, t. 3. p. 258.

May 25. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume V: May. The Lives of the Saints