St. Hippolytus

Image may contain: 1 person

St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr

From Prudent. hymn. 11. De Cor. ed. a P. Chamillard, in usum Delphini, p. 278.

A.D. 252.

ONE of the most illustrious martyrs who suffered in the reign of Gallus 1 was St. Hippolytus, one of the twenty-five priests of Rome, who had the misfortune for some time to have been deceived by the hypocrisy of Novation and Novatus, and to have been engaged in their schism; but this fault he expiated by his public repentance, and a glorious martyrdom. He was apprehended, and interrogated on the rack in Rome; but the prefect of the city having filled it with Christian blood, went to Ostia to extend the persecution in those parts of the country, and ordered our saint and several other Christians who were then in prison at Rome, to be conducted thither after him. St. Hippolytus being brought out of prison, many of those who had been under his care, came to beg his last advice and blessing, as he was going to martyrdom; and he vehemently exhorted them to preserve the unity of the church. “Fly,” said he, “from the unhappy Novatus, and return to the Catholic church. Adhere to the only faith which subsists from the beginning, which was preached by Paul, and is maintained by the chair of Peter. I now see things in a different light, and repent of what I once taught.” After he had thus undeceived his flock, and earnestly recommended to all the unity of holy faith, he was conducted to Ostia. The prefect, who was gone before the prisoners the same day, as soon as they arrived, ascended his tribunal, surrounded with his executioners, and various instruments of torture. The confessors were ranged in several companies before him, and by their emaciated faces, the length of their hair, and the filth with which they were covered, showed how much they had suffered by their long imprisonment. The judge, finding that he was not able to prevail with any of them by torments, at length condemned them all to be put to death. Some he caused to be beheaded, others to be crucified, others burnt, and some to be put out to sea in rotten vessels, which immediately foundered. When the venerable old man, Hippolytus, was in his turn brought to him loaded with chains, a crowd of young people cried out to the judge, that he was a chief among the Christians, and ought to be put to death by some new and remarkable kind of punishment. “What is his name?” said the prefect. They answered: “Hippolytus.” The prefect said: “Then let him be treated like Hippolytus, and dragged by wild horses.” By this sentence he alluded to Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, who, flying from the indignation of his father, met a monster, the sight of which affrighted his horses, so that he fell from his chariot, and, being entangled in the harness, was dragged along, and torn to pieces. 2 No sooner was the order given but the people set themselves to work in assisting the executioners. Out of the country, where untamed horses were kept, they took a pair of the most furious and unruly they could meet with, and tied a long rope between them instead of a poll, to which they fastened the martyr’s feet. Then they provoked the horses to run away by loud cries, whipping and pricking them. The last words which the martyr was heard to say as they started, were: “Lord, they tear my body, receive thou my soul.” The horses dragged him away furiously into the woods, through brooks, and over ditches, briers, and rocks: they beat down the hedges, and broke through every thing that came in their way. The ground, the thorns, trees, and stones, were sprinkled with his blood, which the faithful that followed him at a distance weeping, respectfully sucked up from every place with spunges, and they gathered together all the mangled parts of his flesh and limbs, which lay scattered all about. They brought these precious relics to Rome, and buried them in the subterraneous caverns called catacombs, which Prudentius 3 here describes at large. Continue reading

St. John Berchmans

Image may contain: 2 people, indoor

St. John Berchmans

Born at Diest in Brabant, 13 March, 1599; died at Rome, 13 August, 1621. His parents watched with the greatest solicitude over the formation of his character. He was naturally kind, gentle, and affectionate towards them, a favourite with his playmates, brave and open, attractive in manner, and with a bright, joyful disposition. Yet he was also, by natural disposition, impetuous and fickle. Still, when John was but seven years of age, M. Emmerick, his parish priest, already remarked with pleasure that the Lord would work wonders in the soul of the child. Many are the details that reveal him to us as he was in the Society of Jesus. He was but nine years of old when his mother was stricken with a long and serious illness. John would pass several hours each day by her bedside, and console her with his affectionate though serious, words. Later, when he lived with some other boys at M. Emmerick’s house, he would undertake more than his share of the domestic work, selecting by preference the more difficult occupations. If he was loved by his comrades, he repaid their affection by his kindness, without, however, deviating from the dictates of his conscience. It was noticed even that he availed himself discreetly of his influence over them to correct their negligences and to restrain their frivolous conversation. Eager to learn, and naturally endowed with a bright intellect and a retentive memory, he enhanced the effect of these gifts by devoting to study whatever time he could legitimately take from his ordinary recreation. Continue reading

Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners

Image may contain: 11 people

Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners

The worst evil that can befall man is sin. God has not only prepared for us a remedy against sin in the merits of Jesus Christ, but has given us poor sinners a secure refuge in the help of the Blessed Virgin. It was Her privilege to be exempt from all sin, so the principal grace She obtains for Her clients is to preserve them from sin. If you should have the misfortune of falling into sin, go to your Heavenly Mother and beg Her for the grace of true contrition. Pray especially for souls who are weighed down by sin, that they may not despair but find refuge in the loving arms of their Heavenly Mother.

“His Mercy is from generation unto generation, to those who fear Him.” (Luke 150)

O Virgin Mother, remember to speak in our behalf in the presence of God and keep His displeasure from coming upon us! Thou the Source of pardon, Thou, the Mother of Grace, Thou, the Hope of the world! Hear us as we cry to Thee. Hail Mary…

Mary speaks: He who hearkens unto me shall not be confounded: and they who work by me, shall not sin. (Ecclus. 24:30)

Let us Pray. O Almighty and Merciful God, Who in the Blessed Virgin Mary hast given a refuge and a help, grant us, who are protected by her, the forgiveness of all our sins and the blessings of Thy mercy. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The Dormition of Mary

Image may contain: 1 person

The Dormition of Mary

Mother of Christ

Father Bourdaloue, a famous preacher of the 17th century French court, said in a sermon on the Assumption:

Never was there a death more precious in the sight of God than that of the Virgin, because there was never a life more filled with merits than Hers. The death of the Blessed Virgin was precious not only by the merits which preceded it, but also by the graces and favors which accompanied it. But what made it precious in God’s sight is above all the dispositions of mind and heart with which She received it… What then was Her disposition of mind? She envisaged death in the light of the purest faith, as the fulfillment of her wishes, as the means of being promptly reunited with Her Son and Her God, whose absence had for so long been a source of sorrow for Her. Her disposition of heart? Seeing death in this light, She desired it with all the ardor of the most fervent charity. Far more fervently than Saint Paul She longed to be disengaged from the bonds of the flesh, to live with Jesus Christ…

The bishop of Meaux, Bossuet, preaches in the same vein: If the great Apostle wants to break the bonds of the flesh to go to meet his Master at the Father’s right hand, what must the emotion of a maternal heart be? … And what regret had the Virgin not experienced, seeing Herself separated for so long from a Son whom She loved as She alone could love? … She prayed, Ah, my Lord! permit my love to act! It will soon detach my soul from my mortal body, and transport me to You, in whom alone I live.’ If you believe me, holy souls, you will not labor long to seek any other cause for Her death. This love, so ardent, so strong, so inflamed, could not utter a single sigh incapable of breaking all the bonds of that body; it did not send forth a single desire to heaven which did not take with it the soul of Mary. Ah! I said earlier that the death of Mary was miraculous; now I speak a little differently, and say that it is not so much Her death that is a miracle; Her death is rather the cessation of a miracle. The continuous miracle was that Mary could live, separated from Her Beloved.

We see from these texts why the departure of the soul of Our Lady is not termed a death like that of other mortals, but rather a dormition — a falling asleep in the Lord, as the early Christians called it. (Cf. Acts 7:60) All writers on the subject are unanimous — it was Her supreme love for God, nothing else, which was its cause. Tradition affirms that She knew in advance that Her departure was at hand, and prepared with incredible fervor for the holy moment, when She would hear the voice of Her Son say: Come to Your eternal repose, O blessed Mother: arise and come, You who are My Heart’s friend, the most beautiful of women. The winter is over, the springtime begins; come, My all-beautiful one, My beloved; there is no stain in You; I prefer Your perfumes to all others.

Somme des Grandeurs de Marie, by Abbé Z.-C. Jourdain (H. Walzer: Paris, 1900), Vol. II