Saint Matthew

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Saint Matthew

(† First Century)

One day, as Our Lord was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw, seated in his customs bureau, Levi the publican, whose business it was to collect the taxes from the people for their Roman masters. Jesus said to him: Follow Me. Leaving all behind, Matthew arose and did so, thereby giving us all an example of the way in which we should respond to grace. The humble Matthew, as he was thereafter called, tells us himself in his Gospel that he was Levi, one of those publicans abhorred by the Jews as enemies of their country, outcasts and notorious sinners, who enriched themselves by extortion and fraud. No Pharisee would sit with one at table; Our Saviour alone had compassion for them.

Saint Matthew prepared a great feast, to which he invited Jesus and His disciples, with a number of these publicans, who thereupon began to listen to Him with attention and joy. It was there, in answer to the murmurs of the Pharisees saying that this pretended prophet ate with publicans and sinners, that Jesus said, They that are in good health have no need of a physician. I have not come to call the just, but sinners to penance.

After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44, to teach his countrymen that the kingdom of heaven had already been instigated, for Jesus was their true Lord and the King foretold by the prophets. He departed then to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. When he resurrected the son of the Ethiopian king who had received him, the miracle brought about the conversion of the royal house and with them the entire province.

The king’s daughter consecrated herself to God with several other maidens. When a young man wished to marry the beautiful Iphigenia, Saint Matthew invited him to come and listen to a discourse he was to make to that community of virgins, to hear what he would say to them. When the Apostle extolled the state of virginity, the suitor became enraged and arranged to have him slain as he came from the altar. Saint Hippolyte calls Saint Matthew the victim and martyr of holy virginity.

It is said in the Constitutions of Pope Saint Clement that Saint Matthew instituted holy water, for protection of soul and body; the prayer he used for the purpose is reported in that document. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where he suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954, where they remained concealed in a cave, for protection, for over a hundred years.

Reflection: Obey all inspirations of Our Lord as promptly as Saint Matthew, who, at a single word, Saint Bridget says, laid down the heavy burden of the world, to take the light and sweet yoke of Christ.

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); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11




“My CHILD, be not too impressed by appearances. Foolish people cannot help being happy if they are RICH, POWERFUL, or if they have FAME and INFLUENCE. Be wise with My wisdom. Fix your heart on HEAVENLY RICHES. They you will see that passing glories and unsteady contentment are not as desireable as they seem. In fact, they are often a burden of WORK, WORRY AND FEAR.

Man’s HAPPINESS does not consist in having so much things. A moderate amount of this world’s good things are enough for you if you are working everyday to reach Heaven. The more you see life from My VIEWPOINT, the more you shall realize that this earthly life is a CROSS. It has its trials, burdens, disappointments and sorrows, all of which must be borne by us patiently. It is NOT EASY TO BE A SPIRITUAL PERSON, because the good things of this world will appeal to your feelings. Learn to govern your feelings with REASON and GRACE. CONTROL your feelings with your INTELLIGENCE AND MY COMMANDMENTS.

As you desire for SPIRITUAL PERFECTION grows, you will find yourself thinking more definitely of Heaven. Your desire for Heaven will become stronger and stronger. You may even have to control a dislike for the needs and obligations of daily life.

The more you think of your eternal destiny, the more you will realize that this earthly life is a JOURNEY towards something far greater than the world. See each day as a step towards Heaven, and look at yourself to see whether you are on the RIGHT PATH. Slowly, you will come to value the events of your daily life according to My Will and Heaven’s eternal happiness.”

Saint Eustachius and his Family

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Saint Eustachius and his Family

(† 118)

The remarkable story of Saint Eustachius, named Placidus before his conversion, is a lesson given by God Himself on the marvels of His Divine Providence. He was a distinguished and very wealthy officer of the Roman army under the Emperor Trajan, in the beginning of the second century. He practiced generous charity to the poor, although he had not yet perceived the errors of idolatry.

One day, while this distinguished officer was vainly pursuing a deer, the animal suddenly stood immobile before him in the light of a hilltop, and he perceived between its horns a luminous cross. On the cross was the image of the crucified Saviour, and a voice said to him, I am the Christ whom you honor without knowing it; the alms you give to the poor have reached Me. Like Saint Paul, he fell from his horse and remained inert for a time. Coming to himself, he said interiorly, What is this voice I have heard? You who speak to me, who are you, that I may believe in you? And the Lord told him interiorly that He was the Creator of the light, of the seasons, of man and all things visible, that he had suffered to save the human race, died and been buried, but had risen the third day.

This was sufficient, and the officer went home to fulfill the prescription he had received to be baptized with his wife and two young sons. His spouse had received a similar revelation at the same time as himself, and they all went to the Christian authority of the region in secret, to be baptized the same night.

In a short time he lost all his possessions through natural catastrophes and robbers. But he had been advised beforehand that the Lord wanted to make of him another Job, that already the ancient enemy had plotted against him, and that he was not to allow any thought of blasphemy to arise in his heart amid the sufferings that were awaiting him. He prayed for strength, and retired from the region after the calamities, with his wife and children. When by unforeseeable and extraordinary accidents, his wife and children were also taken from him, and he believed the children dead, he was close to despair and wished his life might end; but the warning of the Lord returned to his mind, and he entered into the service of a land-owner of a village called Badyssus, to tend the fields. He remained for fifteen years in this occupation. During this time his loved ones were well and safe, all spared in the perilous circumstances which had removed them from his sight, but separated, each one like himself, from the three others.

In those days the empire was suffering greatly from the ravages of barbarians, and was sinking under the assaults. The emperor Trajan had Eustachius sought out, and when he was found, had him clothed in splendid garments to give him command over the troops he intended to send against the invaders. During the celebration that accompanied his return, he related to the emperor all that had occurred to him. When the troops were being assembled, his own sons were conscripted. Seeing them, he noticed them as young men taller than most and of great nobility of bearing and countenance, and kept them near him without yet recognizing them. One of the two, while on bivouac near the very house of his own mother, who like Eustachius had taken employment in the garden of a landowner, related the confused memories of his childhood to his companion. Suddenly, the two brothers recognized one another and embraced in an effusion of joy.

Their mother, by a delicate attention of Providence, had chanced to overhear them, and reflecting on what she heard, became certain they were her own sons. She went to the captain of the campaign to inquire about them, and immediately recognized him. Not wishing to startle him, she began to relate her story, identifying herself as the wife of a certain Placidus, and saying she believed she was now in the presence of her two sons from whom she had been separated, and whom she had not seen for long years. One must imagine the sentiments of the captain on hearing this narration, the reunion which followed, and the prayers of thanksgiving sent up to God by the family and also the troops, who joined them in their joy and prayers.

Returning to Rome victorious, Eustachius was received in triumph and greatly honored, but when commanded to sacrifice during the celebration to the false gods, refused. The infuriated emperor Adrian — for Trajan had died — ordered him with his wife and children to be exposed to a starved lion. But instead of harming these servants of God, the beast came up to them, lowered its head as if in homage, and left the arena. The emperor, more furious still, caused the martyrs to be shut up inside a brazen bull, under which a fire was to be kindled, that they might be roasted to death. Saint Eustachius prayed aloud and thanked God, asking Him who had reunited them to cause that their lives end at the same time, so they might be received together by Him into the happiness of His presence. They expired, but neither their bodies nor even their hair was injured. They were found entire the next day, and at first it was believed they were still alive. Many believed in Christ through this final miracle, which to us today seems perhaps less miraculous than the story of their existence while alive. A church in honor of the martyrs still exists in Rome: Saint-Eustachius in Thermis.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 11

Prisoner in the Vatican

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Captivus Vaticani
Prisoner in the Vatican

A prisoner in the Vatican is how Pope Pius IX was described following the capture of Rome by the armed forces of the Kingdom of Italy on 20 September 1870. Part of the process of Italian unification, the city’s capture ended the millennial temporal rule of the popes over central Italy and allowed Rome to be designated the capital of the new nation. The appellation is also applied to Pius’ successors through Pope Pius XI.

As nationalism swept the Italian Peninsula in the 19th century, efforts to unify Italy were blocked in part by the Papal States, which ran through the middle of the peninsula and included the ancient capital of Rome. The Papal States were able to fend off efforts to conquer them largely through the pope’s influence over the leaders of stronger European powers such as France and Austria. When Rome was eventually taken, the Italian government reportedly intended to let the pope keep the part of Rome west of the Tiber called the Leonine City as a small remaining Papal State, but Pius IX refused.

For the next 59 years, the popes refused to leave the Vatican in order to avoid any appearance of accepting the authority wielded by the Italian government over Rome as a whole. During this period, popes also refused to appear at Saint Peter’s Square or at the balcony of the Vatican Basilica facing it, as the square in front of the basilica was occupied by Italian troops. During this period, popes granted the Urbi et Orbi blessings from a balcony facing a courtyard, or from inside the basilica, and papal coronations were instead held at the Sistine Chapel. The period ended in 1929, when the Lateran Treaty created the modern state of Vatican City.