Saint Patrick

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Saint Patrick

Bishop, Apostle of Ireland
(373-464)

If the virtue of children reflects honor on their parents, much more justly is the name of Saint Patrick rendered illustrious by the innumerable lights of sanctity which shone in the Church of Ireland during many ages, and by the colonies of Saints with which it peopled many foreign countries. The Apostle of Ireland was born in Scotland towards the close of the fourth century, in a village which seems to be the present-day Scotch town of Kilpatrick, between Dumbarton and Glasgow. He calls himself both a Briton and a Roman, that is, of mixed extraction, and says his father was of a good family named Calphurnius. Some writers call his mother Conchessa, and say she was the niece of Saint Martin of Tours.

In his sixteenth year he was carried into captivity in Ireland by barbarians. There he was obliged to shepherd cattle on the mountains and in the forests, in hunger and nakedness, amid snow, rain, and ice. The young man had recourse to God with his whole heart, in fervent prayer and fasting, and from that time faith and the love of God acquired a constantly renewed strength in his tender soul. After six months spent in slavery, Saint Patrick was admonished by God in a dream to return to his own country, and was informed that a ship was then ready to sail there. He went at once to the seacoast, though at a great distance, and found the vessel, but he could not obtain his passage — probably for want of money. Patrick was returning to his hut, praying as he went, when the sailors, though pagans, called him back and took him on board.

Some years afterwards he was again taken captive, but recovered his liberty after two months. While he was at home with his parents, God manifested to him, by divers visions, that He destined him for the great work of the conversion of Ireland. His biographers say that after his second captivity he traveled into Gaul and Italy, and saw Saint Martin, Saint Germanus of Auxerre, and Pope Saint Celestine, and that he received his mission and the apostolical benediction from this Pope, who died in 432. It is certain that he spent many years in preparing himself for his sacred calling. Great opposition was raised to his episcopal consecration and mission, both by his own relatives and by the clergy. They made him great offers in order to detain him among them, and endeavored to affright him by exaggerating the dangers to which he exposed himself amid the enemies of the Romans and Britons, who did not know God. All these temptations cast the Saint into great perplexity; but the Lord, whose Will he consulted by earnest prayer, supported him and he persevered in his resolution.

He therefore left his family, sold his birthright and dignity, and consecrated his soul to God, to serve strangers and carry His name to the ends of the earth. In this disposition he passed into Ireland, to preach the Gospel where the worship of idols still generally reigned. He traveled over the island, penetrating into the remotest corners, and such was the fruit of his preaching and sufferings that he baptized an infinite number of persons. Everywhere he ordained clergymen, induced women to live in holy widowhood and continence, consecrated virgins to Christ, and founded monasteries, not without many persecutions.

Saint Patrick held several councils to regulate the discipline of the Church he had planted. Saint Bernard and the tradition of the country testify that he fixed his metropolitan see at Armagh. He established other bishops, as appears by the acts of a council and various other documents. He not only converted the whole country by his preaching and wonderful miracles, but also cultivated this vineyard with so fruitful a benediction from heaven as to render Ireland a flourishing garden in the Church of God, and a land of Saints. He converted and baptized the kings of Dublin and Munster and the seven sons of the king of Connaught, with the majority of their subjects, and before his death almost the whole island. He founded three monasteries and filled the countryside with churches and schools of piety and learning. He died and was buried at Down in Ulster. His body was found there in a church of his name in 1185, and moved to another part of the same church.

Reflection. By the instrumentality of Saint Patrick the Faith remained for long centuries as fresh in Ireland as when it was first planted. Ask him to obtain for you the special grace his children receive: to prefer the loss of every earthly good to the least compromise in matters of faith.

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).

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday

The Example of Christ Crucified

Christ assumed human nature in order to restore fallen humanity. He had therefore to suffer and to do, according to human nature, the things which could serve as a remedy against the sin of the fall.

Man’s sin consists in this that he so cleaves to bodily goods that he neglects what is good spiritually. It was therefore necessary for the Son of God to show this in the humanity He had taken, through all He did and suffered, so that men should repute temporal things, whether good or evil, as nothing, for otherwise, hindered by an exaggerated affection for them, they would be less devoted to spiritual things.

Christ therefore chose poor people for His parents, people nevertheless perfect in virtue, so that none of us should glory in the mere rank or wealth of our parents.

He led the life of a poor man, to teach us to set no store by wealth.

He lived the life of an ordinary man, without any rank, to wean men from an undue desire for honours.

Toil, thirst, hunger, the aches of the body, all these He endured, to encourage men, whom pleasures and delights attract, not to be deterred from virtue by the austerity a good life entails.

He went so far as to endure even death, lest the fear of death might at any time tempt man to abandon the truth. And lest any of us might dread to die even a shameful death for the truth, He chose to die by the most accursed death of all, by crucifixion.

That the Son of God, made man, should suffer death was also fitting for this reason, that by His example He stimulates our courage, and so makes true what St. Peter said, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow His steps (I Pet. ii. 21).

Christ truly suffered for us, leaving us an example in anxieties, contempts, scourgings, the cross, death itself, that we might follow in His steps. If we endure for Christ our own anxieties and sufferings, we shall also reign together with Christ in the happiness that is everlasting. St. Bernard says, ” How few are they, O Lord, who yearn to go after Thee, and yet there is no one that desireth not to come to Thee, for all men know that in Thy right hand are delights that will never fail. All desire to enjoy Thee, but not all to imitate Thee. They would willingly reign with Thee, but spare themselves from suffering with Thee. They have no desire to look for Thee, whom yet they desire to find.” 

St. Zachary

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St. Zachary, Pope and Confessor

HE succeeded Gregory III. in 741, and was a man of singular meekness and goodness; and so far from any thought of revenge, that he heaped benefits on those who had persecuted him before his promotion to the pontificate. He loved the clergy and people of Rome to that degree, that he hazarded his life for them on occasion of the troubles which Italy fell into by the rebellion of the dukes of Spoletto and Benevento against King Luitprand. Out of respect to his sanctity and dignity, that king restored to the church of Rome all the places which belonged to it, Ameria, Horta, Narni, Ossimo, Ancona, and the whole territory of Sabina, and sent back the captives without ransom. The Lombards were moved to tears at the devotion with which they heard him perform the divine service. By a journey to Pavia, he obtained also of Luitprand, though with some difficulty, peace for the territory of Ravenna, and the restitution of the places which he had taken from the exarchate. The zeal and prudence of this holy pope appeared in many wholesome regulations, which he had made to reform or settle the discipline and peace of several churches. St. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, wrote to him against a certain priest, named Virgilius; that he laboured to sow the seeds of discord between him and Odilo, duke of Bavaria, and taught, besides other errors, that there were other men under the earth, another sun and moon, and another world. 1 Pope Zachary answered, that if he taught such an error he ought to be deposed. This cannot be understood as a condemnation of the doctrine of Antipodes, or the spherical figure of the earth, as some writers have imagined by mistake. The error here spoken of is that of certain heretics, who maintained that there was another race of men, who did not descend from Adam, and were not redeemed by Christ. Nor did Zachary pronounce any sentence in the case: for in the same letter he ordered that Virgilius should be sent to Rome, that his doctrine might be examined. It seems that he cleared himself: for we find this same Virgilius soon after made bishop of Saltzburgh. 2 Certain Venetian merchants having bought at Rome many slaves to sell to the Moors in Africa, St. Zachary forbade such an iniquitous traffic, and, paying the merchants their price, gave the slaves their liberty. He adorned Rome with sacred buildings, and with great foundations in favour of the poor and pilgrims, and gave every year a considerable sum to furnish oil for the lamps in St. Peter’s church. He died in 752, in the month of March, and is honoured in the Roman Martyrology on this day. See his letters and the Pontificals, t. 6. Conc. also Fleury, l. 42. t. 9. p. 349. 1

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. March 15. 

Saints Abraham and Mary

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Saint Abraham

Solitary and Priest
(†370)

and Saint Mary (†375)

his niece
(†370)

Abraham was a rich nobleman of Edessa, born in the year 300. Ceding to his parents’ desire, while still very young he married, but escaped to a cell near the city as soon as the feast was over. His family searched for him for seventeen days, and were still more astonished when they found him. Why are you surprised? he asked them. Admire instead the favor God has granted me, the grace to bear the yoke of His service, which He has wanted to impose on me without regard to my unworthiness. He walled up his cell door, leaving only a small window open for the food which would be brought to him from that time on.

The wealth which fell to Saint Abraham by the death of his parents ten years after his retirement, he gave to the poor by the good offices of a friend, to whose probity he entrusted the commission. Since many were seeking him out for advice and consolation, the Bishop of Edessa ordained him priest, overruling his humility. Soon after his ordination, he was sent to an idolatrous city which had hitherto been deaf to every messenger. He was insulted, beaten, and three times banished, but he returned each time with fresh zeal. For three years he pleaded with God for those souls, and in the end prevailed. Every citizen came to him for Baptism. After providing for their spiritual needs he went back to his cell, more than ever convinced of the power of prayer.

In that cell, then, for fifty years, he would continue to sing God’s praises and implore mercy for himself and for all men. Saint Ephrem wrote of him that a day did not pass without his shedding tears; but that despite his constant and severe penance, he always maintained an agreeable disposition and a healthy and vigorous body. He never reproved anyone with sharpness, but all he said was seasoned with the salt of charity and gentleness.

His brother on dying left an only daughter, Mary, to the Saint’s care. He placed her in a cell near his own, and devoted himself to training her in perfection. After twenty years of innocence she grew lax and fled to a distant city, where she drowned the voice of her conscience in sin. For two years the Saint and his friend Saint Ephrem prayed earnestly for her. Then Abraham went in disguise to seek the lost sheep, and had the joy of bringing her back to the desert a true penitent. She received the gift of miracles, and her countenance after death shone as the sun. Saint Abraham died five years before her, in about 360. All of Edessa came for his last blessing and to secure his relics.

Reflection. Oh, that we might realize the omnipotence of prayer! Every soul was created to glorify God eternally; and it is in the power of everyone to add to the glory of God by the salvation of his neighbor. Let us make good use of this talent of prayer.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3; 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).