Saint Victorian and Companions

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Saint Victorian and Companions

Martyrs
(† 484)

Huneric, the Arian king of the Vandals in Africa, succeeded his father Genseric in 477. He acted at first with moderation towards the Catholics of Carthage, but in 480 began a grievous persecution of the clergy and holy virgins, which in 484 became general. Vast numbers of Catholics were put to death.

Saint Victorian, at that time one of the principal lords of the kingdom, had been made governor of Carthage with the Roman title of Proconsul. He was the wealthiest subject of Huneric, who placed great confidence in him, and Victorian always behaved with inviolable fidelity. Now, however, when the king, after publishing his cruel edicts, sent him a message in which he promised, if Victorian would conform to his religion, to heap on him the greatest wealth and the highest honors which it was in the power of a prince to bestow, Victorian could not grant that request.

The Saint, who amid the glittering pomps of the world perfectly understood its emptiness, made this generous answer to the messenger: Tell the king that I trust in Christ. His Majesty may condemn me to any torments, but I shall never consent to renounce the Catholic Church, in which I have been baptized. Even if there were no life after this, I would never be ungrateful and perfidious to God, who has granted me the happiness of knowing Him, and bestowed on me His most precious graces. The tyrant became furious at this answer, and the tortures which he caused the Saint to endure cannot be imagined. Saint Victorian suffered them with joy, and amid them completed his glorious martyrdom.

The Roman Martyrology for this day joins with him four others who were crowned in the same persecution. Two of those who were apprehended for the faith were brothers who had promised each other to die together, if possible; and they begged of God, as a favor, that they might both suffer the same torments. The persecutors suspended them in the air with great weights at their feet. One of them, under the excess of pain, begged to be taken down for a little ease. His brother, fearing that this might move him to deny his faith, cried out from the rack, God forbid, dear brother, that you should ask such a thing. Is this what we promised to Jesus Christ? The other was so wonderfully encouraged that he cried out, No, no; I ask not to be released; increase my tortures, exert all your cruelties till they are exhausted upon me. They were then burned with red-hot iron plates, and tormented so long that the executioners finally left them, saying, Everyone follows their example; no one embraces our religion now. This they said seeing that although these two had been so long and so grievously tormented, there were no scars or bruises visible upon them.

Among many glorious confessors at that time, one Liberatus, an eminent physician, was sent into banishment with his wife. He only grieved to see his infant children torn from him. His wife checked his tears by these words: Think no more of them; Jesus Christ Himself will take care of them and protect their souls. In prison she was told that her husband had conformed, and when she met him at the bar before the judge, she reproached him in the court for having abandoned God. She learned from his answer, however, that a base lie had attempted to separate her from her holy faith and from eternal life.

Two merchants of Carthage, who both bore the name of Frumentius, suffered martyrdom about the same time. Twelve young children were dragged away by the persecutors, and cruelly scourged every day for many days; yet by God’s grace every one of them persevered to the end of the persecution, firm in the 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 – Passion Tuesday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent
by St. Thomas Aquinas

Passion Tuesday

The Burial of Christ

She hath wrought a good work upon Me. She in pouring this ointment upon Me hath done it for my burial.–Matt. xxvi. 10-12.

It was right that Christ should be buried.

1. It proved that He had really died. No one is placed in the grave unless he is undeniably dead. And, as we read in St. Mark (ch. xv), Pilate, before he gave leave for Christ to be buried, made careful enquiry to assure himself that Christ was dead.

2. The very fact that Christ rose again from the grave gives a hope of rising again through Him to all others who lie in their graves. As it says in the gospel, All that are in the grave shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that hear shall live (John v. 28, 25).

3. It was an example for those who by the death of Christ are spiritually dead to sin, for those, that is, who are hidden away from the turmoil of human affairs. So St. Paul says, You are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col. iii. 3). So, too, those who are baptised, since by the death of Christ they die to sin, are as it were buried with Christ in their immersion, as St. Paul again says, We are buried together with Christ by baptism unto death (Rom. vi. 4).

As the death of Christ efficiently wrought our salvation, so too is His burial effective for us. St. Jerome, for example, says, “By the burial of Christ we all rise again,” and explaining the words of Isaias (liii. 9), He shall give the ungodly for His burial, the Gloss says, “This means He shall give to God and the Father the nations lacking in filial devotion: for through His death and burial He has obtained possession of them.”

The Psalm (Ps. Ixxxvii. 6) says, I am become as a man without help, free among the dead. Christ by being buried showed Himself free among the dead indeed, for His being enclosed in the tomb was not allowed to hinder His coming forth in the Resurrection.

Catherine of Genoa

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Saint Catherine of Genoa

Widow
(1447-1510)

Saint Catherine Fieschi, daughter of a Viceroy of Naples, was born in Genoa. Her family, rich in great men, had given to the Church two popes, nine cardinals and two archbishops. Catherine, noble in birth, rich, and exceedingly beautiful, had as a child rejected the solicitations of the world, and begged her divine Master for some share in His sufferings. Despite her ardent desire to enter the cloister, at sixteen years of age she found herself promised in marriage to a young nobleman of dissolute habits. She was obliged to obey her parents’ intentions. Her spouse treated her with such harshness that after five years, wearied by his cruelty, she somewhat relaxed the strictness of her state and entered into the worldly society of Genoa. At length, enlightened by divine grace as to the danger of her state, she resolutely broke with the world and entered upon a life of rigorous penance and prayer. Having seen Jesus with His cross, and heard His reproaches, O love! she cried, I will sin no longer!

For twenty-three years she could take no nourishment but Holy Communion, and she drank only a little water mingled with vinegar and salt. Every day she prayed for six to seven hours on her knees, and never relaxed this practice. Her heroic fortitude was sustained by the constant thought of the holy souls of purgatory, whose sufferings were revealed to her, and whose state she has described in a treatise full of heavenly wisdom.

The charity with which she devoted herself to the service of the hospitals, undertaking the most disagreeable offices with joy, caused the administrators of the large hospital of Genoa to confide it entirely to her government. She served there without any remuneration whatsoever. Her examples also induced her husband to practice patience and amend his ways; before he died he joined the Third Order of Saint Francis and faithfully followed its penitential exercises. A long, grievous and mysterious illness during the last nine years of her own life served to perfect her union with God. The most able physicians could not help Saint Catherine, and judged that her illness was not from natural causes. Her first biographer wrote an account in detail of her last month on earth, and assures the Church that she left this mortal life in a state of total purification. She died on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14, 1510.

Reflection: The constant thought of purgatory will help us not only to escape its dreadful pains, but also to avoid the least imperfection which hinders our approach to God.

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 

Saint Isidore of Madrid

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Saint Isidore of Madrid

Confessor
(† 1170)

Saint Isidore the Farmer, a perennially popular Saint in Spain, was born near Madrid of very poor but very Christian parents, who early inspired in him love for God and horror of sin. His education was accomplished entirely by the Holy Spirit who taught him, without books, the science of salvation.

He married a wife rich in virtue, Maria Torribia, and God blessed them with a son whom they brought up in the sentiments of their own piety. The child fell into a well, which is still shown in Madrid, and drowned; but when his parents prayed he might be returned to them, the water rose to ground level and brought up the child full of life and health. They promised then to separate, apparently out of gratitude to God, and to live in perpetual continence.

Saint Isidore’s wife became a hermit like himself; Maria, too, performed miracles and merited after her death the name of Santa Maria de la Cabeza, meaning Head, because her head, conserved in a reliquary and carried in procession, has often brought down rain from heaven for the afflicted countryside. Her remains are honored by all of Spain by pilgrimages and processions at Torrelaguna, where they were transferred in 1615.

Saint Isidore himself was a day-laborer on a farm near Madrid, but every day found him at Mass in one of the churches of the city before he set out for his daily task. His employer desired to verify whether he was wasting time during his work, and one day saw two mysterious personages helping the holy worker to guide his plow; Isidore himself told him they were Angels. Afterwards the wealthy owner became still more convinced that piety was useful in all occupations. For not only did his worker bring back to life one of his horses, which he very much needed; when his daughter, too, died, she was resurrected by the Saint. A fountain of water which the Saint caused to surge up by striking the ground still exists.

Saint Isidore, though poor, shared all he had with the poor; and one day, when no provisions were left, his cupboard was found well furnished when still another beggar arrived.

Saint Isidore died some time after his wife; and forty years later his remains, which had been in extremely wet ground, were found incorrupt. They were taken into the Church of Saint Andrew and re-interred there; miracles have been countless, and celestial music has often been heard at his tomb. He has protected the city of Seville, making himself visible occasionally; and the kings of Spain themselves urged his canonization, which was carried out in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

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

Meditations for Each Day of Lent – Passion Monday

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent
by St. Thomas Aquinas

Passion Monday

The Passion of Christ is a Remedy Against Sin

We find in the Passion of Christ a remedy against all the evils that we incur through sin. Now these evils are five in number. (i) We ourselves become unclean. When a man commits any sin he soils his soul, for just as virtue is the beauty of the soul, so sin is a stain upon it. How happeneih it, O Israel, that thou art in thy enemies land? Thou art grown old in a strange country, thou art defiled with the dead (Baruch iii. 10, 11).

The Passion of Christ takes away this stain. For Christ, by His Passion, made of His blood a bath wherein He might wash sinners. The soul is washed with the blood of Christ in Baptism, for it is from the blood of Christ that the sacrament draws its power of giving new life. When therefore one who is baptised soils himself again by sin, he insults Christ and sins more deeply than before.

(ii) We offend God. As the man who is fleshly-minded loves what is beautiful to the flesh, so God loves spiritual beauty, the beauty of the soul. When the soul’s beauty is defiled by sin God is offended, and holds the offender in hatred. But the Passion of Christ takes away this hatred, for it does what man himself could not possibly do, namely it makes full satisfaction to God for the sin. The love and obedience of Christ was greater than the sin and rebellion of Adam.

(iii) We ourselves are weakened. Man believes that, once he has committed the sin, he will be able to keep from sin for the future. Experience shows that what really happens is quite otherwise. The effect of the first sin is to weaken the sinner and make him still more inclined to sin. Sin dominates man more and more, and man left to himself, whatever his powers, places himself in such a state that he cannot rise from it. Like a man who has thrown himself into a well, there he must lie, unless he is drawn up by some divine power. After the sin of Adam, then, our human nature was weaker, it had lost its perfection and men were more prone to sinning.

But Christ, although He did not utterly make an end of this weakness, nevertheless greatly lessened it. Man is so strengthened by the Passion of Christ and the effect of Adam’s sin is so weakened that he is no longer dominated by it. Helped by the grace of God, given him in the sacraments, which derive their power from the Passion of Christ, man is now able to make an effort and so rise up from his sins. Before the Passion of Christ there were few who lived without mortal sin, but since the Passion many have lived and do live without it.

(iv) Liability to the punishment earned by sin. This the justice of God demanded, namely, that for each sin the sinner should be punished, the penalty to be measured according to the sin. Whence, since mortal sin is infinitely wicked, seeing that it is a sin against what is infinitely good, that is to say, God whose commands the sin despises, the punishment due to mortal sin is infinite too.

But by His Passion Christ took away from us this penalty, for He endured it Himself. Who His own self bore our sins, that is the punishment due to us for our sins, in his body upon the tree (i Pet. ii. 24).

So great was the power and value of the Passion of Christ that it was sufficient to expiate all the sins of all the world, reckoned by millions though they be. This is the reason why baptism frees the baptised from all their sins, and why the priest can forgive sin. This is why the man who more and more fashions his life in conformity with the Passion of Christ, and makes himself like to Christ in His Passion, attains an ever fuller pardon and ever greater graces.

(v) Banishment from the kingdom. Subjects who offend the king are sent into exile. So, too, man was expelled from Paradise. Adam, having sinned, was straightway thrown out and the gates barred against him.

But, by His Passion, Christ opened those gates, and called back the exiles from banishment. As the side of Christ opened to the soldier’s lance, the gates of heaven opened to man, and as Christ’s blood flowed, the stain was washed out, God was appeased, our weakness taken away, amends made for our sins, and the exiles were recalled. Thus it was that Our Lord said immediately to the repentant thief, This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise (Luke xxiii. 43). Such a thing was never before said to any man, not to Adam nor to Abraham, nor even to David. But This day, the day on which the gate is opened, the thief does but ask and he finds. Having confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ (Heb. x. 19).