Saint Vincent of Saragossa

May be an image of 4 people

Saint Vincent of Saragossa

Deacon and Martyr
(† 304)

Saint Vincent was archdeacon of the church at Saragossa, Spain. Valerian, the bishop, was prevented from preaching by a speech impediment, and named Vincent to preach in his stead. He answered in the bishop’s name when, during the persecution of Diocletian, both were brought before Dacian, the presiding officer. When the bishop was sent into banishment, Vincent was retained, to suffer and to die.

First he was stretched on the rack; and when he was almost torn asunder, Dacian asked him in mockery how he fared now. Vincent answered, with joy on his countenance, that he had always prayed to be as he was then. It was in vain that Dacian struck the executioners and goaded them on in their savage work. The martyr’s flesh was torn with hooks; he was bound to a chair of red-hot iron; lard and salt were rubbed into his wounds; and amid all this he kept his eyes raised to heaven, and remained unmoved.

The holy martyr was cast into a solitary dungeon, his feet placed in the stocks; but the Angels of Christ illuminated the darkness, and assured Vincent that he was near his triumph. His wounds were now ordered to be tended, to prepare him for fresh torments, and the faithful were permitted to gaze on his mangled body. They came in troops, kissed his wounds and carried away as relics, cloths colored with his blood. Before the tortures could resume, Saint Vincent’s hour came, and he breathed forth his soul in peace.

Even the dead bodies of the Saints are precious in the sight of God, and the hand of iniquity cannot touch them. A raven guarded the body of Vincent where it lay flung upon the earth. When it was sunk out at sea, the waves cast it ashore; and his relics are preserved to this day in the Augustinian monastery at Lisbon, for the consolation of the Church of Christ.

Reflection. Do you wish to be at peace amid suffering and temptation? Then make it your principal endeavor to grow in habits of prayer and in union with Christ. Have confidence in Him. He will make you victorious over your spiritual enemies and over yourself. He will enlighten your darkness and sweeten your sufferings, and in your solitude and desolation He will draw near to you with His holy Angels.

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). 

Saint Agnes

May be an image of 6 people

Saint Agnes

Virgin and Martyr
(† 304)

Saint Agnes was twelve years old when she was led to the altar of Minerva at Rome and commanded to obey the persecuting laws of Diocletian by offering incense. In the midst of the idolatrous rites she raised her hands to Christ, her Spouse, and made the sign of the life-giving cross. She did not shrink when she was bound hand and foot, though the manacles slipped from her young hands, and the heathens who stood around were moved to tears. Bonds were not needed for her; she hastened gladly to the place of her torture.

When the judge saw that pain had no terrors for her, he inflicted a sentence comporting an insult worse than death: she was condemned to be taken to a house of infamy and her clothes stripped off. I have an Angel with me, she said, and he will guard me. Christ, whom you do not know, surrounds me like a wall which cannot be forced. And so it occurred. The Spouse of Virgins revealed, by a miracle, His custody of the pure in heart: her hair grew miraculously to such a length that she was entirely covered by it. The place to which she was taken was illuminated by a brilliant, inexplicable light; and there she knelt down to pray. At that site a Church has been built in honor of this young maiden’s victory over impurity. Only an impudent suitor, the cause of her arraignment as a Christian, dared approach her, and her Angel struck him dead at her feet. His father prayed Agnes to raise him up again by her magic arts; she answered that magic was not responsible for his death, but only the young pagan’s lack of respect for God. She said she would pray to Him that her Lord’s glory might be manifested by the miracle his father requested, and it was granted to her prayer.

At length the sentence of death by the sword was passed upon her by a subordinate judge. For a moment she stood erect in prayer, then bowed her neck to the sword, rejoicing that the time of her liberation had arrived. The Angels bore her pure soul to Paradise. A week after her death, Saint Agnes appeared to her parents as they were praying at her tomb; she was amid a choir of virgins clothed in golden robes and crowned with garlands. She begged them not to weep for her as for one dead, telling them rather to rejoice with her in her happiness.

Reflection. Her innocence endeared Saint Agnes to Christ, as it has endeared her to His Church ever since. Even as penitents we may imitate her innocence in our own sphere. Let us strictly guard our eyes, and Christ, when He sees that we desire to keep our hearts pure for love of Him, will fortify our resolution and bless it.

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. 1

Saint Fabian

May be an image of 1 person

Saint Fabian

St. Fabian, like St. Clement and St. Antheros, two of his predecessors, was extremely zealous in seeing that the Acts of the Martyrs were carefully drawn up. This zeal was no doubt exercised by the clergy in the case of our holy Pontiff himself, and his sufferings and martyrdom were carefully registered; but all these interesting particulars have been lost, in common with an immense number of other precious Acts, which were condemned to the flames, by the Imperial Edicts, during the persecution under Dioclesian. Nothing is now known of the life of St. Fabian, save a few of his actions as Pope; but we may have some idea of his virtues, by the praise given him by St. Cyprian, who, in a letter written to St. Cornelius, the immediate successor of St. Fabian, calls him an incomparable man. The Bishop of Carthage extols the purity and holiness of life of the holy Pontiff, who so peaceably governed the Church amidst all the storms which then assailed her. There is an interesting circumstance related of him by Eusebius. After the death of St. Antheros, the people and clergy of Rome assembled together, for the election of the new Pontiff. Heaven marked out the successor of St. Peter: a dove was seen to rest on the venerable head of Fabian, and he was unanimously chosen. This reminds us of the event in our Lord’s Life, which we celebrated a few days back, when standing in the river Jordan, the Dove came down from heaven, and showed him to the people as the Son of God. Fabian was the depository of the power of regeneration, which Jesus, by his Baptism, gave to the element of water; he zealously propagated the Faith of his Divine Master, and, among the Bishops he consecrated for divers places, one or more were sent by him into these western parts of Europe.

We give, at once, the short account of the Acts of St. Fabian, as recorded in the Liturgy.

Fabian, a Roman by birth, governed the Church from the reign of Maximin to that of Decins. He divided the City into seven parts, which he consigned to as many Deacons, and to them he gave the charge of looking after the poor. He created also a like number of Subdeacons, who were to collect the Acts of the Martyrs, written by seven Notaries. It was he decreed, that, every year, on the fifth Feria, our Lord’s Supper, the Chrism should be renewed, and the old should be burnt. At length, on the thirteenth of the Calends of February (January 20), he was crowned with martyrdom, in the persecution of Decius, and was buried in the cemetery of Callixtus, on the Appian Way, after reigning fifteen years and four days. He held five ordinations, in the month of December, in which ordinations, he made two and twenty Priests, seven Deacons, ana eleven Bishops for divers places. 

Saint Sebastian

May be art of one or more people

Saint Sebastian

Martyr
(† 288)

Saint Sebastian was an officer in the Roman army, esteemed even by the pagans as a good soldier, and honored by the Church ever since as a champion of Jesus Christ. Born at Narbonne, Sebastian came to Rome about the year 284 and entered the lists against the powers of evil. He found the twin brothers Marcus and Marcellinus in prison for the faith, and when they were close to yielding to the entreaties of their relatives, encouraged them to despise flesh and blood, and to die for Christ. God confirmed his words by miracles: light shone around him while he spoke; he cured the sick by his prayers; and in this divine strength he led multitudes to the faith, among them the Prefect of Rome, with his son Tiburtius.

He saw his disciples die before him, and one of them came back from heaven to tell him that his own end was near. It was in a contest of fervor and charity that Saint Sebastian found the occasion of martyrdom. The Governor-Prefect of Rome was converted to the faith and afterwards retired to his estates in Campania, taking with him a great number of his fellow-converts to this place of safety. It was a question whether Polycarp the priest or Saint Sebastian should accompany the neophytes. Each was eager to stay and face the danger at Rome; finally the Pope decided that the Roman church could not spare the services of Sebastian, who therefore remained amid the perils in the city.

He continued to labor at his post of danger until he was betrayed by a false disciple. He was led before Diocletian and, at the emperor’s command, pierced with arrows and left for dead. God raised him up again, cured, and of his own accord he went before the emperor and conjured him to halt the persecution of the Church. Again sentenced, he was beaten to death by clubs, and crowned his labors by the merit of a double martyrdom.

Reflection. Your ordinary occupations will give you opportunities of laboring for the faith. Ask help from Saint Sebastian, both wise and prudent.

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). 

Saint Canutus

Image may contain: one or more people

Saint Canutus

King of Denmark, Martyr
(† 1086)

Saint Canutus, King of Denmark, was endowed with excellent qualities of both mind and body. As a young prince, he cleared the seas of pirates and subdued several neighboring provinces which were harassing Denmark by their incursions. His courage rivaled in excellence with his ability in the conduct and skills of war, but his singular piety, in a time when few of his land were Christian, eclipsed all his other endowments.

Saint Canutus succeeded his elder brother Harold on the throne of Denmark in the year 1080. He began his reign by a successful war against the troublesome, barbarous enemies of the state, and by planting the faith in the conquered provinces. Amid the glory of his victories he humbly prostrated himself at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem, and offering himself and his kingdom to the King of kings. After having provided for the peace and safety of his country, he married Eltha, daughter of Robert, Earl of Flanders, who proved herself a spouse worthy of him. They are the parents of Blessed Charles, Count of Amiens and Flanders, a martyr for his faith, brutally slain like his father, while in prayer.

The justice of Saint Canutus as sovereign became evident when he condemned to death a Danish lord whose vessel, to sustain the owner’s luxury, had pillaged the ship of a neighboring country and massacred the crew. He applied himself to the reform of all internal abuses. For this purpose he enacted severe but necessary laws for the strict administration of justice, the repression of violence and tyranny by the powerful, without respect to persons. He favored and honored holy men, and granted many privileges and immunities to the clergy. His charity and tenderness towards his subjects made him study all possible ways to make them a happy people. He showed a royal munificence in building and adorning churches, and gave the crown which he wore, of very great value, to a church in his capital and place of residence, where the kings of Denmark are still buried.

To the virtues which constitute a great king, Canutus added those which prove the great Saint. A rebellion having sprung up in his kingdom, the king was surprised at church by the rebels. Perceiving his danger, he confessed his sins at the foot of the altar and received Holy Communion. Stretching out his arms before the altar, the Saint fervently recommended his soul to his Creator; in this posture he was struck down on his knees by the enemies of his Christian reign.

Reflection. The soul of a man is endowed with many noble powers, and feels a keen joy in their exercise; but the keenest joy we are capable of knowing consists in prostrating all our powers of mind and heart in humble adoration before the majesty of 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. 1