The Death of St. Benedict

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The Death of St Benedict

‘Benedict, the holy Abbot, on this present day departed from this mortal life to the eternal, which he had thoroughly merited by his holy conduct.’

So begins Ælfric’s sermon on the life of St Benedict. ‘This present day’, March 21, is indeed the date of the death of St Benedict, the father of Western monasticism. In honour of today we look at Ælfric’s sermon, which we give you an extract from the end of Ælfric’s sermon, telling of Benedict’s last miracle and his death:

Another time, the holy man was standing at his prayers on an upper floor, where his bed was. He stood there at a window until far in the night, praying to Almighty God, when suddenly a great light sprang up, brighter than any day, so that the holy man could see across all the world, and he perceived amid the great light the soul of a bishop being led with a company of angels to heaven. His name was Germanus. The saint wanted to have witnesses to that wondrous sight, and he quickly called his deacon to him, and he saw a part of the light. Then the holy man sent a swift messenger to the bishop’s city, so that he could find out whether he was alive. The messenger found that he was dead. He asked all about the details of his death, and learned that he departed at that time when the holy Benedict saw his soul carried to heaven.

A wonderful sight, for a mortal man to be able to see across all the world! But when a man sees the light of God, then creation will seem very small, and his soul is spread out within that light, in God, so that it rises above the world and above itself also. What wonder was it that the holy man saw all the world before him, when he was raised up in his mind’s light above the world? Truly, the light which he saw outwardly was shining in his mind, and drew up his mind to heaven, and showed him how small all creatures below would appear to him in the immensity of the divine light.

This blessed man Benedict wrote the rule of monks with great power of distinction, in lucid language, in which every one may recognise all the acts of his teaching – for the saint lived just as he taught. The blessed man was cheerful in appearance, with white hair, fair in body, and in mind filled with great love, so that he was living in the heavenly realm although he still dwelt on earth. The year that he departed he made known his death in advance to some of his disciples who were living with him, and to some others dwelling in distant places. Seven days before he died he ordered his tomb to be opened, and he was at once greatly afflicted with a severe fever throughout those seven days. On the sixth day of his illness he commanded them to carry him into the church, and there to give him the Eucharist. He then stood between the hands of his brothers, with hands outstretched towards heaven, and between his prayers he breathed out his spirit.

On the same day there appeared to two of his disciples a path from the building in which he died, on the east side, reaching up to heaven. The way was laid with palls and shining with numberless lights. On it there stood a venerable man with bright garments, asking what path it was that they beheld. They said that they did not know. The angel said to them, “This is the path by which God’s darling, Benedict, ascended to heaven.”

Who in this world can relate all the wonders that the Almighty Creator, through this noble man, has shown to the earth? To Him be glory and praise for ever through eternity with all his saints, who alone is ineffable God. Amen.

THE HOLY ABBOT BENEDICT

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THE HOLY ABBOT BENEDICT
by Leonard Goffine, 1871

Truly, St. Benedict was as his name indicates, a child of blessing. He was born about the year 480 at Nursia in Italy. His parents sent him, when growing up, to Rome, that there he might be instructed in all the fine sciences. Benedict soon perceived the moral corruption of the Romans, and was seized by fear concerning his own innocence. In order to escape the enticements, he left Rome and sought his way into the mountains; thence he went to Subiaco, a day’s journey distant from Rome, where he found a desert with inhospitable caverns in the mountain-cliffs. He had resolved to serve his God in solitude and retirement, and to acquire such virtues as would enable him to perform and undergo great labor for the Church and the welfare of his fellowbrethren.

On his way to the desert he met with a holy monk, named Romanus, to whom he revealed his intention. Romanus gladly approved of the design, promising him to keep his secret, and gave him a monk’s garment. Benedict now chose for his dwelling-place an almost inaccessible narrow grotto at the foot of one of the mountain-cliffs. Romanus daily laid aside a portion of his bread, and secretly brought it to the young hermit, lowering it by means of a rope. The sound of a bell attached to the rope was to announce the arrival of the bread.  Continue reading

St. Photina and Companions

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St. Photina and Companions

Martyrs
(† 1st century)

Samaritan martyr. According to Greek tradition, Photina was the Samaritan woman with whom Jesus spoke at the well as was recounted in the Gospel of St. John, chapter four. Deeply moved by the experience, she took to preaching the Gospel, received imprisonment, and was finally martyred at Carthage. Another tradition states that Photina was put to death in Rome after converting the daughter of Emperor Nero and one hundred of her servants. She supposedly died in Rome with her sons Joseph and Victor, along with several other Christians, including Sebastian, Photius, Parasceve, Photis, Cyriaca, and Victor. They were perhaps included in the Roman Martyrology by Cardinal Cesare Baronius owing to the widely held view that the head of Photina was preserved in the church of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

Decree Proclaiming St. Joseph Patron of the Catholic Church

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Decree Proclaiming St. Joseph Patron of the Catholic Church

To the City and World:–Just as God had made Joseph, born of the Patriarch Jacob, governor over the whole land of Egypt that he might save the grain for the people, so also, when the fullness of time being near, he was to send His only begotten Son to this earth that he might be the Saviour of the world, he chose another Joseph, of whom the former was only a. figure, and inade him the master and ruler of His house and His possessions, and appointed him the keeper of His most precious treasury. For his Spouse was the Immaculate Virgin Mary, from whom by the Holy Ghost is born Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be held by men, as the son of Joseph, to whpm also He was subject. Whom kings and prophets desired to see, Joseph did not only see but conversed with Him and with fatherly affection embraced and kissed Him; with skillful care he nourished Him whom the faithful people, in order to obtain life everlasting, were to eat as their bread came down from heaven. On account of the sublime dignity, which God has bestowed on his most faithful servant, the Church has always after his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, offered special honor and praise to Bl. Joseph and implored his intercession in all her anxieties. In the present very sad times, the Church, persecuted on all sides by her enemies, is oppressed by terrible calamities that godless men try to believe the gates of hell will at last prevail against her.

Hence the venerable bishops of this whole Catholic World have presented to the Supreme Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful entrusted to their charge praying that he would appoint St. Joseph the Patron of the Catholic Church.–Later, when at the holy Ecumenical Council of the Vatican the same petitions and requests were urged with new vigor, our holy Father and Pope Pius IX, moved by the recent mournful state of affairs, agreed to comply with the wishes of the Bishops, and to place himself and the faithful under the most powerful patronage of the holy Patriarch Joseph, therefore, solemnly proclaimed him Patron of the Catholic j Church, and ordained that his feast, on Mar. 19th, should be celebrated in future with the rank of a double of the first class, though without octave on account of Lent. He also commanded that this proclamation should be made public by this present decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites on the day dedicated to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and Spouse of the chaste Joseph. Everything to the contrary notwithstanding. On the 8th Dec., 1870.

St. Joseph

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St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin

Today is the Feast Day of St. Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, the Foster-Father of the Son of God, that comes to cheer us by his dear presence. In a few days hence, the august mystery of the Incarnation will demand our fervent adorations: who, after the Angel of the Annunciation, could better prepare us for the grand Feast, than he that was both the confidant and faithful guardian of the divine secret?

The Son of God, when about to descend upon this earth to assume our human nature, would have a Mother; this Mother could not be other than the purest of Virgins, and her divine Maternity was not to impair her incomparable Virginity. Until such time as the Son of Mary were recognized as the Son of God, his Mother’s honour had need of a protector: some man, therefore, was to be called to the high honour of being Mary’s Spouse. This privileged mortal was Joseph, the chastest of men.

Heaven designated him as being the only one worthy of such a treasure: the rod he held in his hand, in the Temple, suddenly produced a flower, as though it were a literal fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaias: There shall come forth a rod from the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root (Is. xi. 1.). The rich pretenders to an alliance with Mary were set aside; and Joseph was espoused to the Virgin of the House of David, by a union which surpassed in love and purity everything the Angels themselves had ever witnessed. Continue reading