Saint Nicasius

Saint Nicasius

Archbishop of Rheims

and his Companions,

Martyrs
(5th century)

In the fifth century an army of Vandal barbarians from Germany, while ravaging part of Gaul, plundered the city of Rheims. Nicasius, its holy bishop, an emissary of peace, justice and charity, had foretold this calamity to his flock; for the city of Rheims, which for a long time had been docile to his word, little by little was seen by the afflicted pastor to be sinking into vice and corruption. He endeavored to waken them to penance: Weep, lament in sackcloth and ashes, unfortunate flock, for God has numbered your iniquities, and if you do not do penance, dreadful punishments are going to come upon you! But his words were unheeded.

When Saint Nicasius saw the enemy at the gates and in the streets, forgetting himself and solicitous only for his spiritual children, he went from door to door encouraging everyone to patience and constancy, and awakening in each breast the most heroic sentiments of piety and religion. By endeavoring to save the lives of his flock, he exposed himself to the sword of the infidels, who indeed slew him, while he was praying on his knees the words of a Psalm: Lord, my soul has been as though fastened to the earth; Lord, give me life, according to Your word! Florens, his deacon, and Jocond, his lector, were massacred by his side. His sister Eutropia, a virtuous and beautiful virgin, fearing she might be reserved for a fate worse than death, boldly cried out to the infidels that it was her unalterable resolution to sacrifice her life rather than her faith or her virtue. In reply, they dispatched her with their cutlasses, and continued their massacre.

Then, suddenly, a strange and terrible noise was heard in the Church of Notre-Dame, and the alarmed barbarians took flight without taking time to pillage the houses or burn the city, or even take the booty they had already amassed.

When the city’s inhabitants who had fled to the mountains of the region felt it was safe to return, having seen an unexplained flame above the place of the torment and heard what seemed to be an angelic concert in that area, they went with the intention of piously burying the remains of the slain, and they found there Saint Nicasius, their bishop, his assistants, and Saint Eutropia. Many miracles occurred at their tomb.

Reflection: Bear patiently and with gentleness bodily sufferings, and prepare for the time of trial which is sure to come, by courageous endurance of the daily crosses which inevitably attend your state.

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. 14

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: GOD’S GLORIOUS WORK 

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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: GOD’S GLORIOUS WORK

AT length, on the distant horizon, rises, with a soft and radiant light, the aurora of the Sun which has been so long desired. The happy Mother of the Messias was to be born before the Messias Himself; and this is the day of the Conception of Mary. The earth already possesses a first pledge of the Divine mercy; the Son of Man is near at hand. Two true Israelites, Joachim and Anne, noble branches of the family of David, find their union, after a long barrenness, made fruitful by the Divine omnipotence. Glory be to God, Who has been mindful of His promises, and Who deigns to announce, from the high heavens, the end of the deluge of iniquity, by sending upon the earth the sweet white dove that bears the tidings of peace!

The feast of the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Conception is the most solemn of all those which the Church celebrates during the holy time of Advent; and if the first part of the cycle had to offer us the commemoration of some one of the mysteries of Mary, there was none whose object could better harmonize with the spirit of the Church in this mystic season of expectation. Let us, then, celebrate this solemnity with joy; for the Conception of Mary tells us that the Birth of Jesus is not far oft. Continue reading

Abdication of Pope Celestine V

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Abdication of Pope Celestine V

The Cardinals were deadlocked. They had been deadlocked for 27 months, since 1292 when Pope Nicholas V died. There were only twelve cardinals and they were evenly divided between two factions of the Roman nobility. Neither side would give way. Each hoped for the perks that would accrue from having one of their number named pope.

And then a message arrived from the mountains. Pietro da Morrone, the hermit founder of the Celestines, a strict branch of Benedictines, warned that God was angry with the Cardinals. If they did not elect a pope within four months, the Lord would severely chastise the church.

Eager for a way out of their deadlock, the Cardinals asked themselves, why not elect Peter himself? Finally, the Cardinals could agree. In a vote that they declared to be “miraculous” they unanimously chose Peter.

When three of the Cardinals climbed to his mountain roost to tell Pietro he had been chosen, the hermit wasn’t happy. All of his life, he had tried to run away from people. Dressed like John the Baptist, he subjected himself to fasts, heavy chains, and nights of prayer without sleep. But when the Cardinals and his friend King Charles II of Naples insisted that he must accept the position for the good of the Church, Pietro reluctantly agreed.

Charles II prompted him to name a number of new Cardinals–all of them from France and Naples, changing the consistency of the group which would elect future popes. Pietro, who was too trusting, made many mistakes. A babe in political matters, he was used by everyone around him. The Holy See bureaucrats even sold blank bulls with his signature on them.

The business of the Church slowed to a crawl because he took too much time making decisions. Within weeks it became apparent he had to resign for the good of the Church. But could a pope resign? Guided by one of the cardinals, Benedetto Caetani, Celestine as pope issued a constitution which gave himself the authority to resign.

All sorts of rumours followed this resignation. Pietro had built himself a hut in the Vatican where he could live like a hermit. Supposedly Caetani thrust a reed through the wall of the hut and pretended he was the voice of God ordering Celestine to resign. Since his mind was undecided as to his proper course, this trick is said to have convinced him.

Celestine stepped down on this day, December 13, 1294, having actually filled the position of pope only three months. He was replaced by Caetani who took the name Boniface VIII. Afraid that Pietro would become a rallying point for troublemakers, Boniface locked the old man up. He destroyed most of the records of Celestine’s short time in office, but he could not unmake the Cardinals.

Pietro escaped and wandered through mountains and forests. He was recognised and recaptured when he tried to sail to Greece, his boat having been driven back by a storm. The last nine months of his life he spent in prayer as a prisoner of Boniface, badly treated by his guards. When he died in 1296, rumour had it that Boniface had murdered him. He was about 81-years-old. In 1313, Pope Clement V declared him a saint.

St. Spiridion

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St. Spiridion, Bishop and Confessor

A.D. 348.

SPIRIDION, or SPIRIDON, was a native of Cyprus, was married, and had a daughter named Irene, who lived always a virgin. His employment was that of keeping sheep, which in the patriarchal times even kings thought not beneath their dignity. In this retired state simplicity and innocence of heart engaged the Almighty to furnish him with extraordinary lights in the paths of virtue, which it was the more easy for him safely to pursue, as he shunned the company of those whose example and false maxims might have induced him to take the same liberties they did, and fall into a worldly course of life. For there is no more dangerous snare to our souls than the conversation of that world which is condemned by the gospel; that is to say, that society and commerce of men who are animated with the spirit of irregular self-love, and that corruption of the heart which all men inherit from their first birth from Adam, and by which they live who have not vanquished it by grace, and put on the spirit of Christ. It is not enough for a Christian to guard himself against this contagious air abroad: he has an enemy at home, a fund of corruption within his own heart, which he must resist and purge himself of; and this not in part only, but entirely. They deceive themselves, who desire to be saved through Christ, without taking pains to put on perfectly the spirit of Christ; they who are willing to give alms, fast, and spend much time in prayer, but with all this are for reserving and sparing this or that favorite passion, this vanity, this pleasure, or this spirit of revenge. Spiridion made such use of the advantages which his state afforded him for virtue, as to seem to rival the Macariuses in their deserts: and he was honoured with the gift of miracles.  Continue reading