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Monday, January 30, 2012

Saint Martina, Virgin and Martyr, January 30th

Saint Martina, Virgin and Martyr, January 30th


A Homily by St. Gregory the Pope

Dearly beloved brethren : oftentimes do I warn you to flee evil, and to keep yourselves unspotted from the world. But today’s reading form the holy Gospel moveth me to warn you even further, namely, to exercise prudence when ye attempt to do good. Look ye well to your motives lest, when ye work righteousness, ye do it for the praise and admiration of men. For if we do things to obtain praise of men, what appeareth so fair outwardly hath nothing inwardly which deserveth reward. Behold how the Redeemer speaketh of these ten virgins.

He calleth them all virgins. Yet not all of them were received within the gates of blessedness. For some of them sought outwardly the honour of virginity, but had no substance of virginity within, for they took no oil wherewith to sustain the lamp of purity.

But first of all, it is for us to ask, What is the kingdom of heaven? And wherefore shall the same be likened unto ten virgins, whereof five were wise and five were foolish? For in the Apocalypse we read of the kingdom of heaven : There shall in no wise enter into it anything that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. How then can it be likened unto five virgins which were foolish? But we should know that in language of holy scripture, the kingdom of heaven doth oftentimes signify the Church as she now is, touching the which the Lord saith in another place : The Son of Man shall send forth his Angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend. Then the Church will become that kingdom of blessedness, wherein peace shall have her perfect reign, and after that nothing that offendeth will be found for the Angels to gather out.

Now everyone hath five bodily senses, and thus the number five remindeth us of human nature. Five being doubled is ten. Forasmuch therefore as the whole body of faithful doth consist of two sexes, the whole Church may be likened unto ten virgins. And forasmuch as in the Church the good are for the present mingled with the bad, and the reprobate with the elect, it is rightly said that, of the ten virgins, five are wise and five are foolish. Many have self-control, and do keep themselves from lusting after things outward, who chastise their flesh, and are moved by homesickness for our heavenly fatherland. All such do seek an eternal reward, and scorn to receive for their labours the praise of men. These are they who reckon their glory, not in the mouths of men, but in the testimony of their own conscience. But also there are many who afflict the body by self-control, and yet, in that very self-control, do seek only the applause of men.

+ + +

Saint Martina was the virgin daughter of an illustrious Roman family, and after the death of her parents, she distributed all her wealth to the poor. Whereupon the Emperor Alexander commanded her to sacrifice to imaginary gods, and on her refusal, subjected her to unspeakable brutalities, such as scourging, putting her at the mercy of savage beasts, torturing her with fire, and other such like terrible sufferings ; and at last caused her to be beheaded. Her martyrdom occurred sometime between 226 and 228 in the Patriarchate of Pope Urban I. Her relicks were discovered on 25 Oct., 1634, in the crypt of an ancient church situated near Mamertine prison and dedicated to the saint.
Mamertine Prison


O God, who among the manifold works of thine almighty power hast bestowed even upon the weakness of women strength to win the victory of martyrdom : grant, we beseech thee, that we, who on this day recall the heavenly birth of blessed Martina thy Virgin and Martyr ; may so follow in her footsteps, that we may likewise attain unto thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor

Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor, January 29, 2012

Nocturn III of Matins

A Homily by Saint Augustine the Bishop

The Lord would have us understand how that men do lose their power of savoring others with righteousness when they are willing to place their eternal welfare in jeopardy for the sake of any temporal advantage, like as attainment of ease of luxury, or escape from suffering or toil. For that which is eternal, unlike things of this world, can neither be bestowed by men, nor by them taken away. Hence, when he asketh : If the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted : he would have us understand the question to be : If ye, by whom mankind is preserved from corruption, be willing to lose the kingdom of heaven so as to escape trials or persecutions in this world, who is there to preserve you from corruption, seeing ye are they that God hath chosen to preserve all others from corruption?

Those that should be the salt of the earth, but have lost heir savour, are thenceforth good for nothing, saith the Lord, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. But no one that suffered persecution is truly said to be trodden under foot of men. Rather, that one is truly trodden under foot of men who through fear of persecution hath lost the savour of righteousness. For no one can be trodden upon, unless he be beneath him which treadeth upon him. And certainly no one who hath his heart in heaven, no matter how grievously he doth suffer in his body on earth, is rightly said to be beneath anyone who misuseth him.

Ye are the light of the world, saith the Lord. And we are to understand the word: World : in the same sense as the word : Earth : when he spoke above of the salt of the earth, that is, not that earth whereupon we walk with our bodily feet, but the men which dwell upon the earth ; in other words, sinners, for the sweetening and correction of whose corruption, the Lord hath sent his Apostles, as it were, as so much salt. And so by the world we are to understand, not the heaven and the earth, but the men who are in the world and love the world, for the enlightening of whom the Apostles have been sent. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid : that is, what is founded whereof the mountain upon which the Lord gave this discourse was itself a figure, is magnificent in the eyes of all men.


Hagiography of Saint John Chrysostom

This John was born at Antioch, and in manhood developed such a gift of eloquence that he came to be called Chrysostom, that is, Golden-mouth. He became a monk, and set about to subdue his quick temper, and other passions, none of which he found so difficult to conquer as vainglory. He was made Archbishop of Constantinople against his will in 398, and undertook the reform of that vast diocese, recalling Christians to their first fervour, founding hospitals for the sick and poor, and sending missionaries to the Goths, and even settling the troubles of the Church of Ephesus. The principal liturgy of the Eastern Church is named for him because of the contributions which he made to it.

His great Christian learning and zeal earned him many enemies, one of whom was the Empress Eudoxia, who sent him into exile. But the people so much rebelled at his that he was recalled. Whereat he ceased not to rebuke the laxity of manners amongst high and low, which so annoyed a faction of bishops that these same procured of the Emperor Arcadius to have him exiled to Armenia, and then driven thither and yon. During which time it passeth belief how much he suffered, and how many he won to Christ. Thus in his old age, from the hardships of his forced journeys, he died in Pontus, on September 14th in 407.

But in 434, the then Emperor Theodosius and his sister Pulcheria, children of Arcadius and Eudoxia, caused the body of the Saint to be brought from Pontus to Constantinople, and on January 27th laid it with magnificent honours in a tomb, beside the which they prayed for the forgiveness of their father and mother. His relicks were later translated to the Vatican Basilica at Rome. Saint Chrysostom is esteemed as one of the first four Eastern Doctors of the Church, of whom he was by far the most prolific preacher, and his writings are one of the treasures of Christendom.


O Lord, who didst vouchsafe to illumine thy Church with the wondrous righteousness and doctrine of thy blessed Confessor and Bishop Saint Chrysostom: grant, we beseech thee, that the bounty of thy heavenly grace may evermore increase and multiply the same, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Saints Vincent and Anastatius, Martyrs, January 22nd

Saints Vincent and Anastatius, Martyrs, January 22nd

Vincent was a deacon of Saragossa in Spain, who suffered great tortures and death in the year 304 at Valencia, supposedly on January 22nd. At a very early date his fame spread abroad through Christendom, and he hath ever since been honored as one of the noblest of the early Martyrs. The Acts of blessed Vincent were already extant by the time of Saint Augustine, who said in a sermon on this Martyr that they lay before him as he preached ; and the poet Prudentius wrote of him. From such written Acts and poetry his history took its present form, which is one of the treasures of Christian culture. * The history of St. Vincent runs thus. The Bishop of Saragossa had an impediment in his speech, for which reason the Deacon Vincent did the preaching. And in the persecution of Dacian, Vincent spake for the Bishop and his followers at the judgement seat, whereat he was scourged, tormented on the rack, blistered on a grating over burning coals, torn with iron hooks, and his wounds cauterized with hot metal. He was then laid on potsherds, lest he should sleep from exhaustion. But as he lay in his dark cell, it was suddenly filled with glorious light. Then Dacian tried to seduce him from Christ by pretended kindness, and had him laid in a soft bed. But Vincent, who had suffered beyond human endurance, thereupon passed at once to his Master whom he had loved so bravely. Whereat his body was thrown out unburied. But a raven came and guarded it, and by beak, claws, and wings kept off other birds, and even a wolf. Dacian then had the body thrown into the sea, which washed it up again. Then it was reverently buried by the Christians. His relicks are still venerated at Saragossa. * Anastasius was martyred on January 22nd, in 628. The holy Cross carried away in Persia by Chosroes had this Anastasius as one of its trophies. He was a Persian, the son of a Magian and a soldier in the Persia army, who was made inquisitive regarding Christ by the controversies over the Cross, and so went to Jerusalem and learned Christ and became a monk. He was tortured at Caesarea, and then brought to Chosroes who was in Assyria, by whose orders he was strangled, then beheaded. His relicks were later taken to Rome, and laid in the Monastery of Saints Vincent and Anastasius.

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications, that whereas we are tied and bound by the chain of our sins, the intercession of thy blessed Martyrs Vincent and Anastatius may speedily help and deliver us, through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, January 21

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, January 21

Antiphon on Benedictus:

Lo what I desired I now do see; what I did hope for I now possess ; * now am I unite in heaven to him whom I loved with my whole heart upon earth.

From the Treatise on Virgins by St. Ambrose the Bishop

+This is the virgin’s birthday. Let us therefore resolve to follow the example of her chastity. It is a martyr’s birthday. Let us therefore resolve to offer sacrifice. It is the feast of holy Agnes. Let men therefore be filled with wonder, and children with hope, and married women with awe, and the unmarried with a desire to emulate her. What can we say worthy of her whose very name hath become a praise? To me it seemeth as if this little maiden, holy beyond her years, and courageous beyond human nature, received the name of Agnes, not as an earthly designation, but as a revelation from God as to what she was to be. For the word Agnes is from the Greek, and signifieth pure. Thus this holy maiden is named Chastity, and when I have added thereto the word Martyr, I have said enough. She needeth not the praise which we could utter, but do not. None is more praiseworthy than she, whose praise all mouths do speak. For everyone that uttered he name doth praise her, and she is exalted whenever she is given the noble title of Martyr.

Tradition saith that she suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen. Let us pass by the profane cruelty which did not spare her tender years, to contemplate the great power of her faith, whereby she overcame the weakness of childhood, and witnessed a good confession. She was hardly big enough for their sword-thrusts. But if her little body could scarce sheathe their swords, it was mighty enough to endure each blade that smote her. For she feared not the bloody hands of the executioners. When they dragged her with clanking chains, she was unmoved. Hardly entered on life, she stood ready to die, and quailed not when the weapons of enraged swordsmen were pointed at her breast. If they forced her against her will to approach the altars of devilish gods, she could even then stretch forth her hands to Christ amid the very flames which consumed the idolatrous offerings, and make the victorious Sign of the Cross of the Lord over the heathen shrine. She was ready to submit her neck and hands to the iron shackles, but they were too big to clasp her slender limbs. Behold a strange Martyr! She was not grown of stature sufficient to fight the battle, and yet was she ripe for the triumph! Too weak was she to run in the race, and yet she was clearly entitled to the prize! Unable from her age to be aught but a learner, she nonetheless is found to be a teacher.

She went to the place of execution a virgin, more willing and joyful than others go to the nuptial chamber as a bride. Bystanders wept, but she was tearless. Many wondered that she held so cheap that life whose sweets she had scarcely tasted, and was so ready to cast away, as a cup drained to the dregs. All men were amazed when they saw her, not yet old enough to be a legal witness in her own affairs, yet made by God a witness unto himself. Consider how many threats her executioner used to excite her fears, how many arguments to shake her resolution, how many promises to bribe her to accept his offers of marriage. But she answered him : It is an insult to my Betrothed to expect that I could favour another ; he that first chose me, his alone will I be ; headsman, why waitest thou? Kill the body which draweth the admiration of eyes form which I shrink! She stood, prayed, and then bent her neck for the stroke. Then mightest thou have seen the executioner trembling as though he himself were the criminal. Thou mightest have seen his hands shaking, and the bystanders become pale with fear, whilst she alone stood fearless. Here, then, we recognize one victim, but a double offering to God, that of her purity, and that of her faith. She preserved virginity by achieving martyrdom.


Almighty and everlasting God, who dost choose the weak things of this world to confound those things that are strong, mercifully grant that we who keep the feast of blessed Agnes thy Virgin and Martyr, may feel the succour of her intercession in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saint Fabian, Pope, & Saint Sebastian, Martyrs, January 20th

Saint Fabian, Pope, & Saint Sebastian, Martyrs,

Martyrdom of St. Fabian, Pope

Fabian was a Roman, and sat as Pope from the year 236, in the reign of the Emperor Maximin, till 250, in that of Decius. He is said to have appointed a deacon to each of the seven districts of Rome to look after the poor, and the same number of subdeacons to collect the Acts of the Martyrs from the records kept by the seven district notaries ; and to have ordained that every Maundy Thursday the old chrism should be burnt and the new consecrated. He was crowned with martyrdom on the 20th of January, in the year 250, during the persecution of Decius, and buried in the cemetery of Saint Callistus on the Appian Way, having sat in the throne of Peter fifteen years and four days. By the Pontifical Book he is said to have held five Advent ordinations, in which he ordained twenty-two p0riests, seven deacons and eleven bishops for divers Sees. * The holy Martyr Sebastian was once a great favourite of the Emperor Diocletian, both on account of his noble birth and his personal bravery, and was Captain of the First Company of the Praetorian Guards, albeit he was in secret a Christian, and often assisted other Christians by his good offices and by Alms. When these things became known, Diocletian sent for Sebastian and, after violently rebuking him, used every means to turn him from his faith in Christ. But as neither promises nor threats availed, he ordered him to be tied to a post and shot to death with arrows. * Sebastian was treated accordingly and left for dead. But when in the night a holy widow Irene went to bury him, he was found still alive. And Irene nursed him in her own house till his health was restored. Then went he, and rebuked Diocletian for his wickedness. Which same ordered him to be beaten to death with rods, under which torments the Martyr yielded his blessed soul to God, on January 20th, 288. His body was thrown into a sewer, but was later found and buried in those Catacombs over which a famous Church hath since been built, called Sebastian’s-without-the-Walls.

Protect us, O Lord, we beseech thee: who observe the feast of blessed Fabian and Sebastian, thy holy Martyrs, and grant that by their meritorious supplication we may ever find favour in thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Saints Maris, Martha, Audifax, and Habakkuk, Martyrs

Saints Maris, Martha, Audifax, and Habakkuk, Martyrs, January 19

Maris was a Persian of high rank, who came to Rome in the reign of the Emperor Claudius, with his wife Martha, who was equally noble, and their two sons Audifax and Habakkuk, to pray at the graves of the martyrs. Here they comforted the Christians who were in prison, (whom they relieved by their ministrations and alms,) and buried the bodies of the Saints. For these good deeds they were all arrested, but no threats or terrors could move them to sacrifice to idols. They were accordingly beaten with clubs, dragged about with ropes, burnt with red-hot metal, and mangled with metal hooks. Lastly their hands were all cut off, and they were fastened together by the neck, in which state they were driven through the City to the Thirteenth Milestone on the Cornelian Way, a place now called Santa Ninfa, where they were to die. There Martha addressed a moving exhortation to her husband and sons to hold out bravely to the last, for the love of Jesus Christ, and was then herself drowned. The other three martyrs were next beheaded, and thrown into a fire. The lady Felicity of Rome collected the half burnt remains, and caused them to be buried at her won farm. The date of their death was in the year 270.

O Lord, we pray thee, graciously to hear thy people that call upon thee with the assistance of thy Saints, that we may obtain of thee peace in this our temporal life, and likewise thy succour unto life eternal, through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saint Prisca, Virgin and Martyr, January 18

St. Prisca, Virgin & Martyr
Saint Prisca, Virgin and Martyr, January 18

This Saint Prisca hath been venerated in Rome from the very earliest times as a Virgin and Martyr. She was a maiden of noble lineage who, at the age of thirteen, was accused before the Emperor Claudius, but remained faithful to Christ in spite of the most barbarous tortures inflicted on her pure body. And that finally she was beheaded, namely, about the year 250, and buried by the Christians on January 18th, at the Tenth Milestone from the City. The basilica erected in her honour came later to bear the title : Saints Aquila and Priscilla : which Saints are commemorated in the Martyrology on July 8th, and are mentioned several times in the New Testament, and were friends of the Apostle Paul. But it was the practice of early days to draw together, for commemoration on the same date, the memories of those blessed ones who had the same name, for which reason in some places the holy Priscilla, who was the friend of Saint Paul, is honored on this day, and holy Aquila as well.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we, who this day observe the heavenly birthday of blessed Prisca thy Virgin and Martyr, may in such wise rejoice in her yearly festival, that we may learn to follow rightly the pattern of her faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Peter’s Chair at Rome, January 18th

St. Peter’s Chair at Rome, January 18th

From a Sermon by St. Leo the Pope

When the twelve holy Apostles had received from the Holy Ghost the power to speak all languages, they divided the whole world into districts, which they severally allotted to themselves as fields for their Gospel labours. Then was Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, sent to the capital city of the Roman Empire, that he might cause the light to shine thence throughout the whole body of the civilized nations. At that time what race was there that had none of their folk dwelling in Rome? Or, when Rome had learnt, what people that did not learn?

In Rome were many dreams of an unbelieving philosophy awaiting to be destroyed. In Rome were many empty utterances o f earthly wisdom awaiting to be confuted. In Rome was much idolatry awaiting to be overcome. In Rome was great profanities awaiting to be put down. For here in this city the activity of superstition had gathered together from the whole earth every error which it could find. O most blessed Apostle Peter! This was the city to which thou didst not shrink to come. The Apostle Paul, thy comrade in glory, was yet occupied in founding the churches, and thou didst enter alone into that forest of wild beasts roaring furiously ;thou didst commit thyself to that stormy ocean, more boldly that when thou didst walk upon the waters to come to Jesus.

Thou, O Peter, hadst already taught those of the Circumcision who had turned to Christ. Thou hadst founded the Church of Antioch, the first Church that bore the noble name of Christian. Thou hadst published the law of the Gospel throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. And thou didst not fear the hardness of thy work, nor turn back because of thine old age, but didst boldly set up the trophy of the Cross of Christ upon these Roman walls, where the providence of God had appointed the throne of thine honour, and the glorious scene of thy passion.


O God, who through the preaching of thy blessed Apostle Saint Paul hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine forth upon the Gentiles : grant, we beseech thee, that we, who this day call him to remembrance, may feel the effectual benefit of his intercession, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Saint Marcellus, Pope and Martyr, January 16

St.Marcellus in a stable
Saint Marcellus, Pope and Martyr, January 16,

This Marcellus was a Roman, and was believed to have held his brief pontificate in the reign of Constantius and Galerius, and in that of Maxentius. According to the Pontifical Book, it was through his persuasion that the Roman Lady Lucina left the whole of her property to the Church of God, which same was made into a church bearing his name. An epitaph by Pope Saint Damasus saith that because of his enforcement of the penitential canons, he excited the wrath of Maxentius, who threatened him with punishment. * The servant of God treated with contempt the mad cries of this man, who (so it is said) sent him to a menagerie, to take care of the beasts which were fed at the public cost, where Marcellus remained in continual fasting and prayer. And, as he could not visit the parishes of Rome in person, he wrote letters to them, until some of his clergy rescued him. * Maxentius, it is said, thereupon had the wild beasts brought from the menagerie and located in a church, where Marcellus was made to feed them. And the noisomeness of the place and the filthiness of his occupation soon broke down a constitution already enfeebled by many ailments, and he fell asleep in the Lord in 309, on January 16, and for his sufferings is accounted a Martyr.

O Lord, we beseech thee favorably to hear the prayers of thy people, that, as we do rejoice in the passion of thy blessed Bishop and Martyr, Saint Marcellus, so his merits may be our succour and defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor

Hilary was born of a most illustrious family in Aquataine, and of him blessed Jerome saith : He was a man of mighty eloquence, the Latin Trumpet against the Arians. He was born of pagan parents , and brought up in idolatry, but in due time was found of Christ and became God’s servant. In early life he had married, but at his ordination he and his wife chose to live in continence. And because of the fame he made for himself by his wisdom and eloquence as a priest, he was chosen to be Bishop of Poitiers, in which office he gained the universal praise of the faithful. At that time the Emperor Constantius was persecuting the Catholics by every species of cruelty, in order to make them yield to the Arian heresy. Against the Arians Hilary set himself up as a brazen wall, and thereby turned upon himself the fierceness of their anger. When they procured his banishment to Phrygia, he used his exile to write a work in twelve books, on the Trinity, against these hereticks. * In the year 359, the fourth of his exile, he was obliged to attend the Council of Selucia in Isauria, which was largely composed of Arians, whom he there publicly withstood. And afterwards he withdrew to Constantinople, where he demanded leave from the Emperor to hold a public disputation in his presence. However, the Arian Bishops Ursacius and Valens, whom Hilary had already confuted in writing, were afraid to meet him in debate, and therefore induced Constantius, under pretence of pardon, to send him back to his bishoprick. And he was followed to Poitiers by Martin, afterwards Bishop of Tours, whose growth in holiness was a fruit of his teaching. * Henceforth he ruled the Church of Poitiers in great peace. His wonderful learning is seen in his numerous written works. And his tenderness of heart is well manifested in a letter, still extant, which during his exile he wrote to his daughter, urging upon her to become a nun, which same by this letter she was moved to do. He passed from earth to heaven upon January 13th, about the 368, during the reign of the Emperors Valentian and Valens. He has been called an Illustrious Doctor of the Church by many Fathers and Councils.

The Collect:
O GOD, who hast enlightened thy Church with the wondrous learning of blessed Hilary thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that we, being in all things enlightened by his wisdom, may at all times feel the effectual succour of his righteousness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.