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14 Day Lenten Series: Day 11: St Hilarion’s Miracles and Combat with Devils as Written by St. Jerome

8 April 2017

St. Hilarion: from his life written by St. Jerome
by Bishop Challoner, 1841

Part11Hilarion was born at a village called Thabatha, five miles from the city of Gaza in Palestine, of infidel parents, who sent him, when very young, to study at Alexandria, where he gave proofs of an excellent genius for his age, and of his good dispositions to virtue. Here he embraced the faith of Christ, and young as he was, could find no pleasure either in theatrical shows, incentives to lust, or any other wordly diversions, but delighted only in frequenting the church, and in religious exercises. Hearing of the fame of St. Antony, he went to visit him in the desert, and put off his secular habit, in order to embrace the same institute. He remained with the Saint about two months, making it his study to observe and learn perfectly the whole order and method of his life;–his continual prayer–his humility–his charity–his mortification–and all his other virtues. Then returning into his own country with some other religious men, and finding that his parents were dead, he distributed his whole substance between his brethren and the poor, without reserving any thing for himself, bearing in mind that saying of our Lord: He that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, Luke xiv. 33. Thus stript of the world, and armed with Christ, being only in his sixteenth year, he took the resolution of retiring into the wilderness (which lies on the left of the road that leads from Gaza into Egypt), without apprehending the dangers which his worldly friends objected, from the robberies and murders for which that place was infamous; but rather despising a temporal death, that he might escape that which is eternal nor regarding the tenderness of his own constitution, which made him very sensible of cold, heat, and other injuries of the weather, and of the hardships and austerities that are incident to that kind of life which he was going to undertake.

On going into the desert, he took on other clothing with him than the frock of a peasant, a sackcloth and hair-cloth, with a leathern habit to wear over it, which St. Antony had given him. Here he built himself a little hut, covered with sedges and rushes, to modify the inclemency of the weather, which served him from the sixteenth to the twentieth year of his age, and afterwards in a cell, which, according to St. Jerome’s account, who had seen it, was but four feet wide, five feet high, and in length but a little longer than his body, so that as he could not stand in it upright, it seemed rather a tomb for a dead corpse, than a dwelling for a living man. Here his diet was suitable to his lodging; his food for the first years being but fifteen dry figs in the day, and that not till after sunset. Afterwards, from the twenty-first to the twenty-seventh year of his age, he took only about eight or ten ounces of lentiles, steeped in cold water, or a little dry bread, with salt and water. For the space of three or four years more, he lived upon nothing but the wild herbs, or roots of the shrubs of the wilderness. From the thirty-first till the thirty-fifth year of his age he confined himself to six ounces of barley bread per day, and a few pot-herbs without oil; which rule he continued to observe to his sixty-third year, when he began to allow himself a little oil with his herbs, but tasted nothing else, either of fruit or of pulse, or of any other kind of food. From that time, as he now supposed that by course of nature he could not have long to live, instead of relaxing in his austerities, he redoubled them; so that from the sixty-fourth year of his age till his death, that is, till he was eighty years old, he totally abstained from bread, and eat nothing, during the four and twenty hours, but a kind of mess composed of meal and herbs, which served him both for meat and drink: and this in so small a quantity, that his whole daily sustenance did not weigh above five ounces. Such was his austerity, with respect to his food, that, throughout these different periods of his life, he ever observed it as a constant rule, never to eat or drink till after sun-set, how weak soever his health might be, not even on the greatest solemnities.

Hilarion had no sooner, in imitation of his great model and master St. Antony, entered upon this course of life, in a vast and frightful desert, where no man before had ventured to dwell, and, like him, applied himself incessantly to God in prayer, than the devil, not bearing to see himself thus trodden under foot by a young man, began to assault him with violent temptations of the flesh, filling his mind with impure imaginations, and inciting him by sensual allurements, to carnal pleasures, of which before he had no conception. The chaste youth perfectly abhorred himself,
St. Hilarion as written by St. Jerome 01He struck his breast, as if he meant by this exterior violence to put those lewd suggestions to flight: he condemned himself to longer, and still more rigorous fasts and hard labour, saying thus to himself: “thou little jack-ass, I will teach thee to kick; instead of corn thou shalt feed only on straw;–I will tame thy courage with hunger and thirst: I will lay heavy burthens upon thee:–I will make thee work both in summer and winter, that instead of wanton pleasures thou mayest think of thy meat.” The Saint was steadfast in his resolution: fasting without intermission, sometimes for three or four days together, and then taking only a little juice of herbs and a few figs for his meal: incessantly praying, singing psalms, and working at the same time, either in digging the earth or in making baskets, till at length, by these exercises, he reduced his body to a mere skeleton. Wherefore the enemy perceiving he could not prevail this way, began to trouble him with fantastic apparitions and other temptations.

One night he was on a sudden surprised with hearing the crying as it were of children, the bleating of sheep, the bellowing of oxen, the lamentations of women, the roaring of lions, and the confused noise of an army of barbarians, with strange and frightful voices. Suspecting them to be nothing but diabolical illusions, he armed himself with the sign of the cross, and with a lively faith, cast himself down upon the ground, to be the better enabled, in this humble posture, to encounter the proud enemy. Then looking forward, it being a clear moon-light night, he perceived, as it were, a coach, drawn by furious horses, coming with a violent gallop towards him: at the sight of which he called upon the name of Jesus, when behold on a sudden the whole fantastic scene sunk down into the earth before his eyes: upon which he burst forth the praises of his Deliverer. At several other times this indefatigable enemy sought various ways, both by day and night, to molest him: either by exhibiting naked figures to excite him to concupiscence, or by seeking to interrupt his devotion and distract him at prayer by a variety of either comic or tragic scenes: but none of these, or any other of his attempts, were able to shake the resolution of the servant of God, or prevent his perpetual application to the love and service of his Maker. One day whilst he was praying with his head fixed on the ground, it happened that his mind wandered on some other thoughts, the watchful enemy, taking advantage of this distraction, jumped upon his back, as if to ride upon him; and whipping and spurring, cried out: “What, art thou asleep? Thou a saint! come shall I give thee some provender?” But this, like the rest of his vain efforts, only served to excite the Saint to still more vigilance and fervor.

About the eighteenth year of his age, the robbers that frequented the desert, took it in their heads to pay him a visit; expecting either to find something in his hut to take away, or looking upon it as a rash attempt in a single boy to venture to dwell alone in their dominions and not be afraid of them. They therefore began their search after him in the evening, and continued it till the sunrising, without being able to find his lodging: but meeting him at day-light, they asked him as it were in jest, “what he would do if he were visited by robbers?” “Oh!” said he, “he that has nothing to lose fears no robbers.” “But,” said they, “perhaps they may kill thee.” “True,” said he, “but I do not dread death: and therefore am not afraid of them, because I am prepared to die.” Amazed at his constancy and faith, they acknowledged that having sought him during the night, they were so blinded as not to be able to find him; and so deeply were they affected with his words, that they promised to amend their lives.

Hilarion had now spent twenty-two years in perfect solitude in the wilderness, conversing only with God and his angels, and only known to the world by the fame of his sanctity, which was spread over all Palestine, when a certain woman of the city of Eleutheropolis, who had lived fifteen years in the state of wedlock without bearing a child, finding herself despised by her husband on account of her barrenness, ventured to break in upon his solitude; and coming unexpectedly upon him, cast herself upon her knees before him, saying: “Pardon my boldness; pity my distress: why do you turn away your eyes from me? Why do you flee from your petitioner? Do not look at me as a woman, but as a distressed fellow-creature. Remember that a woman brought forth the Savior of the world, those that are well stand not in need of a physician, but they that are ill.” At these words he stood still; and having learnt of her, the first woman he had seen since his retiring into the desert, the cause of her grie£, he lifted up his eyes towards heaven, bid her be of good heart, and weeping for her, sent her away; but behold within a twelvemonth she returned, bringing her son with her to visit him. This, his first miracle, was followed by a greater.

When Aristeneta, the wife of Elpidius, a Christian nobleman (who was afterwards advanced to one of the first posts in the empire), was on her return from Egypt, where she had been with her husband and her three sons, to see St . Antony, she stopped at Gaza on account of the illness of her children, who were all seized by a semitertian fever, and brought so low that their lives were despaired of by the physicians. The disconsolate mother, hearing of the sanctity of Hilarion, whose wilderness was not far distant from Gaza, went in haste to visit him, accompanied by some of her servants, and thus addressed herself to him: “I beg of thee for God’s sake: for the sake of Jesus our most merciful God; through His cross and His blood; that thou wouldst vouchsafe to come and restore health to my three sons, that the name of the Lord our Savior may be glorified in that pagan city: that when His servant comes into Gaza, Marnas (the idol which they there worship) may fall to the ground.” The man of God excused himself, alleging, that he never went out of his cell, not so much as into any village, much less into a populous city; but she, casting herself down upon the ground, ceased not to importune him with many tears; often crying out,” O Hilarion! thou blessed servant of God, restore to me my sons: Antony has laid his hands upon them in Egypt, but do thou save their lives in Syria.” Her earnest entreaties at length obliged him to promise her that he would come to Gaza after sun-set. No sooner had he arrived at their lodgings, and seen them confined to their beds in burning fevers, bereft of sense, than he called upon our Lord Jesus, when immediately a copious sweat, issuing as it were from three fountains, followed his prayer, and in the space of an hour they took their meat, knew their mournful mother, blessed God, and kissed the hands of the Saint.

No sooner was his miracle published abroad, than multitudes of the inhabitants of both Syria and Egypt began to visit him. Many infidels were by his mean converted to the faith of Christ, and many also, by his example, embraced a monastic life; for, before his time, there were neither monks nor monasteries in Palestine or Syria: he must therefore be considered the father, founder and first teacher of the monastic institute in those provinces. And now it was that he began to be joined by many disciples, whom he trained: up to religious perfection, who were witnesses of the wonderful miracles that God wrought by him. St. Jerome, as one perfectly well informed, has recorded several of the most remarkable, with all their circumstances. A woman of the neighborhood of Rhinocorura, (a city on the confines of Egypt,) who had been blind for ten years, was brought to the Saint to be healed: after having told him that she had, expended her whole substance on physicians, “you had done better (said he) if you had given it to the poor; you would then have given it to Jesus Christ, the true physician, who would have healed you.” She earnestly begged that he would have pity on her; and he, with spitting on her eyes, restored her to her sight. A charioteer of Gaza was also brought to him on his bed, struck in such a manner by the devil, that he could not stir any of the members of his body except his tongue, with which he besought the servant of God to heal him. The Saint told him, that if he desired to be healed, he must first believe in Jesus Christ, and promise to renounce a profession which exposed him to the immediate occasion of sin. To these conditions he agreed, and having received his cure, he returned home, rejoicing more for the health of his soul, than for that of his body.

Marsitas, a young man of the territory of Jerusalem of an extraordinary bulk and strength, who had been possessed by an evil spirit, and done much mischief to many, was dragged? by ropes to the cell of the servant of God, like a mad bull bound in chains. The brethren at the very sight of him were affrighted, but the saint bid the people bring him up and let him loose; which when they had done, he commanded him to bend down his head and come to him. The poor man trembling bent his neck, when laying aside all his fierceness, and falling down he licked the feet of the man of God; and after seven days’ exorcisms was entirely cured. Another man, named Orion, a principal citizen of Aila, a city near the Red Sea, who was possessed by a whole legion of devils, was brought in like manner loaded with chains to the Saint, who happened at that time to be walking with his disciples, and interpreting to them some passages of the Scripture: when behold the possessed man broke loose from those that held him, and running up to the man of God, whose back was turned towards him, lifted him up from the ground on high in his arms: at which all that were present cried out, apprehending that he would do the Saint some mischief; but Hilarion said smiling, “suffer me to wrestle with my antagonist.” Then putting back his hand, he laid hold on the hair of Orion, and bringing him before his feet, kept him down howling, and turning back his neck, so as to touch the ground with the top of his head. Then praying, he said: “O Lord Jesus, I am a poor wretch; do thou release this captive; thou canst as easily overcome many as one.” On this occasion they were all astonished to hear so many different voices issuing from the mouth of the possessed person, and a confused out-cry, as it were of a whole people: but their wonder ceased when they saw the multitude of wicked spirits that was expelled from him by the prayers of the humble servant of God. Orion came shortly afterwards with his wife and children to return thanks to the Saint, and brought him large presents out of gratitude, which he absolutely refused to accept: but when he besought him with tears to take at least what he had brought, and to give it to the poor, he answered; “thou canst better distribute thyself what thou wouldst have to be given to the poor; for thou frequentest cities, and knowest the poor; why should I, who have left my own, covet the goods of others? Many have been imposed upon by avarice, under the name of the poor. Do not make thyself uneasy; it is for both thy sake and mine I refuse thy presents: for if I should accept of them, I should offend God, and the legion of devils would return to thee.”

One Italicus, a Christian of Maiuma, the haven of Gaza, who bred horses for the public races that were to be exhibited at Gaza, came to the Saint to beg his prayers against the enchantments wherewith his pagan antagonist, one of the magistrates of the city, had bewitched his horses. Hilarion, who disliked all these pubhe games, was unwilling to employ his prayers on so vain an occasion. But the other representing to him that it was not by his own choice, but by his office, he was obliged to do what he did; and that the honor of God and religion was here at stake, because the men of Gaza, who, for the most part, were infidels, would take occasion, from his being worsted, to insult, not so much over him as over the church of Christ: the Saint, at the request of the brethren, ordered his earthen pot, in which he used to drink, to be filled with water, and given to him. Italicus took the water, and with it sprinkled his stable, his horses, his chariot, and his drivers, in the sight of the pagans, who made a jest of it, whilst the Christians, confiding in the prayers of the Saint, made no doubt of success. Wherefore, as soon as the signal was given, the horses of Italicus sprung forth-with incredible speed, whilst those of his adversary were presently distanced, and could scarce keep within sight of them that were gone before. Upon this a loud cry of all the people was immediately raised, and even the very adversaries cried out, that Marnas, the God of Gaza, was worsted by Christ. This miracle gave occasion to the conversion of many.

There was also in the same town of Maiuma, a virgin dedicated to God, with whom a young man in the neighborhood was vehemently in love. After having employed, without success, flattering speeches, idle jokes, and other freedoms, which too often pave the way to greater crimes, he went to Memphis in Egypt, to seek a remedy for his wound from the priests of Esculapius. They furnished him with certain magical spells and monstrous figures, graven upon a plate of copper, which he buried under the threshold of the house where the maid dwelt, when behold immediately (in punishment of her having laid herself too open to the enemy, by not flying, as she ought, or not resisting former freedoms) the maid ran mad with love, tearing off her head clothes, whirling about her hair, gnashing with her teeth, and calling upon the name of the young man. Her parents, therefore, took her to St. Hilarion, when presently it appeared how the case stood; for the devil began to howl within her, and to cry out: “I was forced in hither; I was brought from Memphis against my will: where I succeeded well, in deluding men with dreams. But, oh! what torments dost thou make me suffer here! Thou compellest me to depart, but behold I am bound fast, and kept in by the thread and plate that lie under the threshold. I cannot go out till the young man who keeps me here, lets me go.” “Thou art very strong indeed!” said the Saint, “if thou art held by a thread and a plate. But tell me, how didst thou dare to enter into a maid dedicated to God!” “It was,” said he, “to preserve her virginity.” “What! thou preserve her virginity,” said the Saint, “who art the mortal enemy of chastity. Why didst thou not rather enter into him that sent thee?” “Oh,” said the devil, “there was no necessity for my entering into him, who was already possessed by my comrade, the demon of wanton love.” The Saint would hear no more, nor send for the young man, not order the things mentioned to be taken away, to show the little regard that is to be had to the devil’s speeches or signs, but instantly delivered the maid from her wicked guest, and sent her away perfectly cured, after severely reprehending her for admitting of those liberties which had given the devil the power to possess her.

It would be endless to recount all the other miracles that God wrought by this Saint, which rendered his name illustrious, even in the most remote provinces. St. Antony himself, hearing of his life and conversation, wrote to him, and gladly received letters from him; and when any diseased came to him for their cure from any part of Syria, he blamed them for giving themselves the trouble to come so far, since you have, said he, in those parts my son Hilarion. His bright example attracted great numbers to the service of God, so that now there were innumerable monasteries, or cells of religious, throughout Palestine, who all looked upon him as their father, and resorted to him for their direction. These he exhorted to attend to their spiritual progress; ever reminding them, “that the figure of this world passeth away, and that eternal life can only be purchased by parting with the pleasures and affections of this life.” He visited all their monasteries once a year for their instruction and edification: and such was his diligence and charity on these occasions, that he would not pass by the cell of the least or meanest of the brethren without calling in to instruct and console him, insomuch that he went as far as the desert of Kadesh, on purpose to visit one single monk who dwelt there. In this journey he was accompanied by a great number of his disciples into the city of Elusa, on the confines of the Saracens, on a festival day, when the people were all assembled in the temple of Venus, who was there worshipped by the Saracens on account of the star that bears her name. No sooner had they heard that Hilarion, of whose sanctity and miracles they had been previously informed by several of their nation whom he had delivered from evil spirits, was passing by, but all the men, women, and children ran out in crowds to meet him and to beg his blessing. The Saint received them all with the utmost tenderness and humility, and begged that they would henceforth worship the living God, rather than stocks and stones: shedding at the same time many tears, and looking up towards heaven, he promised, if they would believe in Christ, that he would frequently come to see them. So wonderful was the grace that accompanied the words and prayers of the man of God, that they would not suffer him to quit their city, till he had first marked out a plot of ground for the building of a church; nay, their very priest had received the sign of the cross of Christ, in order to his baptism.

Another year, when the Saint was making his visitation, a little before the time of the vintage, he came with all his companions to the monastery of one of the brethren, who was remarkable for being a niggardly miser. This man had a vineyard, and apprehending lest the multitude of the monks that accompanied the Saint should eat up his grapes, he set several men to keep them off with stones and clods in slings, and would not so much as let them taste of them. The servant of God smiled at the treatment they had met with, but taking no notice of it to the niggard, he went on the next day to another monastery, where he and his whole company were kindly received by a monk named Sabas, who kindly invited them (it being the Lord’s day,) to go and feast themselves in his vineyard. The Saint ordered that they should first take the food of their souls, by applying themselves to their religious exercises of prayer, singing psalms, and paying their duty to God: and then after giving them his blessing, he sent the whole multitude of his disciples to the vineyard to take their corporal refection. The blessing of the man of God was attended with so miraculous an effect, that whereas the vineyard of Sabas was not before thought capable of yielding more than a hundred gallons of wine, it yielded that year three hundred, whilst the vineyard of the niggard yielded much less than usual, and the little that it produced turned into vinegar, a circumstance which the man of God had foretold. Hilarion could never endure in religious men any thing that looked like covetousness, or too great an affection to any of those things that pass away with this transitory world: he was moreover endowed by God with the gift of discovering who were addicted to this, that, or any other kind of vice, by the stench that proceeded from their bodies or garments.

And now the Saint, seeing that his hermitage was converted into a great monastery; and that the wilderness about him was continually crowded with the people who resorted thither, bringing their diseased, or such as were possessed with unclean spirits, and that not only the common sort of people from all the neighboring provinces, but even the gentry,–ladies of the first rank,–clerks, monks, priests, and bishops, were daily visiting him, and interrupting his devotions, he bitterly regretted the loss of his former solitude, perpetually lamenting, weeping, and saying, that since he had returned back into the world, he apprehended he should have his reward in this life, because all Palestine and the neighboring provinces took him to be somebody, &c. nor did he cease to mourn and bewail his condition, till he took a fixed resolution to quit his monastery, and retire into some place where he might be unknown, and more freely enjoy his God without the interruption of so many visits. In the mean time, whilst he was meditating upon his flight, the lady Aristeneta, whose three sons he had cured, came to see him, acquainting him with her design of returning into Egypt, to make a second visit to St. Antony. He replied, with tears in his eyes, that he could have wished to have taken the same journey, if he were not kept prisoner in his monastery, but that it was now too late to find Antony alive; for, said he, two days ago the world was deprived of so great a father. Having believed him, she did not proceed in her journey, and, behold, after some days the news of his death was brought from Egypt.

When it was known abroad that the man of God was upon the point of quitting Palestine, the whole province took the alarm, and no less than ten thousand people, of all degrees and conditions, were gathered together, in order to stop and detain him. But his resolution was not to be altered; and as he had learnt by revelation the havoc that the infidels of Gaza were about to make in his monastery, and all through that neighborhood, under the reign of Julian the Apostate, he gave them broad hints of this his fore-knowledge, saying, that he could not call in question the truth of what God had said; nor could he endure to see the churches destroyed, the altars of Christ trodden under foot, and his children massacred. In short, he assured them he would neither eat nor drink till they let him go. And thus, after he had fasted seven days, they were contented at last to suffer him depart, accompanied by about forty of his monks. With these he made the best of his way to Pelusium, (now called Darmietta) in Egypt, and after visiting the holy solitaries who lived in the neighboring deserts, he waited upon Dracontius and Philo; two illustrious confessors of Christ, of the number of those catholic prelates who had been banished from their sees by the fury of the Arians, under the emperor Constantius. After paying these visits, he hastened to keep the anniversary day of the happy decease of St. Antony in the place where he died: and being conducted by the deacon Baisanes upon dromedaries, three days’ journey through that vast and dreary wilderness, he arrived at length at the mountain of the Saint. Here he found his two disciples, who showed him all the places where their master had been accustomed to sing psalms–to pray–to work–and sit down to rest himself, after being wearied with his labour; as also the garden he had cultivated–the trees he had planted–the instrument with which he had dug the earth–the private cells to which he often retired towards the top of the mountain, &c. and then agreeably entertained him with divers particulars of the acts of the latter part of St. Antony’s life. Hilarion was much moved to devotion with the sight and recital of all this; and after watching in prayer the whole night of the anniversary of the Saint, he returned the same way he came, through the dreary wilderness to the neighborhood of the town called Aphroditon. Here in an adjoining desert, with two of his disciples whom he kept with him, he led so abstemious, abstracted, and silent a life, that on feeling the fervor he now found within himself, he seemed never to have before begun to serve Christ in earnest.

He had not been above two years in this wilderness, when the fame of his sanctity brought all the people of the neighboring country to him, to beg his prayers for rain. For from the time of the death of St. Antony, no rain had fallen upon their land, for the space of three whole years, so that being afflicted with a great famine, they resorted to him, whom they considered as the successor of St. Antony, for a redress of their misery. Moved to pity by the sight of their distress, he lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven to pray for them, and his prayer was immediately followed by plentiful rains. But the rains, whilst they fertilized the earth, having, in falling on the dry hot sand, also produced an incredible multitude of venomous reptiles and insects, with which innumerable persons were struck, they were again forced to have recourse to the Saint, who gave them some oil which he had blessed, with which they were cured. But now finding himself after these miracles greatly honored, he would stay no longer in this place, but departed in order to go and hide himself in the desert of Oasis. In his way thither he passed through Alexandria: and as he made it a rule never to lodge in any city, he went on to a place in the neighbourhood, called Bruchium, where there was a monastery of the servants of God. From hence, when night drew on, he hastened away, telling the brethren, who were greatly afflicted, that they should soon know the reason of his sudden departure. Accordingly, on the next day their monastery was searched by the Gazites, accompanied by officers sent from the governor of Alexandria to apprehend Hilarion, of whose arrival there they had received intelligence. For the infidels of Gaza, who bore a mortal hatred to the Saint, as soon as Julian came to the empire, destroyed his monastery, and obtained an edict from the tyrant, that both he, and his disciple Hesychius, should be sought for and put to death wherever they were found. Of this the Saint had a fore-knowledge by prophetic light, and thereupon withdrew himself: so that the infidels, who had thought themselves, certain of seizing their priest, finding he was gone, departed, saying to each other, that now they were sure he was a magician, and had a foresight of things to come.

He had not been a year in the wilderness of Oasis, before he found that fame had also followed him thither; and therefore now despairing to be able to conceal himself upon the continent, he formed a resolution of seeking out a place in some of the islands of the Mediterranean, where he might hide himself. In order to this he embarked with one only disciple, at Paretonium, a haven on the coast of Lybia, on board a vessel bound for Sicily; hoping that henceforward no one should know him, or become troublesome to him in his retirement. When, behold, in the midst of the voyage the son of the master of the ship, or rather the devil by his mouth, cried out: “Hilarion, thou servant of God, let me alone, at least till we come to land; how comes it to pass, that even at sea thou art still persecuting us.” The Saint would have disguised the grace which God had given him, fearing lest the sailors and passengers should publish his fame when they came to land, and therefore mildly replied: “If my God permits thee to stay, stay if thou wilt; but if he cast thee out, what hast thou do do to complain of me, who am but a poor beggar and a sinful man.” However, upon the solemn promise of the father, and of all the rest, that they would not discover him, he cast the devil out of the boy. When they arrived at Pachynum (now Capo Passaro), he would have paid for the passage of himself and his companion, by giving the captain the book of the gospels, which was all his wealth, but he, seeing their poverty, would not receive it. Wherefore the Saint leaving the sea-coast, withdrew himself into a little kind of wilderness, about twenty miles within the land, and there fixed his abode; living upon what little he could get, by making up faggots, which his companion carried to a neighboring village, bringing from thence in exchange what they stood need of for their food.

But the Saint could not long he concealed here; for soon after his arrival, a man possessed with an evil spirit, being under the exorcisms of the church at St. Peter’s in Rome, the devil cried out thus by his mouth: “Hilarion, the servant of Chiiet, is some days since come into Sicily, where no man knows him, and he thinks himself secret: but I will go and discover him.” This man therefore taking some of his servants with him, and going on board a ship sailed immediately for Sicily; and after coming to shore, being conducted by the devil, he went straight to the hut of the servant of God, and there casting himself at his feet, was perfectly cured. This being noised abroad, great multitudes, who labored under various corporeal diseases, resorted to him to obtain their cure; whilst numbers also of devout and religious people applied to him for their spiritual profit. Amongst the rest, he cured upon the spot one of the principal men of the island, who was swollen up with the dropsy, and who on the same day, returned home in perfect health. This man offered to make him considerable presents, which the Saint absolutely refused, alleging the precept of our Savior, Matt. x. 8. Freely have you received, freely give: which rule he invariably observed in all the other innumerable miracles which he wrought, whether in Sicily or elsewhere, for, he never would receive any thing, no not so much as a morsel of bread from any one of those on whom he had wrought those miracles.

And now his beloved disciple Hesychius, after having sought after him in vain through many different regions came at length to Sicily, upon the report he had heard at Modon in Greece, from a Jewish pedlar, that a Christian prophet had appeared in Sicily, who wrought all kinds of wonderful miracles. No sooner had he found him than the Saint gave him to understand, that he wanted to depart from Sicily into some strange country where he might be utterly unknown. Wherefore, in compliance with his desire, he conveyed him away by a ship to the coast of Dalmatia, where for a short time he led a solitary life, not far from the city of Epidaurus, now called Ragusa. But neither here could he remain long concealed, his miracles every where betraying him. There was at that time, in the neighborhood of Epidaurus, a monstrous serpent, of that species named boas, which did great mischief in destroying both men and cattle; the Saint, to put a stop to this calamity ordered the country people to heap up a pile of wood, and after addressing a prayer to Christ he called the serpent out of his den, and commanded him to go on the top of the pile of wood, and then setting fire to it, he burnt the monster in sight of a great multitude of people. This miracle was followed by another still greater. About this time, viz. the second year of the reign of Valentinian the first, there happened so remarkable an earthquake that, according to Amianus, a cotemporary historian, its like was never recorded, either in authentic or fabulous history. On this occasion, the swelling seas, in several places, broke in and overflowed the land in such a manner as to threaten the earth with a second deluge, and in some places the waves ran so high as to carry the ships along with them, and leave them hanging on the cliffs. The Epidaurians perceiving the danger in which their city as well as many others were in of being destroyed, had recourse to Hilarion, and opposed him to the mountains of water that were just upon the point of overwhelming them. No sooner had the Saint made three crosses on the sand, and lifted Up his arms to heaven, than the swelling waves, though they raged, foamed, and rose up to an incredible height, not able to advance, gradually returned back again and subsided. This wonder, says St. Jerome, who was then a boy in the same province, the city of Epidaurus, as well as the whole country, recount to this day–the mothers relate it to their children, in order to transmit the memory of it to posterity.

The applause that followed these miracles would not suffer the humble servant of Christ to remain any longer in Dalmatia; therefore taking boat privately by night he fled away, and within two days found a ship departing for Cyprus, on which he embarked. In this voyage his ship being pursued by some pirates in two light vessels, there appeared no hopes of escaping them. The ship’s crew being in the utmost consternation, the Saint turning to his disciples said: “Why are you afraid, O ye of little faith?” And when the pirates were now come within a stone’s cast of the ship, he stood on the foredeck, and stretching out his hand to them, he said: “You have come far enough when behold immediately their vessels fell back, and the more they, tugged and rowed, in order to push forward towards their expected prey, the more rapidly were they carried away from it. The Saint landed at Paphos, a noted city of Cyprus, and chose himself a dwelling place about two miles from thence; being now wonderfully pleased that he had found rest, at least for a short time, in this solitude; but scarcely had twenty days elapsed when the devils in different parts of the island published his arrival by the mouths of those that were possessed; and several of these, both men and women, hastened to him and were delivered. Here he remained about two years meditating upon some private place of retirement.

In the mean time he sent Hesychius into Palestine, to salute the brethren there, and to visit the ashes of his monastery; and upon his return proposed that they should sail into Egypt, and advance a great way into the country, to some place inhabited only by pagans. But Hesychius opposed this; and after a long search, discovered a place in the island about twelve miles distant from the sea, amongst mountains and woods that were almost inaccessible, which proved quite to his mind. In this solitude, to which no one could arrive in several places but by creeping, on hands and knees, they found springs of water on the sides of the hills,–a little garden within, with several fruit trees, of which however the Saint would never eat, and near the garden the ruins of an ancient temple, from whence, as both he and his disciples related, were often heard, both night and day, a great noise, like the voices of a whole army of devils. In this solitary abode the man of God dwelt for the last five years of his mortal life, seldom visited by any one but Hesychius, on account of the difficulty of coming at his dwelling, as also because the people were persuaded that the neighborhood was haunted with a multitude of demons. However, there were some that ventured to come to him for the cure of their maladies; their necessities overcoming all difficulties, especially after it was known, that he had cured upon the spot, the bailiff of the place of a palsy, which had deprived him of the use of his limbs, by only stretching out his hand to him, and lifting him up with these words: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rise up and walk.

But now the time arrived which was to put a period to all the labors of his mortal pilgrimage, and unite him eternally to his God, when being now eighty years old he was seized with his last illness. Although Hesychius was then absent, he nevertheless bequeathed to him by will all he had, viz. his book of the gospels, his sackcloth, cowl, and habit. Many religious men from Paphos came to attend him in his sickness, who had heard of his having said, “that he was now going to our Lord;” and with them a holy woman named Constantia, whose daughter and son-in-law he had delivered from death by anointing them with oil. And now he was drawing near his end, when in the very agony of death he distinctly spoke these words: “Go forth my soul: what art thou afraid of? Go forth, why art thou at a stand? Thou hast served Christ almost seventy years, and art thou afraid to die?” and with these words he gave up the ghost. He was immediately buried as he had desired, in the same place: where the devout lady Constantia frequently passed whole nights in prayer at his sepulcher, speaking with him as if he were alive, and desiring the assistance of his prayers. His disciple Hesychius, after ten months, privately conveyed his body away to Palestine, where it was solemnly interred in his own monastery; at which time it was found entirely incorrupt, and sending forth a most fragrant odor. Many great miracles were daily wrought through his intercession, even to the time when St. Jerome published his life, as well at his sepulcher in Palestine, as at the place where he was first buried in Cyprus.

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14 Day Lenten Series: Part 4 – “How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons”

31 March 2017
(Above Picture from left to right: The bedroom of St. Jean Marie Vianney, where many of his battles with the demonic took place; a portrait of the saint in prayer)

(Above Picture from left to right: The bedroom of St. Jean Marie Vianney, where
many of his battles with the demonic took place; a portrait of the saint in prayer)

How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons

The numerous instances recorded in the lives of the saints, of the manner in which those holy men were assailed and tormented by wicked and malignant spirits, appear to have found their counterpart in that marvellous episode in Vianney’s life which now lies before us.

Soon after the Cure d’Ars had opened his house of refuge for the poor orphans of the district, the strangest noises began to disturb his rest at night, and to trouble the quiet of his presbytery. His own account of the origin of these persecutions is as follows: “It was about nine o’clock at night, I was just going to bed, when the demon came to torment me for the first time. Three heavy blows were levelled at the door of my court-yard: you would have thought some one was trying to break it open by force. I opened my window, and asked ‘Who is there?’ but I saw nothing, and commending myself to God, I quietly retired to rest. I had not, however, gone to sleep, before I was again startled by three still louder knocks, not now at the outer door, but at that on the staircase, which led to my chamber. I rose up, and cried out a second time, “Who is there?” No one replied. At the first commencement of these noises at night, I imagined that they were caused by robbers, and fearing lest the beautiful ornaments of the Viscount d’Ars might be in danger of being carried off, I thought it well to take precautions. Accordingly, I had two courageous men to sleep in the house, who were ready to assist me in case of need. They came several nights successively. They heard the noise, but discovering nothing, they were convinced that it proceeded from other causes than the malice of men. I myself soon came to the same conclusion; for one night in the midst of winter, three violent knocks were heard. I rose quickly from my bed, and went down into the court-yard, expecting to see the intruders making their escape, and intending to call for help; but, to my astonishment, I saw nothing, I heard nothing, and, what is more, I discovered no traces of foot-marks upon the snow. I resigned myself to God’s will, praying Him to be my guard and protector, and to surround me with his angels if my enemy should again return to torment me.”

If the object of Vianney’s invisible persecutor was to strike terror into his heart, he succeeded only too well; for the poor Cure confessed that in the early times, before the cause of these mysterious noises, which were renewed every night for hours together, was known, he was often ready to die with fear in his bed. His health, indeed, was so much affected by the strain upon his nerves, caused by the terrible apprehension he endured, that he visibly declined. Kind friends offered to keep watch round the house, and to sleep in the room adjoining his own; and several young men, under arms, stationed themselves near the church, where they could command a view of all the approaches to the presbytery.

Some of these good people were very much terrified, among others, Andre Verchere, the wheelwright of the village, who, when his turn to act as sentinel came round, was installed, his gun by his side, in a room in the presbytery. At midnight he heard a frightful crash close to him. It seemed to him that all the furniture in the room fled to pieces under a storm of invisible blows. The poor man cried out for help, and the Cure came quickly to his assistance. They searched the room and the house, examining every corner, but all in vain.

When Vianney was entirely convinced that these unearthly sounds had no humanly assignable cause, he dismissed his guards. By degrees his alarm was, in some measure, allayed, and in the end he became in a manner accustomed to this terrible visitation.

Before this period poor Vianney had been a prey to a different kind of conflict. He had been tormented by the most despairing thoughts of his future destiny. He seemed continually to see under his feet the lake of fire, and to hear a voice telling him that his place was already marked in it. Day and night he was haunted by the fear of being eternally lost; and, after having combated and overcome this internal temptation, he had less difficulty in resisting his external, though invisible foes. Still, the martyrdom to which he was now subjected was no light one. It lasted, not for days or months, but for thirty-five years, with different phases, and under different forms, but almost without intermission.

At midnight three violent knocks against the door of the presbytery generally warned the Cure d’Ars of the presence of his enemy; these knocks were followed by others more or less heavy, according as his sleep was more or less profound. After having diverted himself by making a frightful uproar on the staircase, the demon entered the room, seized the curtains of the bed, shook them so furiously that the poor inmate never could understand why they were not torn to atoms. Sometimes the malignant spirit knocked like some one who was demanding admittance, and the next moment, without the door being opened, he was in the room, moving about the chairs, deranging the furniture, rummaging everywhere, calling the Cure with a mocking voice, ‘Vianney, Vianney!’ and adding to his name the most outrageous qualifications and menaces. ‘Eater of truffles, we shall have you, we shall have you! We hold you, we hold you!’

At other times, without giving himself the trouble to mount, he hailed Vianney from the court-yard, and, after having vociferated for a long time, he would imitate a charge of cavalry, or the noise of an army in march. Sometimes he drove nails into the floor, with heavy strokes as of a hammer, sometimes he cut wood, sometimes sawed and planed planks like a carpenter actively employed in the interior of a house, or he would play upon the table, the chimneypiece, and especially upon the water-jug, always choosing in preference the most sonorous objects.

Sometimes the Cure’ heard in the hall below him a noise like that of a horse bounding up to the ceiling and again falling down heavily on his four feet. At other times it was the noise of a great flock of sheep grazing above his head. One night when he was more than usually disquieted, he said, ‘My God, I willingly make to Thee the sacrifice of some hours’ sleep for the conversion of sinners. Immediately the infernal troupe disappeared, and all was silent. All these details were given by M. Vianney himself.

For several nights consecutively, he heard such loud and menacing clamours in the court, that he trembled with fear. These voices spoke in an unknown tongue, and in the most confused manner. The tumult they made recalled to Vianney’s mind the recent invasion; he compared it to the noise of an Austrian army. And on another occasion, making a still more characteristic comparison, he said that, ‘Troops of demons had held their parliament in his court.’

Rumours of these marvellous histories were circulated far and wide; they were received in divers manners, and elicited the most contradictory opinions. It appears, however, to have been universally acknowledged by all who knew Vianney that he had not the temperament of a visionary, but was possessed of all the qualifications of a good witness–good eyes, good ears, and a good judgment.

Catherine relates many confidences made to her by the Cure, during the early days of this extraordinary and mysterious persecution. The following extracts are taken from her notes:

M. le Cure often says, “I do not know if they are demons, but they come in great bands; you would say they were a large flock of sheep: I can hardly sleep.” One day he remarked, “I was just falling asleep, when the grappin (The nom de guerre which Vianney gave to the demon whom he supposed to be his chief tormentor) began to make a noise like that of a man hooping a cask with bands of iron.”

“August 18, 1825. M. the Cure told us yesterday that the demon sung in his chimney like a nightingale!

“September 15th. M. the Cure has ordered us to enlarge his mattress, because the demons throw him out of bed. “I have not seen him,” said he, “but he has many times seized me and precipitated me out of my bed.” One night, when M. the Cure had come to the Providence to visit a patient, he said to me, ‘Listen to what happened to me this morning. I had something on my table–you know what it was. (It was his discipline.) Suddenly it rose up and moved along like a serpent. This frightened me a little. You know there is a rope fastened to one end of it; I seized hold of it, it was as stiff as wood. I placed it again on the table; it again began to move, and went round three times.'”

Vianney’s brother-priests were at first little disposed to believe in the reality of these diabolical manifestations; they sought to account for them by natural and physiological causes. “If the Cure d’Ars lived like other men,” said they “if he took a proper quantity of sleep and nourishment his imagination would be calmed, his brain would no longer be peopled with spectres, and all this infernal phantasmagoria would vanish.”

About this time a venerable cure, M. Granger, who had known and loved Vianney since the commencement of his ministry at Ars, anxious to procure for his people the benefit of his presence amongst them, prayed him to join the missionaries who were about to celebrate the approaching jubilee with the usual services. Vianney immediately acceded to his friend’s wishes; he remained three weeks at Saint-Trivier, preached from time to time, and confessed many penitents.

The vexation to which the Cure d’Ars was subjected on the part of his spiritual foes was now everywhere talked about. His clerical companions made it a subject of amusement, “Come, come, dear Cure,” said they, “do as others do, nourish yourself better: that is the way to finish with all their jugglery.”

One night, however, they assumed a more serious tone, the discussion became more animated, and the raillery of Vianney’s companions more bitter and reproachful. It was agreed that all this infernal mystification had no other origin than delirium and hallucination, and the poor Cure was consequently treated as a visionary and an enthusiast. To all this he answered not a word, but retired to his room, apparently insensible to everything but the joy of being persecuted. Soon afterwards his joking companions separated for the night, with the indifference of wise men, who, if they believed in the existence of the devil at all, had at least a very feeble faith in his intervention in the affairs of the Cure d’Ars.

But behold! at midnight all the inmates of the house are awakened by a horrible fracas. The cure is shaken from the very foundation, the doors bang, the windows clatter, the walls totter, sinister cracks are heard, as if the whole building were just about to fall to the ground.

In a moment everyone was on his feet. They recollected that the Cure d’Ars had said, “You must not be surprised if you should hear a noise this night.” They rushed simultaneously into his room, where they found him in tranquil repose. “Get up,” cried they, “the house is falling to the ground.” “Oh, I know what it is,” replied he, smiling; “return to your rest, there is nothing to fear.” They were reassured, and the clamour ceased.

An hour later in the night a faint bell was heard. The Abbe Vianney rose up and went to the door, where he found a man who had travelled several leagues to confess to him. This, we are told, was no unusual occurrence; it often happened that after the most cruel nights the Cure found at his door in the morning pilgrims who had made long journeys in order to be confessed by him.

Indeed, when the persecution to which he was subjected was more than usually violent, he received it as a sign of some signal mercy, or some special consolation about to be granted to him. One of the missionaries, an ancient soldier of the empire–M. the Abbe Chevalon–was so much struck with the strange adventure we have just recounted, that, when afterwards relating it, he said, “I have made a vow to God never again to joke over these histories of apparitions and nocturnal noises; and as for the Cure d’Ars, I believe him to be a saint.”

In the meantime Vianney’s tormentor appeared to be unceasingly occupied in devising new modes of attack. No longer content with disturbing his unfortunate victim by frightful noises and knocking of doors, he now sometimes hid under his bed; and the whole night long the poor Cure’s repose was interrupted and his ear distracted by piercing cries, or mournful groans, or smothered sighs.

“The demon is very cunning,” said he one day, in his catechism, “but he is not strong; a sign of the cross soon puts him to flight. A few days since he made an uproar, like the driving of all the carriages in Lyons, over my head; only last night troops of demons were shaking my door–their speech was like an army of Austrians, I did not understand a word of their jargon,–I made the sign of the cross, and they departed.”

One night he was suddenly awakened by feeling himself lifted up in the air. “Gradually je perdais mon lit,” said he. “I armed myself with the sign of the cross, and the grappin left me.”

Another time the demon is said to have assumed the form of a soft pillow, and when the poor Cure placed his head upon it, there issued forth a plaintive groan. He confessed that this time he was really terrified; it seemed to him that this new device of his enemy imperilled his soul. He invoked the aid of Heaven, and he was immediately left in peace.

When he was called on one occasion to assist in some missionary labour at Montmerle, his indefatigable foe followed him; and on the first night of his stay, he found himself drawn all round the room in his bed. He arose early the next morning, and went to the confessional. He had hardly sat down before he felt himself lifted up and tossed about, as if he had been on a rough sea in a frail bark.

“I once went on a mission to Montmerle,” he remarked, long afterwards, to the Abbe Toccanier; “et je m’en suis bien vu avec le grappin. He amused himself by carrying me round the room in a bed on rollers.”

When he went to Saint-Trivier, to preach at the jubilee, he set out on foot early in the morning. As he walked along, reciting his chaplet, the air around him became full of sinister light; the whole atmosphere appeared to be on fire, and the trees on either side his path like columns of flaming light. He, however, quietly pursued his way, trusting to the protection of the Virgin and his good angel, and seeing nothing in these manoeuvres of his enemy but a new sign of God’s blessing upon his work.

We believe it was about the same time that the destruction, or, at least, the profanation, of a picture of the Annunciation, which the poor Cure highly valued, took place.

The relation of M. Monnin is as follows: “Seeing that the Cure d’Ars honoured this sacred image with a special worship, what did the wicked grappin? Every day he covered and disfigured it with mud. It was in vain that it was cleansed and washed; the next day it was found blacker and more polluted than ever. These cowardly insults were repeated, till at length M. Vianney, renouncing the consolation which he derived from the contemplation of this picture, determined to have it removed. Several individuals were witnesses of these odious profanations, or have, at least, had the opportunity of observing the traces of them. M. Renard testifies to having seen this picture so contaminated, that the face of the Holy Virgin was hardly discernible.”

Towards the end of Vianney’s life these demoniacal persecutions were less violent and less continuous; during the last six months they ceased altogether; and even before that time his invisible foe ceased to disturb him at night, and confined his attacks to the short interval of rest which the poor Cure allowed himself in the afternoon. Sometimes on these occasions he raised a hue and cry at his door, imitating alternately the growling of a bear, the barking of a dog, and the howling of a wolf.

Sometimes he called him, with his rude and insolent voice, ‘Vianney, Vianney, come!’ giving him to understand that numerous penitents were awaiting him.

Vianney often expatiated to his friends upon the vexation he experienced, when one day his malignant enemy seized a vessel containing holy water, which was placed at the head of his bed, and broke it to pieces before his eyes.

But what appears to us to be one of the most extraordinary of these demoniacal manifestations was the burning of Vianney’s bed. We relate the circumstance exactly as it is recorded by the Abbe Monnin, who was at Ars at the time, and all but an eye-witness of the fact:

“One morning, at the time of the first celebration of the quarante heures at Ars, as I was going out very early, in order to assist in the services, I perceived at the threshold of my door a strong and overpowering smell of burning. The mass, the catechism, and some confessions detained me at the church till nine o’clock; on my return, I found all the village congregated round the presbytery ‘What is the matter?’ said I, approaching one of the groups. ‘What! do you not know,’ cried they, ‘that the devil set fire last night to M. Vianney’s bed?’ . . . . . I entered the house, and went straight to the Cure’s sleeping apartment, where I indeed found all the traces of a recent and hardly-extinguished conflagration. The bed, the curtains, and all that surrounded them–including some old paintings on glass, which Vianney greatly valued, and of which he had said only a few days previously that they were the only things in this world that he prized, and that he had refused to sell them, because he wished to leave them to the missionaries–all had been consumed. The fire had stopped before the shrine of Saint-Philomene; and, describing from that point an exact geometrical line, it had destroyed all that was on the one side, and spared all that was on the other side of the holy relique. In the midst of the confusion the Cure arrived; but he hardly appeared to perceive what was going on. He crossed several people who were carrying away the debris without asking them any questions; and it was not till after the mass that, as he was signing some images, he suddenly interrupted himself, and fixing upon me his grave and gentle gaze, he said, ‘I have long besought this grace of God, and now at last He has granted my request: now I am the poorest in the parish; they have all a bed, and I, thanks to God, none have.’ At noon, when he came to see me, we conversed a little more in detail over the event of the night. I told him that everyone was agreed in thinking it a wicked trick of the demon; and asked whether he too thought that the malignant spirit had had to do with it. ‘Oh, my friend,’ replied he, ‘that is very evident; not being able to burn the man, he has burnt his bed . . . . .he is very angry. . . . . It is a good sign'”

In 1829, a young priest, the son of the good widow whose acquaintance we made in the first pages of this book–the Abbe Bibost–came to Ars, in order to make a retreat in the parish of the man he so highly revered. M. Vianney, who had directed his first steps in the priesthood, received him with much kindness, and offered him a room in his house.

“I was intimately acquainted with this priest,” says the Abbe Renard, “and it happened that Providence also led me to my native parish at the time of his stay there. In our first interview the conversation turned upon the extraordinary events which were occurring at Ars, and of which the whole country were talking.

“‘You sleep at the presbytery,’ said I, ‘tell me, is it true that the devil makes all this clamour at night?’

“‘Yes,’ replied he, ‘I hear him every night. He has a rough, harsh voice, like the cry of a wild beast; he seizes the bed-curtains of M. Vianney, and shakes them violently. He calls him by his name; I have distinctly heard these words, Vianney, Vianney, what are you doing there? Go away, go away!’

“‘These frightful cries must have terrified you?’

“‘Not exactly; I am not fearful, and besides, the presence of M. Vianney reassured me; but I sincerely pity the poor Cure. I should not like to live with him.’

“‘Have you questioned M. Vianney upon this subject?’

“‘No; I have frequently thought of it, but the fear of giving him pain has closed my lips. Poor Cure! Poor holy man! How can he live in the midst of this uproar?'”

In 1842, an ancient officer of the French army, who was at that time attached to a brigade of the gendarmes, came to Ars. He had risen, on one occasion, at midnight, and was, with many others, awaiting Vianney at the door of the chapel. Finding the Cure did not immediately appear, he took a turn round the presbytery, in order to keep himself awake. He was sad at heart, having lately been visited by a heavy affliction; but he states that at this moment he was oppressed by a sensation of mingled disquietude and apprehension, for which he was unable to account.

Suddenly he was startled by a strange and unearthly sound, which appeared to proceed from the window of the presbytery. He distinctly heard these words several times repeated, in a rough, harsh, and shrill voice: ‘Vianney, Vianney! come, come!’

Seized with horror, he fled from the spot. The church clock at that moment struck one, and soon the Cure appeared–a light in his hand. He found the unfortunate gendarme in the most violent agitation. He endeavoured to reassure him, and conducted him to the church.

Before he had asked a question, or heard one word of his history, he astonished him with these words: “My friend, you are in much affliction; you have just lost your wife, but trust God, and He will come to your aid. First, put your conscience in order, and then will you more easily put your worldly affairs in order.”

“Yielding to the counsel of the holy man,” said the tried penitent, “I began my confession. In my trouble I could hardly put two words together, but the good Cure assisted me. He penetrated the very depths of my soul, and he revealed to me many things of which he could not have been informed, and which astonished me beyond expression. I did not know that it was possible to read men’s hearts in this manner.”

It is attested by Catherine, and the other directresses, that at the Providence strange noises were heard on the stairs and in the dormitories, which never could be accounted for, and the cause of which could never be discovered.

Many other instances of these mysterious and terrible manifestations are attested by the Abbe Monnin, but we think that those which we have stated may suffice.

We cannot, however, close this chapter without recording one or two facts, too closely connected with the subject which has now been engaging our attention, to be omitted. It is affirmed that several persons came to Ars from different places, and at divers periods, bearing marks, more or less positive, of demoniacal possession.

Two of these unhappy beings–a man and a woman–constantly appeared at Ars, and were known by all the inhabitants. Vianney did not profess to practise exorcism, but, in the instance before us, he treated one of these afflicted individuals as if his body only, and the other as if body and soul were possessed. It is affirmed that when, in the midst of the most fearful and violent attacks, he pronounced his blessing over them, they instantly became calm.

The following dialogue is declared to have been found in a narrative of undoubted authenticity, and bearing every mark of incontestable truth. It is entitled, “Dialogue between a Possessed, from the neighbourhood of Puy, in Velay, and the Cure d’Ars.” This colloquy took place in the afternoon of January 23, 1840, in the chapel of Saint-John Baptist, and in the presence of eight witnesses:

The Possessed–‘I am immortal.’

Cure– ‘Are you then the only person who will not die?’

The Possessed–‘I have never committed but one sin in my life, and the fruit of that sin I am ready to share with all who will. . . .’

The Cure– ‘In quis es?’

The Possessed– ‘Magister caput.’ Then continuing in French, ‘Vilain crapaud noir! How you torment me! It is a mutual warfare between us, which shall overcome the other; but, do what you will, you are often doing my work. You think your people well disposed; they are not. Why do you examine the consciences of your penitents? What is the use of so much investigation? Is not my examination sufficient?’

The Cure–‘You say you examine the conscience of my penitents? Have they not recourse to God before all?’

The Possessed–‘Yes, with their lips. I tell you it is I who examine them. I am oftener in your chapel than you think. My body goes out, but my spirit remains . . . . . I like to hear plenty of talking . . . . All who come to you are not saved. You are a miser.’

The Cure–‘It would be difficult for me to be a miser. I have but little, and that little I give with all my heart.’

The Possessed–‘It is not of that kind of avarice that I speak. You are a miser of souls. You rob me of all you can, but I shall endeavour to get them back again. You are a liar! You said, a long while ago, that you wished to depart from this place, and here you still remain. What do you mean by that? Why do you not retire and rest, as others do? you have worked long enough. You wished to go to Lyons.’ [This was true. M. Vianney thought much, at that time, of Fourvieres.] ‘ At Lyons you would have been as avaricious as you are here. You talked of retiring into solitude.’ [This was also true. He was anxious to make a retreat to Fourvieres, or to La Trappe.] ‘Why do you not do so? ‘

The Cure–‘Have you anything else to reproach me with?’

The Possessed–‘ I sifted you well last Sunday, during the mass, you remember?’ [The Cure confessed that he had, at that precise time, experienced extraordinary trouble and embarrassment.] ‘Your violet robe has just written to you, but I so managed it that he forgot what should have formed an essential part of his letter, and he is greatly vexed thereby.’ [M. Vianney had that day received a letter from his Bishop.]

The Cure–‘Will my lord allow me to depart?’

The Possessed–‘He loves you too much. . . Your violet robe is as great a miser as you are, and he equally embarrasses me; but, no matter, we have lulled him to sleep with respect to an abuse in his diocese. . . . Come, lift up your hand over me, as you do over so many others who come here every day. You imagine that you convert them all. You are mistaken. It is very well for a moment, but I find them again. I have some of your parishioners on my list.’

The Cure–‘What do you think of . . . ?’ naming a priest of great piety.

The Possessed–‘I do not like him.’ [These words were pronounced in a tone of concentrated rage, accompanied by frightful grinding of the teeth.]

The Cure–‘And of . . . ?’ naming another.

The Possessed–‘Very well. He lets me do what I like; there are crapauds noirs, who do not embarass me as you do. I perform their mass; they say mine.’

The Cure–‘Do you perform mine?’

The Possessed–‘You weary me. Ah, if the Virgin did not protect you; but, patience, we have brought greater than you to ruin; you are not dead yet. Why do you rise so early? You disobey your violet robe, who has ordered you to take more care of yourself. Why do you preach so simply? You will pass for an ignorant man. Oh, how I like those grand sermons which disturb no one, and which allow people to live in their own way, and do as they like! Many sleep at your catechisms, but there are others who are touched to the heart by your simple words.’

The Cure–‘What yo you think of the dance?’

The Possessed–‘I surround a dance as a wall surrounds a garden.’

On one occasion an unhappy woman, who gave proof of possession, said to Vianney: ‘Why do you make me suffer so much? If there were three upon earth like you, my kingdom would be destroyed. You have robbed me of eighty thousand souls.’ The Cure addressed himself to the daughter of this unfortunate woman. ‘You will commence,’ said he, ‘this day a neuvaine to Sainte-Philomene, and you will bring her to me to-morrow in the sacristy. I will hear her confession after I have performed the mass. In the meantime, let her kneel down, and I will give her my blessing.’

The poor child implored him to deliver her mother, but he refused, saying he was not authorised.

This poor woman passed ten days at Ars, made a general confession, and left in a much more tranquil state. She exclaimed before several people, at a moment when she was much agitated: ‘Ah, if all the lost could come to Ars, they would profit by it more than you all.’

Some one asked her what made the tables turn. She answered, ‘It is I; magnetism, somnambulism–all that is my affair.’

Saint John Vianney

Saint John Vianney

Prayer To Obtain The Conversion Of Sinners.
St. John’s Manual, 1856

O God, have mercy on me a sinner, and permit me to offer Thee my earnest supplications on behalf of all souls in sin; for Thou willest not the death of a sinner, but his conversion. When Moses besought Thee to pardon a rebellious nation, Thou couldst not resist his entreaties. It grieves Thee, when none interpose to appease Thine anger; Thou commandest us to pray for one another, assuring us that; by causing a sinner to be converted from the error of his ways, we deliver our own souls from death, and cover a multitude of iniquities. Relying on thy merciful promises, I come before Thee with great confidence, to implore for others the pity I so much need myself. Forgive them, O Lord! for they know not what they do; open their eyes, that entering into themselves, they may see the extent of their crimes, and feel how sad a misfortune it is to have forsaken Thee.

Open their ears to the sound of that Almighty voice, which can raise the dead to life; soften the obduracy of their hearts, that they may no longer resist Thy grace. Remember Thy tender mercies; remember the precious blood of Jesus Christ; save the souls which have been purchased at so great a price. Hear our prayers, inspired by the Spirit of thine own charity, and offered from the sole motive of pleasing and glorifying Thee. Amen.

Prayer to Obtain a Firm Purpose of Amendment

My God, I desire to do all that Thou hast asked of me. Permit me, prostrate at Thy feet, to declare my devotion to Thy service. Too long, O Lord, have I served the devil and the world! I will now, in Thy presence, renew with true sincerity the promises I made at Baptism:

“I renounce the devil with all his works, the world with all its pomps, the flesh with all its temptations, and I will cling to Jesus alone forever and ever.”

Repeat this several times, and say a decade of the Rosary to obtain strength to keep your good resolution.

Source: Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


St. John of the Cross: Reaching union with God is not about understanding, experience, or imagination via @TeDeumBlog

14 December 2016

Posted by Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS
at her blog, Te Deum Laudamus

San Juan de la Cruz

From Diane:

On this great Carmelite feast of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of Mystical Theology, I would like to share something from The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book Two. This is paragraph 4.

4. St. Paul also meant this in his assertion: Accedentem ad Deum oportet credere quod est (Whoever would approach union with God should believe in His existence) [Heb. 11:6]. This is like saying: Those who want to reach union with God should advance neither by understanding, nor by the support of their own experience, nor by feeling or imagination, but by belief in God’s being. For God’s being cannot be grasped by the intellect, appetite, imagination, or any other sense; nor can it be known in this life. The most that can be felt and tasted of God in this life is infinitely distant from God and the pure possession of him. Isaiah and St. Paul affirm: Nec oculus videt, nec auris audivit, nec in cor hominis ascendit quae praeparavit Deus iis qui diligunt illum (No eye has ever seen, nor ear heard, nor has the human heart or thought ever grasped what God has prepared for those who love him) [Is. 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9].

Now souls in this life may be seeking to unite themselves perfectly through grace with what they will be united to in the next through glory (with what St. Paul says eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor the human, fleshly heart grasped). But, manifestly, the perfect union in this life through grace and love demands that they live in darkness to all the objects of sight, hearing, and imagination, and to everything comprehensible to the heart, which signifies the soul.

Those are decidedly hindered, then, from attainment of this high state of union with God who are attached to any understanding, feeling, imagining, opinion, desire, or way of their own, or to any other of their works or affairs, and know not how to detach and denude themselves of these impediments. Their goal, as we said, transcends all of this, even the loftiest object that can be known or experienced. Consequently they must pass beyond everything to unknowing.

St. John of the Cross (1991-12-14). The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (Kindle Locations 2971-2984). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

For the rest of the post, Click HERE


The Honor and Invocation of the Saints

1 November 2016

I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues; standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.–Apoc. vii. 9.

The words of our text explain in part the glorious vision which St. John the Evangelist had of the celestial Kingdom, the heavenly Jerusalem. There before the throne of God he beheld great multitudes from all the tribes of Israel, and other countless numbers from all peoples, tongues, and nations of the earth, clothed with white garments and palms in their hands, falling down before the throne in adoration of Him who liveth forever and ever.

This vast multitude which met the eyes of the seer of Patmos represented the Church triumphant in heaven, composed of the confessors, virgins, martyrs, and all other holy souls, who had been heroic servants of God on earth, and were now admitted to their crowns and everlasting joy. It is the festival of this glorious company that we keep today, and it behooves us at this time, while rejoicing over their triumph and their crowns, to reflect on the duties of honor and invocation which we owe them.

I. Veneration of the saints. I. There are two kinds of religious worship or veneration: (a) latria, or divine worship, by which we recognize God as our sovereign Lord and Master; (b) dulia, or veneration, by which we honor the saints and friends of God. The first is never attributed to any creature, but is proper to God alone. 2. Dulia, or the veneration given to the saints, has two degrees: (a) simple dulia, or lower degree of respect, which is shown to the servants of God; (b) hyperdulia, or higher degree of veneration, which we show to the Mother of God. 3. The reasons why we honor the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints are: (a) because God has honored them by giving them grace and glory; (b) because it is natural, for if we honor our own parents, friends, heroes, and the like, how much more should we honor the Mother, friends, and heroes of God; (c) because in honoring the angels and saints we are following the example given in Holy Scripture (Gen. xviii. 2; Josue v. 15; Num. xxii. 21; Apoc. xxii. 8) and in the early Church; (d) because in honoring the angels and saints we honor God whose handiwork and masterpieces they are. 4. The means of honoring the saints are: (a) to imitate their example; (b) to celebrate their festivals in becoming manner; (c) to read and make known their lives; (d) to venerate their images and relics.

II. Invocation of the saints, I. There are two kinds of religious invocation: (a) that which is directed to the Giver of all gifts; (b) that which is directed to others for the purpose of securing their influence and intercession with the Giver of all gifts. 2. Intercession is twofold: (a) necessary intercession, which is that of Jesus Christ, through whose merits and grace alone, and in whose name alone we can obtain any favor from God (I Tim. ii. 5; I John ii. 1) ; (b) useful intercession, which is that of the saints, whose prayers, far more worthy than ours, are addressed to Christ for us. 3. The reasons for invoking the saints: (a) the saints are aware of our needs and prayers, as we know from Holy Scripture; the prophet Jeremias after his death prayed for the Jewish people (2 Mach. xv. 14-16) ; (b) the saints are willing to help us, because their charity for us is now greater than when they were on earth; (c) the saints are able to help us, because if the prayer of a just man on earth avails much before God (Jas. v. 16), how much more will the saints be able to help us!

LESSONS: 1. We should be mindful at all times, and in particular on this feast, of the honor we owe to the saints, especially the Blessed Virgin, our guardian angel and patron saint. 2. We should try to imitate in our daily lives the many shining virtues which shone forth in their lives.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III

THE HONOR AND INVOCATION OF THE SAINTS

In explanation of the first Commandment the faithful are to be accurately taught that the veneration and invocation of angels and saints, who enjoy the glory of heaven, and likewise the honor which the Catholic Church has always paid even to the bodies and ashes of the saints, are not forbidden by this commandment.(1) If a king ordered that no one else should set himself up as king, or accept the honors due to the royal person, who would be so foolish as to infer from such an edict that the sovereign was unwilling that suitable honor and respect should be paid to his magistrates? Now although Christians follow the example set by the saints of the Old Law, and are said to adore the angels, yet they do not give to angels that supreme honor which is due to God alone.

And if we sometimes read that angels refused to be worshiped by men,(2) we are to know that they did so because the worship which they refused to accept was the supreme honor due to God alone.

HONOR IS DUE THE ANGELS

The Holy Spirit who says: “Honor and glory to God alone,” (3) commands us also to honor our parents and elders; (4) and the holy men who adored one God only are also said in Scripture to have “adored,” that is, supplicated and venerated, kings. If then kings, by whose agency God governs the world, are so highly honored,(5) shall it be deemed unlawful to honor those angelic spirits whom God has been pleased to constitute His ministers, whose services He makes use of not only in the government of His Church, but also of the Universe, by whose aid, although we see them not, we are every day delivered from the greatest dangers of soul and body? Are they not worthy of far greater honor, since their dignity so far surpasses that of kings?

Another claim on our veneration is their love towards us, which, as the Scripture informs us,(6) prompts them to pour out their prayers for those countries over which they are placed by Providence, as well as for us whose guardians they are, and whose prayers and tears they present before the throne of God.(7) Hence our Lord admonishes us in the Gospel not to offend the little ones,” because their angels in heaven always see the face of their Father who is in heaven.”(8)

ANGELS ARE TO BE INVOKED

Their intercession, therefore, we invoke, because they always see the face of God, and are constituted by Him the willing advocates of our salvation. The Scriptures afford examples of the invocation of angels. Jacob entreated the angel with whom he wrestled to bless him;(9) nay, he even compelled him, declaring that he would not let him go until he had blessed him. And not only did he invoke the blessing of the angel whom he saw, but also of him whom he saw not. “The angel,” says he, “who delivers me from all evils, bless these boys.(10)

TO HONOR THE SAINTS DOES NOT DETRACT FROM,

BUT ADDS TO GOD’S HONOR

From all this we are justified in concluding that to honor the saints who sleep in the Lord, to invoke their intercession, and to venerate their sacred relics and ashes, far from diminishing, tends considerably to increase the glory of God, in proportion as man’s hope is thus animated and fortified, and he himself encouraged to the imitation of their virtues. This is a practice which is also supported by the authority of the second Council of Nice,(11) the Councils of Gangra,(12) and of Trent,(13) and by the testimony of the Fathers.(14)

In order, however, that the pastor may be the better prepared to meet the objections of those who deny this doctrine, he will consult particularly St. Jerome against Vigilantius and St. John Damascene.(15) To the teaching of these Fathers should be added as a consideration of prime importance that the practice was received from the Apostles and has always been retained and preserved in the Church.(16) But what proof is more convincing than that which is supplied by the admirable praises given in Scripture to the saints? For there are not wanting eulogies which God Himself pronounced on the saints. If, then, the inspired volume celebrates the praises of particular saints, why question for a moment the propriety of paying them the same tribute of praise and veneration?(17)

Another claim which the saints have to be honored and invoked is, that they earnestly importune God for our salvation, and obtain for us by their intercession many favors and blessings. If there is joy in heaven over the conversion of one sinner,(18) will not the citizens of heaven assist those who repent? When their aid is asked by the sinner, will they not implore the pardon of his sins, and the grace of his conversion?

Should it be said, as some say, that their patronage is unnecessary, because God hears our prayers without the intervention of a mediator, the impious objection is at once met by the observation of St. Augustine: “There are many things which God does not grant without a mediator and intercessor.(19) This observation is confirmed by the well known examples of Abimelech and the friends of Job who were pardoned only through the prayers of Abraham and of Job.(20)

Should it be alleged that to recur to the patronage and intercession of the saints argues want or weakness of faith, what will the objectors answer regarding the centurion whose faith was highly eulogized by our Lord Himself, despite the fact that he had sent to the Redeemer “the ancients of the Jews,” to intercede with Him to heal his servant.(21)

True, there is but one Mediator, Christ the Lord, who alone has reconciled us to the Father through His blood,(22) and who, “having obtained eternal redemption,” and “having entered once into the holies, ceases not to intercede for us.(23) But it by no means follows that it is therefore unlawful to have recourse to the intercession of the saints. If, because we have one Mediator Christ Jesus, it were unlawful to ask the intercession of the saints, the Apostle would not have recommended himself with so much earnestness to the prayers of his brethren on earth.(24) For the prayers of the living would lessen the glory and dignity of Christ’s Mediatorship, not less than the intercession of the saints in heaven.

THE INVOCATION OF SAINTS IS APPROVED BY THE MIRACLES

WROUGHT AT THEIR TOMBS

But who would not be convinced that honor is due the saints and that they assist us, when the wonders wrought at their tombs are brought before the mind ? The blind see, the lame walk, the paralyzed are invigorated, the dead raised to life, and evil demons are expelled from the bodies of men! These are facts which St. Ambrose(25) and St. Augustine,(26) most unexceptionable witnesses, declare in their writings, not that they heard, as many did, nor that they read, as did many very reliable men, but that they saw.

But why multiply proofs ? If the clothes, the handkerchiefs,(27) and even the very shadows of the saints, while yet on earth, banished disease and restored health, who will have the hardihood to deny that God can still work the same wonders by the holy ashes, the bones and other relics of the saints? Of this we have a proof in the resuscitation of the dead body which was let down into the grave of Eliseus, and which, on touching the body of the prophet, was instantly restored to life.(28)

THE DIRECTION REGARDING IMAGES IS NOT A DISTINCT COMMANDMENT

“Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not adore them nor serve them.”(29) Some, supposing these words to constitute a distinct precept, reduce the ninth and tenth commandments to one. St. Augustine holds a different opinion; considering the two last to be distinct commandments, he makes the words just quoted a part of the first Commandment.(30) His division is well known and much approved in the Church, and hence we willingly adopt it. Furthermore, for this arrangement there is a very good reason. It was fitting that to the first Commandment should be added the rewards or punishments entailed by each one of the Commandments.

THE USE OF IMAGES IS NOT FORBIDDEN

This Commandment does not prohibit the arts of painting, engraving or sculpture. The Scriptures inform us that God Himself commanded images of Cherubim,(31) and also the brazen serpent(32) to be made. The conclusion, therefore, at which we must arrive, is that images are prohibited only in as much as they are used as deities to receive adoration and so to injure the true worship of God.

TWO ABUSES OF IMAGES FORBIDDEN

As far as this commandment is concerned, there are two chief ways in which God’s majesty can be seriously outraged. The first way is by worshiping idols and images as gods, or believing that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them, as the Gentiles did, who placed their hopes in idols, and whose idolatry the Scriptures frequently condemn. The other way is by attempting to form a representation of the Deity, as if He were visible to mortal eyes, or could be represented by the pencil of the painter or the chisel of the sculptor. “Who,” says Damascene, “can represent God, invisible, as He is, incorporeal, uncircumscribed by limits, and incapable of being reproduced under any shape.”(33) This subject, however, the pastor will find treated more at large in the second Council of Nice.(34) Rightly, then, did the Apostles say of the Gentiles: “They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things;”(35) for the images of all these things, although the works of their own hands, they venerated as God. Hence the Israelites, when they exclaimed before the molten calf: “These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt,”(36) are denounced as idolaters, because they “changed their glory into the likeness of a calf that eateth grass.”(37)

THE MEANING OF THIS PART OF THE FIRST COMMANDMENT

When, therefore, the Lord had forbidden the worship of strange gods, He also forbade the making of an image of the Deity from brass or other materials, in order thus utterly to do away with idolatry. It is this Isaias declares when he asks: “To whom then have you likened God, or what image will you make for him?(38) That this is the meaning of the prohibitory part of the commandment is proved, not only from the writings of the holy Fathers, who, as may be seen in the Seventh General Council, give to it this interpretation; but also from these words of Deuteronomy, by which Moses sought to withdraw the Israelites from the worship of idols: “You saw not,” he says, “any similitude in the day that the Lord God spoke to you in Horeb, from the midst of the fire.”(39) These words this wisest of legislators addressed to the people of Israel, lest through error of any sort, they should make an image of the Deity, and transfer to any thing created, the honor due to God alone.

IT IS NOT FORBIDDEN TO REPRESENT THE PERSONS OF THE TRINITY

To represent the persons of the Holy Trinity by certain forms under which they appeared in the Old and New Testaments is not to be deemed contrary to religion or the Law of God. For who can be so ignorant as to believe that such forms are representations of the Deity?–forms, as the pastor will teach, which only express some attribute or action ascribed to God. Thus when from the description of Daniel God is painted as “the Ancient of Days,” seated on a throne, with “the books opened before him,” the eternity of God is represented and also the wisdom, by which He sees and judges all the thoughts and actions of men.(40)

THE SAME DOCTRINE TRUE WITH REGARD TO ANGELS

Angels, also, are represented under human form and with wings to give us to understand that they are actuated by benevolent feelings towards us, and are always prepared to execute the Lord’s commands; for “they are all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.”(41)

REPRESENTATIONS OF THE HOLY GHOST

What attributes of the Holy Ghost are represented under the forms of a dove, and of tongues of fire, in the Gospel(42) and in the Acts of the Apostles,(43) is a matter too well known to require lengthy explanation.

THE IMAGES OF CHRIST AND THE SAINTS

But to make and honor the images of our Lord, of His holy and virginal Mother, and of the saints, all of whom were clothed with human nature and appeared in human form, is not only not forbidden by this Commandment, but has always been deemed a holy practice and a most sure indication of gratitude towards them. This position is confirmed by the monuments of the Apostolic age, the General Councils of the Church, and the writings of so many among the Fathers, eminent alike for sanctity and learning, all of whom are of one accord upon the subject.

THE LAWFUL USE OF IMAGES

But the pastor will not content himself with showing that it is lawful to have images in churches, and to pay them honor and religious respect, since this respect is referred to their prototypes; he will also show that the uninterrupted observance of this practice down to the present day has been attended with great advantage to the faithful, as may be seen in the work of Damascene on images,(44) and in the seventh General Council (the second of Nice).

But as the enemy of mankind, by his wiles and deceits, seeks to pervert even the most holy institutions, should the faithful happen at all to offend in this particular, the pastor, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Trent,(45) will use every exertion in his power to correct such an abuse, and, if necessary, explain the decree itself to the people.

He will also inform the unlettered and those who may be ignorant of the use of images, that they are intended to instruct in the history of the Old and New Testaments, and to revive the recollection of the events which they record; that thus moved by the contemplation of heavenly things we may be the more ardently inflamed to adore and love God. He will, also, inform the faithful that the images of the Saints are placed in churches, not only to be honored, but also that they may admonish us by the examples of the Saints to imitate their lives and virtues.(46)

1. See C. of Trent, Trid. sess. 17, de Sacrif. Missae, c. 3; sess. as, cap. de invocat. Sanctorum; Synod. 6, act. 6, at the end; Aug., lib. 8, de civit Dei., c. 27; lib. 10, c. i; lib. 21, contra Faust., c. 21; Basil., Hom. 20, in 40, Mar. 26, de Mar. Mamman; Nazian, oral in laud. S. Cyprian.
2. Apoc. xix. 10; Apoc. xxii. 9.
3. I Tim. i. 17; Exod. xx. 2; Levit. xix. n.
4. Deut. v. 16.
5. Gen. xxiii. 7; 2 Kings xxiv. 20; I Par. xxix. 20.
6. Dan. x. 13.
7. Tob. xii. 12; Apoc. viii. 3.
8. Matt. xviii. 10.

9. Gen. xxxii. 26; Osee xii 4.
10. Gen. xlviii. 16.
11. Conc. 2, act. 6.
12. Can. xx. Quoted in dist. 30, cap. si quis per superbiam.
13. C. of Trent, sess. 25; C. of Chalced. towards the end; 6 Synod. General, c. 7; C. of Geron, c. 3; Orleans, I, c. 29.
14. De orth. fid., lib. 4, c. 16.
15. Lib. 4, de orth fid., c. 16.

16. Dionys., c. 7, Hier. Eccles.; Iren., lib. 5, contra, haeres, c. 19; Athan. serin, in Evangel. de sancta Deip.; Eusep., lib. 13, praepar. Evang. c. 7; Cornel, pap., epist. 1; 1, Hilar. in Ps. cxxvi; Ambr. in lib. de viduis.

17. Eccl. xliv., xlv., xlvi, xlvii., xlviii., xlix.; Hebr. xi.
18. Luke xv. 7, 10.
19. Aug., quaest. 149 super Exod.; serm. 2 et 4, de St. Steph.
20. Gen. xx.
21. Matt. vii. 5; Luke vii. 3.
22. I Tim. ii. 5.
23. Heb. ix. 12; vii. 25.
24. Rom, xv, 30; Heb, xiii. 18.
25. Epist. 85, et serm. 95.
26. De civit. Dei, lib. 22, c. 8; epist 137
27. Acts v. xix. 12 et 5, 15;
28. 4 Kings xiii. 21
29. Exod. xx. 4.
30. Aug. super Exod. quaest. 71, and in Ps. xxxii., serm. 2. See St. Thomas, Q. la, IIae, 100, a.4.
31. Exod. xxv. 18; 3 Kings vi. 27.
32. Num. xxi. 8, 9.
33. Lib. 4, de orthod. fid., c. 17.
34 Art. 3.
35. Rom i. 23.
36. Exod. xxxii. 4
37. Ps. cv. 20.
38. Isa. xl. 18; Acts vii. 40.
39. Deut. iv. 15, 16.
40. Dan. vii, 13.
41. Heb. i. 14.
42. Matt. iii. 16; Mark i. 10; Luke iii. 22; John i. 32.
43. Acts ii. 3.
44. Lib. 4, de fid. orthod., cap. 17.
45. Sess. 25.

46. On the use of images see C. of Nice, act 7; Histor. tripart, lib. 6; Euseb., Hist. Eccl. I. 8. c. 14; Cyril., I. 6. c. Julian; Aug., de Consensn Ev., c. 10; Sixth Gen. Council, c. 82; C. of Rome under Gregory III and Stephen III; C. Gentil., I. de Rom. Pont. in Vita Sylvestri; Lactant., carmen de passione Domini; Basil., Orat, in S. Barlaham; Greg. Nyss., Orat. in Theod.; Prud., Hym. de S. Caes; hym. de S. Hippolyt; Baron., Ann. Eccl,, anno 57, Nos, 116 ff,; Aug., contra Faust., i, 22, c, 73.

http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com


The Littlest Flower in Heaven… the greatest Saint of modern time!

1 October 2016

Therese Martin was the last of nine children born to Louis and Zelie Martin on January 2, 1873, in Alencon, France. However, only five of these children lived to reach adulthood. Precocious and sensitive, Therese needed much attention. Her mother died when she was 4 years old. As a result, her father and sisters babied young Therese. She had a spirit that wanted everything.

At the age of 14, on Christmas Eve in 1886, Therese had a conversion that transformed her life. From then on, her powerful energy and sensitive spirit were turned toward love, instead of keeping herself happy. At 15, she entered the Carmelite convent in Lisieux to give her whole life to God. She took the religious name Sister Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, she was gifted with great intimacy with God. Through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in His merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: “My God, I love You!”

The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”. She described her life as a “little way of spiritual childhood.” She lived each day with an unshakable confidence in God’s love. “What matters in life,” she wrote, “is not great deeds, but great love.” Therese lived and taught a spirituality of attending to everyone and everything well and with love. She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and totally attentive love. Therese’s spirituality is of doing the ordinary, with extraordinary love.

Therese saw the seasons as reflecting the seasons of God’s love affair with us. She loved flowers and saw herself as the “little flower of Jesus,” who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God’s garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title “little flower” remained with St. Therese.

Her inspiration and powerful presence from heaven touched many people very quickly. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. Had she lived, she would have been only 52 years old when she was declared a Saint.
“My mission – to make God loved – will begin after my death,” she said. “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese’s signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her “little way.” She has been acclaimed “the greatest saint of modern times.” In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared St. Therese a Doctor of the Church – the only Doctor of his pontificate – in tribute to the powerful way her spirituality has influenced people all over the world.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and her “Little Way” is a spirituality that the modern world can embrace and with it, find our way to Heaven. When we look at this young woman from a time long ago, we might doubt it, but take a moment, learn about her spirituality that allowed her to become a Doctor of the Church. I think you will be very surprised that she was indeed, “the greatest Saint of modern time”. (Pope Pius XII)


St Hyacinth, his Pierogi, and the Olympics?

17 August 2016

This post is for Jacek, a good and holy man who is one of God’s anointed. Happy Feast and Name Day Jacek! God love you as I do! Szczęśliwego święta i Imieniny Jacka! Bóg cię kocha!

One of my favourite and endearing Saints is Dominican Saint Hyacinth or in Polish “Jacek”. I have come to love this Saint recently even though I was quite aware of his existence from my Polish neighbors growing up in an Italian section of NJ with a small but fervent Polish community next door to the Italian section. I always admired the faith of my Polish neighbors as they stood hard and fast to Catholic Tradition in a new land where Catholicism is still looked on with suspicion and superstition. Sadly, the Catholic Faith is the last great acceptable discrimination in the USA.

You would never know my Polish neighbors felt discriminated against as the local butcher store proudly hangs the Stars and Stripes high with the flags of Poland and the Vatican right underneath. A resilient people, I believe they would really die before turning against their Faith. Perhaps my strong belief that if martyrdom were upon me I would embrace it as well.

I pray to St Hyacinth that as Catholics we are not afraid to preach the Truth, no matter what! Święty Hiacynt, módl się za nami.

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St. Hyacinth, 1185-1257, priest and religious
Patron saint of weight lifters and pierogi

Rev. Michael Burzynski

hyacinthSaint Hyacinth is another of our Polish saints with pseudonym seemingly unrelated to his baptismal name. He is also known as Jacek. His proper name “Hyacinth” seems to be related to the hyacinth flower or hyacinth stone. He was born near Wroclaw (Breslau) in Upper Silesia, Poland, around 1185. He was ordained and became a priest of the cathedral of Krakow. Although he was renowned at an early age for the simplicity of his life and his great intellectual gifts, he may have remained rather obscure if he had not been invited, along with several companions, to accompany his bishop, Ivo Knock, (who was also his uncle) to Rome in 1220.

In Rome, Hyacinth and his companions were attracted to the Order of Friars Preachers (commonly known as Dominicans) by the holiness and preaching of its founder, St. Dominic, who had worked a miracle
in their presence. At this time, St. Hyacinth was one of the first to receive the habit of the newly established Order from St. Dominic.

He and his companions, Blessed Chester, Herman, and Henry, because of their spirit for prayer and their zeal for the salvation of souls, were sent to preach and establish the Dominican Order in Poland. On the way they were able to establish several monasteries.

In Poland the new preachers were well received and their sermons were productive of much good. Hyacinth founded communities at Sandomir, Cracow, and at Plocko on the Vistula in Moravia. He extended his missionary work through Prussia, Pomerania, and
Lithuania; then crossing the Baltic Sea he preached in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It was these apostolic travels that earned Hyacinth the title “The Apostle of the North.”

Tradition holds that he also evangelized throughout Scotland, Russia, Turkey, and Greece. However, these travels are not supported
by wider historical texts.

The life of Hyacinth is replete with legends. One of the major miracles attributed to Hyacinth came about from a Mogul attack
on Kiev. As the friars prepared to flee the invading forces, Hyacinth went to save the Blessed Sacrament from the tabernacle in the monastery chapel, when he heard the voice of Mary the Mother of God, asking him to take her, too. Hyacinth lifted the large, stone statue of Mary, as well as the ciborium. He was easily able to carry both, despite the fact that the statue weighed far more than he could normally lift. Thus he saved them both.

For this reason he is usually shown holding a constancy and a statute of Mary. This legend groups him with St. Christopher as the patron saint of weight-lifters. He is also a patron of those in fear of drowning.

Hyacinth died in the year 1257. He was canonized on April 17, 1594, by Pope Clement XVIII and his feast day is celebrated on Aug. 17. Hyacinth is a Polish saint with a wide international following. In Spanish-language countries, Hyacinth is known as San Jacinto which
is the name of numerous towns and locations in Spanish-speaking countries. He is also the patron saint of the Philippine city of Tuguegarao, where his feast day is celebrated with processions and folk dance contests.

St. Hyacinth is depicted in one of the windows of St. John Gualbert in Cheektowaga, and his relics are housed in its relic chapel. There is a Polish saying, “Swiety Jacek z pierogami!” (St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!) is an old expression of surprise, roughly equivalent to the American “good grief” or “holy smokes!” Pierogi may be the only Polish dish that seems to have its own patron saint.

Rev. Michael H. Burzynski, Ph.D. is pastor, Saint John Gualbert Church, Cheektowaga.


Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin: Their Holy Matrimony repudiates Manichean and Libertine “Catholics”

12 July 2016

by Barona at his Blog Toronto Catholic Witness
AD 12 July 2016 Feast of Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin

This post is dedicated to “Always Catholic” whose birthday Providentially falls on this Feast Day. She prayed a two year Novena to St. Therese of Lisieux for the canonization of her parents.

“an extraordinary witness of conjugal and family spirituality.”

Angelo Cardinal Amato

Zelie and Louis

Today is the Feast Day of Louis and Zellie Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. The Martin parents were not canonized for being the parents of a saint, but for being saints themselves. Having cleared this hurdle, we then need to expose and reduce to rubble the bold-faced lie that Louis and Zellie married to merely beget children for the Church. Manichean “Catholics” continue to promote this thesis, yet it is untenable after examining the facts and using a little common sense.

Continue by clicking Here

Feast of the Angelic Doctor: a Podcast by @FatherZ

28 January 2016

Reposted from WDTPRS.com

PODCAzT 141: Two Prayers of St. Thomas Aquinas

Posted on 28 January 2016 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

AquinasIn the post-Conciliar, Novus Ordo calendar today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274). Let’s hear two prayers from the Angelic Doctor, his Prayer Before Mass and Communion and his Prayer After Mass and Communion in both Latin and English.

To listrn to Father Zuhlsdorf’s podcast and see a relic of the Angelic Doctor Click HERE


The BEST of #Catholic Ideas: The St Therese Doll… Order Yours Now!

25 July 2015

Dear Always Catholic Readers,

In the beginning of the month, The Kiczek Family were kind enough to reach out to me about their new project “Dolls from Heaven”. I was very excited to be a part of it and had hoped to be among the first to get the word out. Unfortunately, I had some issues with WordPress and then my very serious heart condition decided to flare up. Sadly, I couldn’t be part of the initial excitement. I am here now and ready to tell you about this wonderful project. I have read the blogs which have reported on this story and I am convinced about one thing!

St Therese dressThis is the BEST of Catholic ideas to come around in a long time. In an age of consumerism, there is an option for parents to incorporate their Catholic Faith into playtime for their children. Dolls from Heaven is an idea way overdue. As a child I had nun dolls, particularly St.Therese and of course a child’s book about her. That doll and book stayed on my shelf until one day I had a friend who was looking for something Catholic for her daughter to play with. I gave my doll of St Therese in full Carmelite habit with the child’s book about her life to my little cousin who was just learning to read.

Well, she’s grown now and a Religious Sister and she always remembers the doll and her book.

The Kiczek’s have brought back around one of the things about how we taught our children years ago about what was important in life. Religious vocations will increase, but most importantly our children will have the right values and will understand the Faith in a way most dear to them. It is a great tool to inspire our children to become SAINTS! Yes, Saints. We inspire our children to do many things: education, a good job, being healthy and being kind. Ultimately though, Heaven is the goal, isn’t is?

St Therese habitI think this project is probably the best thing to come along in a long time. Help this project reach it’s fruition. Pre-order your Therese doll now for Christmas delivery. Hey, It’s Christmas in July and 5 months until the big day! Time flies and if you order now that special girl will get a gift she will treasure forever. Dolls from Heaven is looking for a start here and promises to bring more dolls to the market. Thinking your son would like one? St Francis of Assisi and St John Paul II will be coming after this project becomes a reality.

Always Catholic is behind this project and we ask you to help also. If you don’t have a child to buy a doll for, consider a donation of $5 or more to help make this a reality. Invest in our Catholic children. It’s more important than ever now given the political and anti-God climate we find ourselves living in now. So I am posting the Kiczek’s blogpost here and I encourage you to be a part of the solution!

God love you and thank you for your help,

Sofia Guerra
Owner/Editor of AlwaysCatholic.com
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Meet Therese

st therese
We are so excited to introduce you to Therese!

Therese is kind, loving doll and she has a great longing to dedicate her life to Jesus. She has glistening brown eyes that open and close, and curly brown hair. She comes with a Carmelite habit: A floor-length brown habit, A black veil, Two pieced white wimple, A brown scapular, and Brown sandals.

The 18 inch Therese doll has a cloth body, and a movable, vinyl head and limbs. Includes the paper back, I am Therese book.

In order to start production of the “Therese” doll, we only need 120 dolls to be pre-ordered. We already have a manufacturer ready to start production. So, pre-order your “Therese”doll today for your Children, your Grandchildren, your Friends, and don’t forget your Godchildren and together we can inspire children everywhere to become saints.

Order you Therese doll here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dolls-from-heaven#/story

As well as pre-ordering a doll, you can contribute to this campaign by sharing pictures on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr. You can use the Hashtag #DollsfromHeaven. Another way you can contribute is that if you are a blogger or know one, you can blog about this wonderful campaign/project. Get the Word out any way you can, by sending emails to your relatives and friends.

three therese

May God Bless you.
The Kiczek Family
www.dollsfromheaven.com

What We Can Learn Today From St. Maria Goretti’s Life

6 July 2015

In a world riddled with disrespect for our bodies made by God we wonder if we have the strength to stand against it. Here is a young girl who did. Her story is not much different than most girls who are sexually abused and /or murdered today.
The difference is that Maria Goretti was willing to die for her purity. Do we teach our children, particularly our daughters the same?

St. Maria Goretti Title
by Rev. Alexander Gits S.J.

 

INTRODUCTION

This is believed to be a photograph of Maria, one of only two that are known.

This is believed to be a photograph of Maria, one of only two that are known.

This story of the martyrdom of Maria Goretti is a challenge to our Catholic youth in an unclean world. Maria is a modern St. Agnes who deliberately sacrificed her life in the year 1902 rather than commit a sin against the holy virtue of purity. Her life as well as her heroic death will be an inspiration to modern girls. In their hands to a large extent lies the future of mankind. They have the vocation to raise once more the standard of Christian purity in a pagan world. What St. Agnes did in the unclean world of pagan Rome has been done anew in this evil age of ours by the example of Maria Goretti.

This sketch has been written as an encouragement to our young girls. There are many generous souls amongst them who have never heard of the ideal of Christian virginity. Many indeed regard this glory as a disgrace. The young martyr, Maria, is a challenge to such false notions.

There seems to be a common opinion among the young today that immodest conduct between the sexes is not sinful provided that it does not go ‘too far’. So soon as they have left school boys and girls consider themselves to be emancipated. They must be ‘modern’. They pursue pleasure with great ardour and are very soon beyond the control of their parents. They have learned their morality from the cinema, advertisements and popular periodicals. Perhaps God in His mercy has raised up the little maid, Maria Goretti, as an invitation to modern girls to stand up and challenge the modern world with its sinful pleasures. Aut castus sit aut pereat– Be pure or perish. The tragedy and triumph of the little Virgin and Martyr was in reality the outcome of a hidden spiritual battle between two forces; on the one hand was the saintly widowed mother who taught her children to love modesty and purity for the sake of Jesus and Mary, on the other hand was the lazy, neglectful farm labourer who taught his sons that there was no harm in immodest songs, books and pictures. The battle was won by Maria.

A remarkable aspect of the beatification which took place in 1947 was the special honour paid by the Holy Father to the child’s mother. He emphasized over and over again both in his speeches and in the official documents that the heroic daughter was the glory of the mother’s training. The details of the following story are taken from the evidence of the witnesses at the enquiries as quoted by Father Mondrone S.J. from the decree of beatification and from the address of Pope Pius XII.

THE CATHOLIC MOTHER

On 27 April 1947 Pope Pius XII, seated in the sede gestatoria, entered the basilica of St. Peter in the holy city of Rome for a beatification ceremony which in many ways was unique. He was to award the title of Blessed to a child martyr.

A vast crowd of 25,000 children and over 5,000 men and women were gazing at the splendour and glory of the triumphant ceremony while many thousands in the piazza outside the basilica were waiting to receive the blessing of the Holy Father. There came a pause amid the long ceremonial. The Pope had sent a courier on a special errand. Everybody in that vast crowd watched and waited with breathless interest as a white-haired old lady, aged 82 years, was slowly escorted into the presence of the Vicar of Christ. He spoke to her for some time and then in the presence of that vast assembly reverently kissed her hands.

This extraordinary honour bestowed by the Pope on a poor peasant woman was in reality a public acknowledgement of a mother’s life-work gloriously fulfilled. Her daughter had just been beatified as Virgin and Martyr. The child was not yet twelve years of age when she sacrificed her life in defence of her purity. The Pope wished to honour the living mother as well as the martyred daughter. So said the Holy Father addressing the multitudes and so ran the decree of beatification. Another unusual feature of the day was the declaration in the official decree that the child martyr now rejoices in Heaven with her father just as We on earth now rejoice with her mother.

The old lady had known poverty and hard work all her life. As a young girl she was known as Assunta Carlini, an orphan girl of the village of Corinaldo, situated about fifty miles north of Assisi. Since she had no home of her own her young life was one of constant hard work on the farm lands and in domestic service, but it was a life made beautiful by her trust in God and a childlike devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the course of time Assunta Carlini and Luigi Goretti, a young farm worker in the same village, were attracted to one another by their mutual love of the Faith and the purity of their lives. Each recognized the goodness of the other. They were married and started their new life on a little farm barely large enough to support them. They worked from morning till night and knew no fear, for they trusted in the Providence of God.

On 16 October 1890, to their great joy, a daughter was born to them and in accord with an ancient Catholic custom baptized within twenty-four hours in the village church. She received the names Maria and Teresa. This child was the future martyr, henceforth to be trained to sanctity by her father and mother. Maria Goretti, growing up in a good Catholic home, soon learned to recognize the holy pictures upon the wall, to make the sign of the Cross and to repeat her simple prayers after her father and mother. Those were indeed happy days for Assunta and Luigi. As the little girl grew older she began to imitate in small ways the unselfish goodness of her father and mother; she showed signs at a very early age of a gradually awakening sanctity. Her mother’s conversation inspired her with an admiration of the glories of the countryside, of the flowers and birds by day and of the stars in the heavens by night, explaining to her how all these things come from the hand of God. Maria quickly responded and began to appreciate the beauties of nature and to talk to God in her own childish way.

Although neither Assunta nor her child had ever attended school, this truly Christian mother was able to teach Maria the catechism and her prayers. She was in fact being educated in the finest of schools, a good Catholic home, and by the finest of teachers, her own parents. At the age of six she made her First Confession and received the strength of the Holy Ghost in the sacrament of Confirmation administered in the village church by the Bishop of Senogallia, the future Cardinal Boschi.

Up to this point all had gone well. Maria, even though so young, had become her mother’s companion and helper in the home. During the six years that had passed, God had blessed the little home with three more children. Luigi and Assunta rejoiced to receive these gifts from Heaven and were not afraid of hard work or suffering. The six-year-old Maria became in very truth the little mother of the house, nursing the younger ones, teaching them their prayers and encouraging her own mother in their daily troubles. On one occasion, passing through a meadow where they were helping with the farm work, Assunta remarked that she was afraid of snakes. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mummy’, said the stout-hearted six-year-old, ‘I will walk in front of you. You will be quite safe.’ This little incident was typical of her unselfish charity. The noble qualities of the child were soon observed by the women of the village, who would say good-humouredly to the mother: ‘Assunta, your little girl is a saint’.

Her growing love of prayer is thus described in the papal decree:

‘The Holy Spirit desired to enrich the little handmaiden of God with special graces and extraordinary privileges increasing her sanctity every day: by means of natural and visible things He drew her gently and sweetly to invisible and heavenly joys. As the singing lark attracted by the beauty of smiling meadows and blue skies rises to the heavens with rapid wing and remains poised in happy freedom singing and rejoicing, so did the pure little maid of Connaldo find herself charmed by the song of the birds and the sweet perfume of flowers and thus rejoicing amid the gentle breezes and the brilliant sunshine she raised her heart to the beauties of the heavens and with rapture even above the heavens to the choirs of angels and then to the throne of the most High God, pouring out the joy of her heart even unto eternity’.

THE CROSS

The first grief that came upon the little family was the pressure of poverty, which forced them to leave the village which they so much loved and the church where Luigi and Assunta had been baptized and married, where they had attended daily Mass and where their own children had been baptized and had learned the happiness of loving God.

The farm at Corinaldo was too small to yield enough food for their support. They therefore packed their few belongings and took to the road, making for Colle Granturco, a hill-country village, where Luigi had found work on a larger farm. Here they lived happily enough for three years during which a fifth child was born to them, bringing new love into the home and giving a new interest and new work to the little mother, Maria, now seven years of age.

For three years, from 1896 to 1899, poor Luigi toiled without avail. The farm for some reason or other was a failure until at last he was compelled by dire necessity to accept an offer of work near the coastal town of Nettuno, not far from the Anzio beach, thirty miles south of the Tiber.

The Anzio shore, as all the world knows, is now famous for the furious fighting which took place between Germans and allied forces in the year 1943. Before the 1939-1945 war the country round about had been drained and made healthy through the efforts of Benito Mussolini. Canals and fine roads had transformed the marshy Campagna from a pestilential swamp into a healthy productive countryside. In the year 1900, however, when the Goretti family came down from the hills to work at the farm near Nettuno they found themselves surrounded by marshy ground and uncultivated fields. Soon after they arrived a supply of coffins was sent to them by the owners of the farm in case any of the farm hands should fall victims of the deadly malaria which infested the warm, damp marsh lands.

Luigi and Assunta, on arrival at their new quarters, found that they would have to share a house on the farm with another family consisting of Giovanni Serenelli, aged sixty, a widower with two sons, Gaspar and Alessandro, both of them working on the land. The kitchen and the stairs had to be used by both families. This, of course, led to much inconvenience and trouble. Giovanni Serenelli was a coarse, unpleasant man who cared very little about the moral upbringing of his boys. He was in the habit of buying ‘popular’ magazines and journals abundantly illustrated with sensual pictures. He gave them to his sons for their entertainment. The walls of the boys bedrooms were covered with these suggestive pictures.

One can imagine the grief and fear which filled the heart of the pure-minded Assunta when she saw the type of men who were to live so close to her children. One day, as in duty bound, she protested to Giovanni Serenelli concerning the pictures he was bringing into the house. He replied contemptuously: ‘You need not look at them if you dont like them.

From early dawn until nightfall, day in and day out, these ill-assorted people had to toil side by side in the farm lands while the dauntless Maria kept house and managed the children and even repaired the clothing of the farm workers. Luigi, however, was not satisfied. He shared his wifes anxiety and began to make arrangements for a return to their native village, but before he could carry out his plans the terrible malaria fastened upon him. He sank rapidly until at last it was plain to all that God would soon call him to his eternal home. As he lay dying he thought of his children and begged Assunta in the event of his death to return to Corinaldo.

No sooner was the emaciated body of Luigi laid to rest than Assunta had perforce to shoulder the whole burden of her husbands work. To make matters worse Gaspar Serenelli had by this time gone away to seek work elsewhere. In spite of the loss of one mans strength the other two made no effort to work any harder. From all accounts it would seem that they were content to allow the ever-willing Assunta to supply for their laziness. The contract with the owners of the farm must be fulfilled; the children must be fed. Assunta therefore left all the care of the household in the capable hands of her daughter. After gathering in the harvest of wheat and beans she found herself, after the sales, burdened with a debt of 15 lire.

Maria as usual came to the rescue. With all her might she strove to fortify her mothers courage: ‘Cheer up, Mummy’, said she, ‘we are all growing up. If God will give us health we shall carry on. God will look after us.’ The strong-hearted little maid was now eleven years old.

‘She had a good and docile disposition’, said her mother, ‘and was as modest as she was graceful.’ The evidence continues: ‘Never was she disobedient and never did she cause her mother any trouble or displeasure: with daughterly affection she tried in every way to lighten the mothers work. She became a second mother to her small brothers and sisters, winning their hearts by her kindly ways. To others she gave an outstanding example of that modesty which St Paul wishes to be known to all men (Philipp. 4: 5). Before their eyes and before God she advanced in wisdom and age and grace. She had but one Master and His pulpit was the Cross, and she had only one book, that threefold breviary of the layfolk, the Rosary. She grew in age but advanced more rapidly in that wisdom which our Lord says is hidden from the wise and prudent but revealed by the Father in His goodness to little ones.’

 

GROWING IN SANCTITY

The Christian courage and unselfishness of Maria Goretti were not only the result of her mothers careful training; they were also the fruit of her growing love of prayer. She took delight in frequent conversations with Jesus and Mary. In her spare moments at home she would kneel and pour out her troubles and anxieties in the presence of God. Twice a day she would recite the Rosary for her dead father. She was sometimes seen to kneel for a moment at the gates of the cemetery where he was buried. At home she inspired her own brothers and sisters with some of her own love of prayer and in her own way would repeat to them the instructions given by the priest in the chapel of Campomorto, which was two miles away from the farm, or on great feasts she would explain to them the sermon preached that day in the church at Nettuno, seven miles away from their home. Her constant companion when she attended church was Teresa Cimarelli, who after her death bore witness to her blameless life. ‘She was truly a girl brought up from childhood to please our Lord,’ said Teresa.

When out of doors neighbours noted her modesty of dress and behaviour. Graceful and fair, with the candid glance of an innocent child, she usually wore a veil over her head and maintained a certain reserve and simple dignity when addressed by others. Her brothers and sisters loved and admired her as a second mother and unconsciously imitated her modest bearing and dignified manners. The Serenellis later on testified that even during the worst heat of the Campagna summer Maria always preserved the same careful modesty in her dress and behaviour. Of course, like all the saints of God she had to suffer ill-natured remarks from those who felt that the purity of her life was a silent rebuke to themselves. By the grace of God, however, she kept her sweetness of character and told her trouble to her mother, whom she trusted completely. As the child grew older she began more and more to long for the day of her First Communion. The future Pius X, the Childrens Pope, was still only Patriarch of Venice. The old custom still remained, so that children did not receive our Lord until very late in childhoods years. Moreover, the little hamlet in which the farm was situated ‘had neither church nor school but only a bad climate’, as the witnesses quaintly remark. Eventually Maria was judged to be ready and the great day of her First Communion dawned on the feast of Corpus Christi, 29 May 1902. She received God into her heart with great joy. It was only forty days before her martyrdom.

‘After this’, said the child to her mother, ‘I shall be much better’. To make up for her disappointment at not having her father with her she offered up all the prayers and graces of her First Communion for the repose of his soul.

A short time after the great day it chanced that she was sent as usual to the well to fetch a supply of water for the household. While filling her jug she overheard the bandying of obscene jokes between a young man and one of the girls who had so recently made her First Communion with Maria. The child was hurt and shocked. She hurried home and complained to her mother.

‘You should not listen to her’, said Assunta.

‘I could not help it. I was filling the jug.’

‘You must let the words come in one ear and go out of the other. Take care never to say them yourself.’

‘I will never say them, mamma mia: I would rather die.’

‘Remember, Marietta, to pray to our Lady in all dangers.’

So did Assunta train her daughter and the grace of God fortified the soul of the maid. Years later Cardinal Salotti, speaking at Nettuno, said to the assembled crowds: ‘Even if Maria had not been a martyr she would have been a saint, so holy was her ordinary everyday life.

THE COMBAT

Meanwhile Assunta laboured on the farm lands with the two Serenellis and entrusted the home affairs more and more to her ‘Marietta’, as she called Maria. Perhaps the continuous heavy work had begun to blunt the watchful perceptions of Assunta; she was losing sight of the fact that Maria was still a child needing a mothers care and protection. Giovanni Serenelli and his morose and silent son, Alessandro, made no change in their loutish ways. The illustrated papers with their risque pictures were still coming into the room of the men. Maria worked and prayed in the home from morning till night, cleaning, cooking, repairing clothes and mothering the four little ones. The poor child was blissfully unaware of the stealthy approach of evil. Then the clash came.

One hot afternoon in June 1902 when work was in progress in the fields Maria was surprised to see the young Serenelli returning to the house. He came up to her in a furtive way and spoke in a low tone, the voice of the tempter. She did not understand his words but instinct warned her of the danger and she ran away.

A few days later the same thing happened again but this time the young man spoke more plainly. She blushed with shame and horror, repelling him with energetic words. He seized hold of the poor child but she slipped away and as she ran he threatened with an oath to kill her if she dared to tell a living soul what had passed.

It does not require much imagination to picture the shame and terror suffered by this saintly girl. It is easy for us now to judge that she should have told her mother of this overwhelming danger that threatened her purity and her life. All we know is that Maria redoubled her prayers and begged her mother not to leave her alone. Assunta noticed that her rosary was constantly in her hands when she was not working in the house. She noticed also that the young Serenelli was treating Maria with great harshness whenever he had cause to speak to her and that she was avoiding him as far as she could in those cramped quarters. Nevertheless the possibility of any danger never crossed her mind. Again and again Maria would plaintively beg: ‘Madre mia’, dont leave me alone in the house. But Assunta must needs go out and work. Who would hurt a child so young and innocent? She was not yet twelve years of age.

The weeks went by and Maria seems to have become more tranquil. On Saturday morning, 5 July 1902, she paid a call on her friend, Teresa Cimarelli, inviting her to come to Confession with her: ‘Tomorrow is Sunday, Teresa. Lets go to Campomorto. I am longing for Holy Communion.’

Meanwhile, Satan had entered into the soul of Alessandro, the wretched victim of his own fathers neglect and sinful example. He secured possession of a sharp stiletto, a foot long, and hid the weapon in his room. He is determined to conquer the dauntless child.

During midday dinner arrangements were made for the threshing of the beans in the afternoon. The method was primitive. Two bullock carts were to be driven repeatedly over the beans on the threshing floor, thus crushing the pods. It was a long and laborious process, especially in the heavy heat of July. After dinner Giovanni Serenelli sat down at the foot of the stairs and fell asleep. Assunta and Alessandro started out to fetch the bullock carts. Assuntas baby daughter was sleeping on the top of the stairs while Maria sat near minding the baby while at the same time she stitched away, repairing a shirt for Alessandro. Outside in the sun Assunta and Alessandro were leading one of the wagons to the threshing shed. Suddenly without warning Alessandro jumped down from the cart and requested Assunta to take charge. He came hurriedly into the house, ran up the stairs past his sleeping father and into his own room. He secreted the stiletto and came out again. In a low voice he requested the terrified Maria to come into a room. ‘What for?’ she asked, and then tried to run down the stairs. He seized her, dragged her into the room and closed the door.

THE AGONY

The details of the martyrdom that followed came from the lips of the penitent murderer in later years when evidence was being gathered for the child’s beatification.

In that little room, far from human aid but strong in Faith, the trembling Maria heard the wretched youth repeatedly demanding that she should surrender herself to him. ‘No, no, no’, she said firmly, ‘it would be a terrible sin and you will go to Hell. God forbids it.’ She began to scream for help but there was no one near except the older man sleeping at the foot of the stairs. The maddened youth drew his stiletto and threatened her, hoping to overcome her resistance by fear. At last he laid hands upon her, whereupon the glorious virgin and martyr made her final refusal:

‘You may kill me but you shall not have me.’

Blinded by fury he drove the stiletto again and again into her body ‘as though she were a piece of wood.’ Maria fell bleeding to the floor and as she fell gathered her garments around her body. ‘Mother, Mother!’ she cried, ‘I am dying. O my God, help me.’ The murderer shrank back for a moment as she lay bleeding from fourteen dreadful wounds. With grim determination the dying maid dragged herself to the door and called to the father sleeping at the foot of the stairs: ‘Giovanni, come quickly. Alessandro has killed me.’

The youth was now overcome by panic; at all costs he must silence her. He seized her by the throat and drove the stiletto into her back. Then he let her fall and ran away to his own room and locked himself in.

Ten minutes before, as he came up the stairs, he had been determined to kill her if she would not consent to sin with him. ‘I knew I was breaking the law of God. I killed her because she refused. Never by a word or a smile had she encouraged me. It was all my own fault. Maria did well.’ So said the humble penitent many years afterwards.

At last the elder Serenelli awoke from his sleep and seeing the wounded girl gave the alarm. Teresa Cimarelli came into the house and lifted the dying Maria on to a bed. Teresa questioned her. She replied faintly: ‘It was Alessandro. He wanted me to do something bad. I said: No, Alessandro; you will go to Hell’. He hit me. He wounded me all over.’ Poor Assunta then came running in and fainted at the sight that met her eyes. She then roused herself and bent over the child:

‘Marietta, what has happened?’

‘It was Alessandro.’

‘But why, carissima?’

‘He wanted me to do a wicked thing and I refused.’

Later on in the hospital the mother questioned her daughter again at the request of the police:

‘Has he ever troubled you before?’

‘Yes, twice; about two months ago.’

‘But why did you not tell me, carissima?’

‘Oh! I was too ashamed. He threatened to kill me if I spoke.’

The papal decree sums up the whole tragedy as follows: ‘He was a degraded youth given up to sensual pleasures. Not even the exceptional modesty and maidenly virtue of Maria were sufficient to shame him into restraining his base and animal desires. Again and again he had tempted her in vain until at the end she had this choice put before her, either to save her life with the loss of her virtue or to preserve her virtue at the loss of her life. It was her life that she cast away, a life to be found again in the world to come and for all eternity.’

THE CRUCIFIXION

The tragic news spread like wildfire among the peasants who had long loved and admired Maria Goretti. ‘They have killed a little saint’, was their comment. A crowd began to gather at the door of the farmhouse; angry cries were heard threatening violence to the murderer hidden within. The police van drew up at the door: the wretched Giovanni watched his son being taken into custody.

Later on the ambulance arrived: the sorrowful neighbours watched the pitiful spectacle as the suffering child was carried out accompanied by her weeping mother. Assunta and Teresa Cimarelli sat with Maria as she was transported to hospital. Those country roads were very rough, so that the ambulance car jolted terribly.

‘Are you suffering, carissima?’

‘Oh no, Mummy’, said the unselfish Maria, but the pain at last forced from her lips the query: ‘Will it be long before we get there?’

When the doctors saw her mangled body they declared the case to be hopeless and asked the Father Superior of the Hospital to hear her confession.

‘You won’t have much to do, Father; she’s a little angel.’

No anaesthetics could be given to her, so that she suffered agony when they were treating her wounds and internal injuries. When they had finished with her, she looked at her mother and said:

‘I am much better’, and then begged for some water, but this was forbidden.

‘Will you stay with me tonight?’

‘No, carissima; I am not allowed.’

‘But where will you sleep?’

Assunta reassured her and retired for the night. The priest from Nettuno, who knew Maria very well, accompanied by Teresa Cimarelli and two Little Sisters of the Poor, spent the night watching by the bedside of the dying child. Maria frequently kissed the Crucifix with great devotion and prayed to our Lady as she was wont to do. In spite of her pain she showed great joy when the priest enrolled her as a Child of Mary and placed the medal round her neck.

Very early on Sunday morning Assunta was allowed to come to the room and prepare Maria for Holy Communion. The previous day she had expressed to Teresa her great longing to receive Jesus and now her desire was to be fulfilled. The room was prepared. ‘Marietta’, whispered the mother, ‘you must forgive Alessandro.’ In a short while the priest who had watched by her bedside through the night went to the hospital chapel to bring her Holy Communion. Assunta, Teresa and the two nuns recited the prayers. Presently the priest came to the room bearing the Blessed Sacrament. He placed It on the altar by her bed and then spoke a few words to Maria the child.

‘Tell me, Marietta, who is here in Holy Communion?’

‘Jesus whom I am going to see very soon.’

‘Do you forgive Alessandro?’

‘Yes, of course, Father. Jesus forgave the penitent thief on the Cross and I shall pray that Alessandro may be penitent.’

Maria received her Viaticum with greatest joy and was anointed with the holy oils. The Sunday morning wore on. The watchers prayed. Maria was sinking but her lips moved as she spoke to Jesus and Mary. From time to time she became delirious, thinking she was still lying on the floor: ‘Oh, take me to bed. I want to be near our Lady.’ (At home she kept a small altar near her bed with a picture of the Blessed Virgin which she honored daily with fresh flowers.) Sometimes in her wanderings she would cry out in sudden horror: ‘No, no, Alessandro. You will go to Hell.’ She moved her hands as though to drive away the tempter and then drew the clothes around her.

The weeping Assunta tried to comfort her child and when tranquillity returned she said to her: ‘Good-bye, little one. Pray for us all. Pardon everything.’

The swoons now became more frequent.

It was a quarter to four on the Sunday afternoon, 6 July 1902. The faithful Teresa Cimarelli was sitting at the bedside praying without ceasing. Maria lay silent and pale. Suddenly she turned towards her friend, caught hold of her arms and said: ‘Teresa!’ It was her last cry. She sank back on the pillows and gave up her pure soul to God.

The previous day had been the Feast of the Precious Blood when Maria had shed her blood for the Lamb of God who had died for her. Her few years had been passed in innocence and her brief life will shine for ever as an example to all, but especially to girls. Her twelve years of life will shine like the twelve stars that adorn the crown of the Virgin Mother of God. The Servant of God closed her life in charity with all. She pardoned her murderer from her heart, as Jesus Himself pardoned the thief whom He was to take with Him into Paradise. She closed her life in the love of God the Father whose commandments even in her agony were sweeter to her than honey and the honeycomb. She closed her life in the love of her blood-stained Spouse on the Cross who laid down His life for His friends.

THE TRIUMPH

Maria’s funeral was more like a triumph than a day of mourning. The country folk turned out en masse and acclaimed her sanctity.

‘Maria Goretti is our new St Agnes. She is in Heaven.’ She was laid to rest in the cemetery near her father, but later on, when enquiries were being made for her beatification, her body was removed to her parish church, Our Lady of Grace, in Nettuno, whose priest had attended her in her last agony. On the occasion of her removal to this church Cardinal Salotti addressed a great concourse of people who had come to honour their heroine.

The popular verdict was echoed by the words of Pius XII when he addressed the multitude on the day of her beatification: ‘Maria Goretti resembled St. Agnes in her characteristic virtue of Fortitude. This virtue of Fortitude is at the same time the safeguard as well as the fruit of virginity. Our new beata was strong and wise and fully aware of her dignity. That is why she preferred death before sin. She was not yet twelve years of age when she shed her blood as a martyr, nevertheless what prudence, what foresight, what energy she showed when aware of danger! She was on the watch day and night to defend her chastity, making use of all the means at her disposal, persevering in prayer and entrusting the lily of her purity to the special protection of Mary, the Virgin of virgins. Let us admire the fortitude of the pure of heart. It is a mysterious strength far above the limits of human nature and even above ordinary Christian virtue.

‘There are many other generous and pure souls like Maria Goretti, but the number would be still greater if only parents would exercise greater watchfulness over their children and encourage them to a more trusting obedience.’

Legal documents are usually written in official and unattractive language but the papal decree of beatification for Maria Goretti is a notable exception. Dated 27 April 1947 and issued from the Sacred Congregation of Rites, it begins as follows:

‘Never has there been a time when the palm of martyrdom was missing from the shining robes of the glorious Spouse of Christ. Even today in our very degraded and unclean world there are bright examples of unearthly beauty. The greatest of all triumphs is surely the one which is gained by the sacrifice of ones life, a victory made holy by the blood-red garments of martyrdom. When however the martyr is a child of tender age with the natural timidity of the weaker sex such a martyrdom rises to sublime heights of glory.

‘This is exactly what happened in the case of Maria Goretti, a poor little girl and yet very wonderful. She was a Roman country maid who did not hesitate to struggle and to suffer, to shed her lifes blood and to die with heroic courage in order to keep herself pure and to preserve the lily-white flowers of her virginity. We can justly say of her what St Ambrose said about St Agnes: ‘Men must marvel, children take courage, wives must wonder and maids must imitate’. These words are true indeed: The father of a saintly child may well jump for joy. All honour to the father and mother. Happy the mother that gave thee birth (Proverbs xxiii).

‘Thrice happy maid, you are now rejoicing with your father in Heaven while your mother rejoices with us on earth like the happy mother of the angelic youth, Aloysius. So also let Italy, your Motherland, rejoice, smiling once more through her tears as she reads the motto you have written for her in childish letters of brilliant white and gold: Brave and Beautiful (Proverbs xxxi).

‘Italian girls especially in the fair flower of their youth should raise their eyes to Heaven and gaze upon this shining example of maidenly virtue which rose from the midst of wickedness as a light shines in darkness. We call her a model and protector. God is wonderful in His saints; He sets them before us as examples as well as patrons. Now He has given to the young girls of our cruel and degraded world a model and protector, the little maid Maria who sanctified the opening of our century with her innocent blood.’

On Christmas Eve, eight months after the Beatification of Maria Goretti, a man humble and penitent stood knocking at the door of the priests house in the village of Nettuno. It was Alessandro Serenelli. He had served his sentence of imprisonment and for some time had been living in retirement: now he had travelled to seek the forgiveness of the martyrs mother. Assunta Goretti, now aged and infirm, was living at the village presbytery.

Like Our Lady of Sorrows, she freely pardoned the penitent murderer. Moreover, in token of her forgiveness the saintly mother on Christmas morning, in the presence of all the villagers, knelt side by side with Alessandro at the altar rails to receive Holy Communion together at their Christmas Mass. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, entered into their hearts. It was His triumph and His victory; for Charity is stronger than Death. 24 June 1950 was the day of Maria’s final triumph, her canonization by Pope Pius XII in St. Peters, Rome, in the presence of a vast multitude of Holy Year pilgrims.

PRAYERS TO OBTAIN PURITY

I. O Jesus, Son of the living God, brightness of eternal light, who from all eternity wast begotten most pure in the santa-maria-goretti-santino-2bosom of the eternal Father, and who in time didst will to be born of a most pure and immaculate virgin: I, thy most frail creature, with all my heart beseech thee to preserve me pure in soul and body, and to make holy purity flourish abundantly in thy holy Church, for Thy greater glory and the salvation of the souls redeemed by Thee.

II. O Mary ever virgin, most pure and immaculate daughter of the eternal Father, mother of the eternal Son, spouse of the Holy Ghost, august and living temple of the most blessed Trinity, lily of purity, and mirror without spot: obtain for me, O dear mother! from your good Jesus and mine, purity of soul and body; and beg of Him to make this virtue flourish more and more in all classes of the faithful.

III. O most chaste spouse of Mary immaculate, who didst merit at the hands of God the singular honor of being the foster-father of Innocence itself, Christ Jesus, and the spotless guardian of the Virgin of virgins: obtain for me the love of Jesus, my God and Saviour, and the special protection of Mary, my most holy mother; and procure, O holy Joseph, protector of all chaste souls! that thy chosen virtue of holy purity be better loved by me and by all men.

IV. And thou, all on fire with love for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, model of Christian modesty and restorer in your time of piety and good morals, our special advocate and example, St. Bernardino: present our prayers to the Holy Family, and beg of them that, with piety and the fear of God, holy purity in soul and body may reign in all Christian families, and in all who are children of the holy Roman Church, our mother. Amen.

His Holiness, Pope Pius IX., by a rescript of the Sacred Penitentiary, Feb. 27, 1862, granted to all the faithful, every time that, with at least contrite heart and devotion, they shall say these prayers to obtain holy purity: 300 days Indulgence.

Maria’s feast day, celebrated on July 6, was inserted in the General Roman Calendar when it was revised in 1969. She is the patron saint of chastity, rape victims, girls, youth, teenage girls, poverty, purity and forgiveness.

Sources: http://catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com/
Photo: https://agnesinagony.wordpress.com


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