Who were the saints and martyrs named in the Mass?Click on the linked names to jump to the description of each saint.
In the Canon of the Mass, a prayer called the Remembrance of the Saints:
After the Consecration, we pray for the faithful departed:
Breaking of the host:
The source for these descriptions has been the link "Saints of the Day" on our web site.
Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
Angels –messengers from God– appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.
Michael appears in Daniel’s vision as "the great prince" who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God’s armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.
Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel’s visions, announcing Michael’s role in God’s plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.
Raphael’s activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit’s son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah’s marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.
The memorials of Gabriel (March 24) and Raphael (October 24) were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their feasts to Michael’s.
Mary, Mother of God, Blessed Virgin
Mary’s divine motherhood broadens the Christmas spotlight. Mary has an important role to play in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. She consents to God’s invitation conveyed by the angel (Luke 1:26–38). Elizabeth proclaims: "Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42–43, emphasis added). Mary’s role as mother of God places her in a unique position in God’s redemptive plan.
Without naming Mary, Paul asserts that "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4). Paul’s further statement that "God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out ‘Abba, Father!’" helps us realize that Mary is mother to all the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Some theologians also insist that Mary’s motherhood of Jesus is an important element in God’s creative plan. God’s "first" thought in creating was Jesus. Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the one who could give God perfect love and worship on behalf of all creation. As Jesus was "first" in God’s mind, Mary was "second" insofar as she was chosen from all eternity to be his mother.
The precise title "Mother of God" goes back at least to the third or fourth century. In the Greek form Theotokos (God–bearer), it became the touchstone of the Church’s teaching about the Incarnation. The Council of Ephesus in 431 insisted that the holy Fathers were right in calling the holy virgin Theotokos. At the end of this particular session, crowds of people marched through the street shouting: "Praised be the Theotokos!" The tradition reaches to our own day. In its chapter on Mary’s role in the Church, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church calls Mary "Mother of God" 12 times.
The Bible pays Joseph the highest compliment: he was a "just" man. The quality meant a lot more than faithfulness in paying debts.
When the Bible speaks of God "justifying" someone, it means that God, the all–holy or "righteous" One, so transforms a person that the individual shares somehow in God’s own holiness, and hence it is really "right" for God to love him or her. In other words, God is not playing games, acting as if we were lovable when we are not.
By saying Joseph was "just," the Bible means that he was one who was completely open to all that God wanted to do for him. He became holy by opening himself totally to God.
The rest we can easily surmise. Think of the kind of love with which he wooed and won Mary, and the depth of the love they shared during their marriage.
It is no contradiction of Joseph’s manly holiness that he decided to divorce Mary when she was found to be with child. The important words of the Bible are that he planned to do this "quietly" because he was "a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame" (Matthew 1:19).
The just man was simply, joyfully, wholeheartedly obedient to God–in marrying Mary, in naming Jesus, in shepherding the precious pair to Egypt, in bringing them to Nazareth, in the undetermined number of years of quiet faith and courage.
The glorious St. Joseph was lineally descended from the greatest kings of the tribe of Judah, and from the most illustrious of the ancient patriarchs; but his true glory consisted in his humility and virtue. The history of his life hath not been written by men; but his principal actions are recorded by the Holy Ghost himself God entrusted him with the education of his divine Son, manifested in the flesh. In this view he was espoused to the Virgin Mary. It is an evident mistake of some writers, that by a former wife he was the father of St. James the Less, and of the rest who are styled in the gospels the brothers of our Lord; for these were only cousin–germans to Christ, the sons of Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin, wife of Alphaeus, who was living at the time of our Redeemer’s crucifixion. St. Jerome assures us1 that St. Joseph always preserved his virgin chastity; and it is of faith that nothing contrary thereto ever took place with regard to his chaste spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was given her by heaven to be the protector of her chastity, to secure her from calumnies in the birth of the Son of God, and to assist her in his education, and in her journeys, fatigues, and persecutions. How great was the purity and sanctity of him who was chosen the guardian of the most spotless Virgin! This holy man seems, for a considerable time, to have been unacquainted that the great mystery of the Incarnation had been wrought in her by the Holy Ghost. Conscious, therefore, of his own chaste behaviour towards her, it could, not but raise a great concern in his breast to find that, notwithstanding the sanctity of her deportment, yet he might be well assured that she was with child. But being (a just man), as the scripture calls him, and consequently possessed of all virtues, especially of charity and mildness towards his neighbour, he was determined to leave her privately, without either condemning or accusing her, committing the whole cause to God. These, his perfect dispositions, were so acceptable to God, the lover of justice, charity, and peace, that before he put his design into execution he sent an angel from heaven, not to reprehend anything in his holy conduct, but to dissipate all his doubts and fears, by revealing to him this adorable mystery. How happy should we be if we were as tender in all that regards the reputation of our neighbor; as free from entertaining any injurious thought or suspicion, whatever certainty our conjectures or our senses may seem to rely on; and as guarded in our tongue! We commit these faults only because in our hearts we are devoid of that true charity and simplicity, whereof St. Joseph sets us so eminent an example on this occasion.
In the next place we may admire in secret contemplation with what devotion, respect, and tenderness he beheld and adored the first of all men, the new-born Saviour of the world, and with what fidelity he acquitted himself of his double charge, the education of Jesus and the guardianship of his blessed mother. "He was truly the faithful and prudent servant," says St. Bernard,2 "whom our Lord appointed the master of his household, the comfort and support of his mother, his foster–father, and most faithful co–operator in the execution of his deepest counsels on earth." "What a happiness," says the same Father, "not only to see Jesus Christ, but also to hear him: to carry him in his arms, to lead him from place to place, to embrace and caress him, to feed him, and to be privy to all the great secrets which were concealed from the princes of this world!"
"O astonishing elevation! O unparalleled dignity!" cries out the pious Gerson,3 in a devout address to St. Joseph, "that the mother of God, queen of heaven, should call you her lord; that God himself, made man, should call you father, and obey your commands. O glorious Triad on earth, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, how dear a family to the glorious Trinity in heaven, Father, Son,, and Holy Ghost! Nothing is on earth so great, so good, so excellent." Amidst these extraordinary graces, what more wonderful than his humility! He conceals his privileges, lives as the most obscure of men, publishes nothing of God’s great mysteries, makes no further inquiries into them, leaving it to God to manifest them at his own time, seeks to fulfil the order of providence in his regard without interfering with anything but what concerns himself. Though descended from the royal family which had long been in the possession of the throne of Judea, he is content with his condition, that of a mechanic or handicraftsman, and makes it his business, by labouring in it, to maintain himself, his spouse, and the divine Child.
We should be ungrateful to this great saint if we did not remember that it is to him, as the instrument under God, that we are indebted for the preservation of the infant Jesus from Herod’s jealousy and malice, manifested in the slaughter of the Innocents. An angel appearing to him in his sleep bade him arise, take the child Jesus, and fly with him into Egypt, and remain there till he should again have notice from him to return. This sudden and unexpected flight must have exposed Joseph to many inconveniences and sufferings in so long a journey, with a little babe and a tender virgin, the greater part of the way being through deserts and among strangers; yet he alleges no excuses, nor inquires at what time they were to return. St. Chrysostom observes that God treats thus all his servants, sending them frequent trials to clear their hearts from the rust of self–love, but intermixing seasons of consolation.4 "Joseph," says he, "is anxious on seeing the Virgin with child; an angel removes that fear; he rejoices at the child’s birth, but a great fear succeeds; the furious king seeks to destroy the child, and the whole city is in an uproar to take away his life. This is followed by another joy– the adoration of the Magi; a new sorrow then arises; he is ordered to fly into a foreign unknown country, without help or acquaintance." It is the opinion of the Fathers that upon their entering Egypt, at the presence of the child Jesus all the oracles of that superstitious country were struck dumb, and the statues of their gods trembled, and in many places fell to the ground, according to that of Isaiah xix.: And the statues of the Egyptians shall be shaken in his presence. The Fathers also attribute to this holy visit the spiritual benediction poured on that country, which made it for many ages most fruitful in saints.
After the death of King Herod, which was notified to St. Joseph by a vision, God ordered him to return with the child and his mother into the land of Israel, which our saint readily obeyed. But when he arrived in Judea, hearing that Archelaus succeeded Herod in that part of the country, apprehensive he might be infected with his father’s vices– cruelty and ambition–he feared on that account to settle there, as he would otherwise probably have done, for the more commodious education of the child. And therefore, being directed by God in another vision, he retired into the dominions of his brother Herod Antipas, in Galilee, to his former habitation in Nazareth, where the wonderful occurrences of our Lord’s birth were less known. St. Joseph being a strict observer of the Mosaic law, in conformity to its direction annually repaired to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover. Archelaus being banished by Augustus and Judea made a Roman province, he had now nothing more to fear at Jerusalem. Our Saviour being advanced to the twelfth year of his age, accompanied his parents thither; who, having performed the usual ceremonies of the feast, were now returning with many of their neighbours and acquaintances towards Galilee, and, never doubting but that Jesus had joined himself with some of the company, they travelled on for a whole day’s journey without further inquiry after him before they discovered that he was not with them. But when night came on, and they could hear no tidings of him among their kindred and acquaintance, they, in the deepest affliction, returned with the utmost speed to Jerusalem; where, after an anxious search of three days, they found him in the temple, sitting among the learned doctors of the law, hearing them discourse, and asking them such questions as raised the admiration of all that heard him, and made them astonished at the ripeness of his understanding: nor were his parents less surprised on this occasion. And when his mother told him with what grief and earnestness they had sought him, and to express her sorrow for that, though short, privation of his presence, said to him, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I sought thee in great affliction of mind": she received for answer that, being the Messias and Son of God, sent by his Father into the world in order to redeem it, he must be about his Father’s business, the same for which he had been sent into the world; and therefore that it was most likely for them to find him in his Father’s house: intimating that his appearing in public on this occasion was to advance his Father’s honour, and to prepare the princes of the Jews to receive him for the Messias; pointing out to them from the prophets the time of his coming. But though in thus staying in the temple, unknown to his parents, he did something without their leave, in obedience to his heavenly Father, yet in all other things he was obedient to them, returning with them to Nazareth, and there living in all dutiful subjection to them.
Aelred, our countryman, Abbot of Rieval, in his sermon on losing the child Jesus in the temple, observes that this his conduct to his parents is a true representation of that which he shows us, whilst he often withdraws himself for a short time from us to make us seek him the more earnestly. He thus describes the sentiments of his holy parents on this occasion."5 Let us consider what was the happiness of that blessed company, in the way to Jerusalem, to whom it was granted to behold his face, to hear his sweet words, to see in him the signs of divine lie wisdom and virtue; and in their mutual discourse to receive the influence of his saving truths and example. The old and young admire him. I believe boys of his age were struck with astonishment at the gravity of his manners and words. I believe such rays of grace darted from his blessed countenance as drew on him the eyes, ears, and hearts of every one. And what tears do they shed when he is not with them." He goes on considering what must be tie grief of his parents when they had lost him; what their sentiments, and how earnest their search: but what their joy when they found him again. "Discover to me," says he, "O my Lady, Mother of my God, what were your sentiments, what your astonishment and your joy when you saw him again, and sitting, not among boys, but amidst the doctors of the law: when you saw every one’s eyes fixed on him, every one’s ears listening to him, great and small, learned and unlearned, intent only on his words and motions. You now say: I have found him whom I love. I will hold him, and will no more let him part from me. Hold him, sweet Lady, hold him fast; rush on his neck dwell on his embraces, and compensate the three days’ absence by multiplied delights in your present enjoyment of him. You tell him that you and his father sought him in grief. For what did you grieve? not for fear of hunger or want in him whom you knew to be God: but I believe you grieved to see yourself deprived of the delights of his presence even for a short time; for the Lord Jesus is so sweet to those who taste him, that his shortest absence is a subject of the greatest grief to them." This mystery is an emblem of the devout soul, and Jesus sometimes withdrawing himself, and leaving her in dryness, that she may be more earnest in seeking him. But, above all, how eagerly ought the soul which has lost God by sin to seek him again, and how bitterly ought she to deplore her extreme misfortune!
As no further mention is made of St. Joseph, he must have died before the marriage of Cana and the beginning of our divine Saviour’s ministry. We cannot doubt but he had the happiness of Jesus and Mary attending at his death, praying by him, assisting and comforting him in his last moments: whence he is particularly invoked for the great grace of a happy death, and the spiritual presence of Jesus in that tremendous hour. The church reads the history of the Patriarch Joseph on his festival, who was styled the saviour of Egypt, which he delivered from perishing by famine; and was appointed the faithful master of the household of Potiphar, and of that of Pharaoh and his kingdom. But our great saint was chosen by God the saviour of the life of him who was the true Saviour of the souls of men, rescuing him from the tyranny of Herod. He is now glorified in heaven, as the guardian and keeper of his Lord on earth. As Pharaoh said to the Egyptians in their distress, "Go to Joseph"; so may we confidently address ourselves to the mediation of him, to whom God, made man, was subject and obedient on earth.
The devout Gerson expressed the warmest devotion to St. Joseph, which he endeavoured by letters and sermons to promote. He composed an office in his honour, and wrote his life in twelve poems, called Josephina. He enlarges on all the circumstances of his life by pious affections and meditations. St. Teresa chose him the chief patron of her order. In the sixth chapter of her life she writes thus: "I chose the glorious St. Joseph for my patron, and I commend myself in all things singularly to his intercession. I do not remember ever to have asked of God anything by him which I did not obtain. I never knew anyone who, by invoking him, did not advance exceedingly in virtue; for he assists in a wonderful manner all who address themselves to him." St. Francis of Sales, throughout his whole nineteenth entertainment, extremely recommends devotion to him, and extols his merits, principally his virginity, humility, constancy, and courage. The Syrians and other eastern churches celebrate his festival on the 20th of July; the western church on the 19th of March. Pope Gregory XV in 1621, and Urban VIII in 1642, commanded it to be kept a holiday of obligation.
The holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph presents to us the most perfect model of heavenly conversation on earth. How did those two seraphim, Mary and Joseph, live in their poor cottage! They always enjoyed the presence of Jesus, always burning with the most ardent love for him, inviolably attached to his sacred person, always employed and living only for him. What were their transports in beholding him, their devotion in listening to him, and their joy in possessing him! O heavenly life! O anticipation of the heavenly bliss! O divine conversation! We may imitate them, and share some degree of this advantage, by conversing often with Jesus, and by the contemplation of his most amiable goodness, kindling the fire of his holy love in our breasts. The effects of this love, if it be sincere, will necessarily appear in our putting on his spirit, and imitating his example and virtues; and in our studying to walk continually in the divine presence, finding God everywhere, and esteeming all the time lost which we do not spend with God, or for his honor.
Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/J/stjoseph.asp#ixzz3dlRpdnE8
Martyrdom of John the Baptist
The drunken oath of a king with a shallow sense of honor, a seductive dance and the hateful heart of a queen combined to bring about the martyrdom of John the Baptist. The greatest of prophets suffered the fate of so many Old Testament prophets before him: rejection and martyrdom. The "voice crying in the desert" did not hesitate to accuse the guilty, did not hesitate to speak the truth. But why? What possesses a man that he would give up his very life?
This great religious reformer was sent by God to prepare the people for the Messiah. His vocation was one of selfless giving. The only power that he claimed was the Spirit of Yahweh. "I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11). Scripture tells us that many people followed John looking to him for hope, perhaps in anticipation of some great messianic power. John never allowed himself the false honor of receiving these people for his own glory. He knew his calling was one of preparation. When the time came, he led his disciples to Jesus: "The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus" (John 1:35–37). It is John the Baptist who has pointed the way to Christ. John’s life and death were a giving over of self for God and other people. His simple style of life was one of complete detachment from earthly possessions. His heart was centered on God and the call that he heard from the Spirit of God speaking to his heart. Confident of God’s grace, he had the courage to speak words of condemnation or repentance, of salvation.
Sts. Peter and Paul
Peter: St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter’s life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother–in–law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus’ death. His name is first on every list of apostles.
And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b–19).
But the Gospels prove their own veracity by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.
He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self–regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ’s anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).
Peter is willing to accept Jesus’ doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus’s ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears.
Paul: If Billy Graham suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul’s life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.
Paul’s central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort–even the most scrupulous observance of law–can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God’s chosen people, the children of the promise.
In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul’s name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.
(June 29, Jan. 25, Jan 18, June 30, Aug 1)
Saul was a youthful Pharisee in Jerusalem who stood by as a witness at the death of the first martyr, Stephen, grew into manhood with the consuming desire to destroy the religious followers of Jesus. On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, the Savior confronted him and asked why he was persecuting Him? In the dazzling light of this vision, Saul was called to a double vocation: to be a chosen vessel to carry the name of Jesus among nations, and to suffer much for Christ. I n this new life Saul was renamed Paul.
It was the suffering for the name of Jesus – not only the physical hardships, the deprivations, and rejections of his journeys, but the complete giving of himself for his neighbors – that lay at the root of Paul’s unparalleled missionary success. He preached in the cities of the Mediterranean to the simple and to the learned, both in the east and in the west. He offered the Jews the first chance of listening to the Gospel story, but most of them returned his love with bitter hatred. Then Paul gave himself to the Gentiles. Because of the sufferings he endured in winning his converts the Apostle of the Nations could well say that he was their Father in Christ. In the persecution of Nero, he was condemned to death by beheading.
Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18–20).
John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38–39a).
Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8–9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20–22).
Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.
St. James the Greater
This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. "He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him" (Mark 1:19–20).
James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani.
Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. "Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’" (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give–it "is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father" (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident "We can!"
The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them–"sons of thunder"–was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. "When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them..." (Luke 9:54–55).
James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. "About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also" (Acts 12:1–3a).
This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.
St. John the Apostle
It is God who calls; human beings answer. The vocation of John and his brother James is stated very simply in the Gospels, along with that of Peter and his brother Andrew: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John "were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him" (Matthew 4:21b–22).
For the three former fishermen–Peter, James and John–that faith was to be rewarded by a special friendship with Jesus. They alone were privileged to be present at the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemane. But John’s friendship was even more special. Tradition assigns to him the Fourth Gospel, although most modern Scripture scholars think it unlikely that the apostle and the evangelist are the same person.
John’s own Gospel refers to him as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (see John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2), the one who reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, and the one to whom he gave the exquisite honor, as he stood beneath the cross, of caring for his mother. "Woman, behold your son....Behold, your mother" (John 19:26b, 27b).
Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. But the ever–frank Gospels reveal some very human traits. Jesus gave James and John the nickname, "sons of thunder." While it is difficult to know exactly what this meant, a clue is given in two incidents. In the first, as Matthew tells it, their mother asked that they might sit in the places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom–one on his right hand, one on his left. When Jesus asked them if they could drink the cup he would drink and be baptized with his baptism of pain, they blithely answered, "We can!" Jesus said that they would indeed share his cup, but that sitting at his right hand was not his to give. It was for those to whom it had been reserved by the Father. The other apostles were indignant at the mistaken ambition of the brothers, and Jesus took the occasion to teach them the true nature of authority: "...[W]hoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:27–28).
On another occasion the "sons of thunder" asked Jesus if they should not call down fire from heaven upon the inhospitable Samaritans, who would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. But Jesus "turned and rebuked them" (see Luke 9:51–55).
On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene "ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’" (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then "the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first" (John 20:4b). He did not enter, but waited for Peter and let him go in first. "Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed" (John 20:8).
John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place–the cure of the man crippled from birth–which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: "Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they [the questioners] were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus" (Acts 4:13).
The evangelist wrote the great Gospel, the letters and the Book of Revelation. His Gospel is a very personal account. He sees the glorious and divine Jesus already in the incidents of his mortal life. At the Last Supper, John’s Jesus speaks as if he were already in heaven. It is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.
St. Thomas the Apostle
Poor Thomas! He made one remark and has been branded as "Doubting Thomas" ever since. But if he doubted, he also believed. He made what is certainly the most explicit statement of faith in the New Testament: "My Lord and My God!" (see John 20:24–28) and, in so expressing his faith, gave Christians a prayer that will be said till the end of time. He also occasioned a compliment from Jesus to all later Christians: "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29).
Thomas should be equally well known for his courage. Perhaps what he said was impetuous–since he ran, like the rest, at the showdown–but he can scarcely have been insincere when he expressed his willingness to die with Jesus. The occasion was when Jesus proposed to go to Bethany after Lazarus had died. Since Bethany was near Jerusalem, this meant walking into the very midst of his enemies and to almost certain death. Realizing this, Thomas said to the other apostles, "Let us also go to die with him" (John 11:16b).
St. James the Lesser (Philip and James)
James, Son of Alphaeus: We know nothing of this man but his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, "brother" of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.
Philip: Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the "one about whom Moses wrote" (John 1:45).
Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. St. John comments, "[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do" (John 6:6). Philip answered, "Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]" (John 6:7).
John’s story is not a put–down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.
On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, "I am the way...If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him" (John 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us" (John 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9a).
Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some Gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’ reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his "hour" has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.
In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him" (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, "I saw you under the fig tree" (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel" (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this" (John 1:50b).
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1–14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Matthew was a Jew who worked for the occupying Roman forces, collecting taxes from other Jews. Though the Romans probably did not allow extremes of extortion, their main concern was their own purses. They were not scrupulous about what the "tax–farmers" got for themselves. Hence the latter, known as "publicans," were generally hated as traitors by their fellow Jews. The Pharisees lumped them with "sinners." So it was shocking to them to hear Jesus call such a man to be one of his intimate followers.
Matthew got Jesus in further trouble by having a sort of going–away party at his house. The Gospel tells us that "many" tax collectors and "those known as sinners" came to the dinner. The Pharisees were still more badly shocked. What business did the supposedly great teacher have associating with such immoral people? Jesus’ answer was, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Matthew 9:12b–13). Jesus is not setting aside ritual and worship; he is saying that loving others is even more important.
No other particular incidents about Matthew are found in the New Testament.
Sts. Simon and Jude (Thaddeus)
Jude is so named by Luke and Acts. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddeus. He is not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, except, of course, where all the apostles are referred to. Scholars hold that he is not the author of the Letter of Jude. Actually, Jude had the same name as Judas Iscariot. Evidently because of the disgrace of that name, it was shortened to "Jude" in English. Simon is mentioned on all four lists of the apostles. On two of them he is called "the Zealot." The Zealots were a Jewish sect that represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans–the very domination of the Romans–was a blasphemy against God. No doubt some of the Zealots were the spiritual heirs of the Maccabees, carrying on their ideals of religion and independence. But many were the counterparts of modern terrorists. They raided and killed, attacking both foreigners and "collaborating" Jews. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Cletus was the third in succession of popes after Peter. He died a martyr about A.D. 91, during the reign of Emperor Domitian. Like Pope Cletus, Pope Marcellinus was a Roman. He was Vicar of Christ from 296 to 304, and acquired great glory during the stormy persecution of Diocletian, who ordered his beheading.
St. Cletus was the third bishop of Rome, and succeeded St. Linus, which circumstance alone shows his eminent virtue among the first disciples of St. Peter in the West. He sat twelve years, from 76 to 89. The canon of the Roman mass, (which Bossuet and all others agree to be of primitive antiquity,) Bede, and other Martyrologists, style him a martyr. He was buried near St. Linus, on the Vatican, and his relics still remain in that church.
Clement, Pope Clement I, third successor or St. Peter, is believed to have ruled the See of Rome during the last ten years of the first century. He was the author of a beautiful and widely celebrated letter to the Corinthians. "They who are great," he wrote, " cannot yet subsist without those that are little, nor the little without the great. In our body, the head without the feet is nothing, neither the feet without the head. And the smallest members of our body are useful and necessary to the whole." He is said to have been exiled by Trajan to the Chersonese, where he converted so many pagans that the Emperor had him drowned at sea.
Little is known of this apostolic father beyond a few facts. He was a disciple of S. Peter, and perhaps of S. Paul. It is thought that the Clement whom S. Paul praises as a faithful fellow- worker, whose name is written in the Book of Life [Philippians 4:3], was Clement, afterwards bishop of Rome. But there is great difficulty in admitting this supposition. It is certain that Clement, the idol of the Petrine party in the Primitive Church, about whom their myths and traditions circled lovingly, was quite removed in feeling from the Pauline party.
According to Tertullian, Clement succeeded S. Peter immediately in the episcopal government of the Church at Rome. But in the list of bishops given us by Irenaeus and Eusebius he occupies the third place after the apostle, that is, after Linus and Cletus (Anacletus). It is, however, probable that the Church at Rome had at first two successions, one Petrine, the other Pauline, but that they speedily merged into one; and this will account for the confusion in the lists of the first bishops of Rome. Clement probably was Petrine, and Cletus Pauline bishop, the former ruling the converted Jews, the latter the Gentile converts. We know nothing of the events of his pontificate, except that there was a schism at Corinth, which drew forth a letter from him which is preserved. S. Jerome and S. Irenaeus do not say that he died a martyr’s death, but Rufinus and Zosimus give him the title of martyr; but this title by no means implies that he had died for the faith; it had anciently more extended signification than at present, and included all who had witnessed a good confession, and suffered in any way for their faith.
This is all that we know of S. Clement. But imagination has spun a web of romance about his person.
The Clementine Recognitions and Homilies are an early romance representing the disputation of S. Peter and Simon Magus; they have a story running through them to hold the long disquisitions together, of which S. Clement is the hero. It is, however, pure romance, with, perhaps, only this basis of truth in it, that Clement is represented as the devoted adherent and disciple of S. Peter. The Clementines are thoroughly anti-Pauline, as are also the Apostolic Constitutions, in which again S. Clement appears prominently.
The legend of the martyrdom of S. Clement relates that, in the reign of Trajan, when Mamertinus was prefect of the city, and Toractianus count of the offices, a sedition arose among the rabble of Rome against the Christians, and especially against Clement, bishop of Rome. Mamertinus interfered to put down the riot, and having arrested Clement, sent him to the emperor, who ordered his banishment to Pontus, where he was condemned to work in the marble quarries. He found many Christians among his fellow-convicts, and comforted and encouraged them. The only spring of drinking water was six miles off, and it was a great hardship to the convicts to have to fetch it all from such a distance. One day Clement saw a lamb scraping at the soil with one of its forefeet. He took it as a sign that water was there; dug, and found a spring.
As Clement succeeded in converting many pagans, he was sent to Aufidianus, the prefect, who ordered him to be drowned in the sea with an old anchor attached to his neck. His body was recovered by his disciple Phoebus. The relics of S. Clement were translated to Constantinople (860) by S. Cyril on his return from his mission to the Chazars, whilst engaged in the Chersonese on his Sclavonic translation of the Gospels. Some of the relics found their way to Rome, and were deposited in the church of San Clemente, where they are still reverently preserved. These consist of bones, some reddened earth, a broken vase containing some red matter, a little bottle similarly filled, and an inscription stating that these are the relics of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Scilita, and also of Flavius Clement.
In art S. Clement of Rome is represented as a Pope with an anchor at his side. [His death is placed at about 100 A.D.]
From The Lives of the Saints by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A., published in 1914 in Edinburgh.
Sixtus. Pope Sixtus II and Felicissimus and Agapitus, his deacons, were martyred at Rome on the same day, in the year 258. Pope Sixtus’ archdeacon Lawrence met his death three days later, as he had prophesied to the younger man.
There was no pope for 14 months after the martyrdom of St. Fabian because of the intensity of the persecution of the Church. During the interval, the Church was governed by a college of priests. St. Cyprian, a friend of Cornelius, writes that Cornelius was elected pope "by the judgment of God and of Christ, by the testimony of most of the clergy, by the vote of the people, with the consent of aged priests and of good men."
The greatest problem of Cornelius’s two–year term as pope had to do with the Sacrament of Penance and centered on the readmission of Christians who had apostatized during the time of persecution. Two extremes were finally both condemned. Cyprian, primate of Africa, appealed to the pope to confirm his stand that the relapsed could be reconciled only by the decision of the bishop (against the very indulgent practice of Novatus).
In Rome, however, Cornelius met with the opposite view. After his election, a priest named Novatian (one of those who had governed the Church) had himself consecrated a rival Bishop of Rome–the first antipope. He denied that the Church had any power to reconcile not only the apostates, but also those guilty of murder, adultery, fornication or second marriage! Cornelius had the support of most of the Church (especially of Cyprian of Africa) in condemning Novatianism, though the sect persisted for several centuries. Cornelius held a synod at Rome in 251 and ordered the "relapsed" to be restored to the Church with the usual "medicines of repentance."
The friendship of Cornelius and Cyprian was strained for a time when one of Cyprian’s rivals made accusations about him. But the problem was cleared up.
A document from Cornelius shows the extent of organization in the Church of Rome in the mid–third century: 46 priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons. It is estimated that the number of Christians totaled about 50,000.
Cornelius died as a result of the hardships of his exile in what is now Civitavecchia (near Rome).
Cornelius whose feast day is September 16th. A Roman priest, Cornelius was elected Pope to succeed Fabian in an election delayed fourteen months by Decius’ persecution of the Christians. The main issue of his pontificate was the treatment to be accorded Christians who had been apostasized during the persecution. He condemned those confessors who were lax in not demanding penance of these Christians and supported St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, against Novatus and his dupe, Felicissimus, whom he had set up as an antibishop to Cyprian, when Novatus came to Rome. On the other hand, he also denounced the Rigorists, headed by Novatian, a Roman priest, who declared that the Church could not pardon the lapsi (the lapsed Christians), and declared himself Pope - the first antipope. The two extremes eventually joined forces, and the Novatian movement had quite a vogue in the East. Meanwhile, Cornelius proclaimed that the Church had the authority and the power to forgive repentant lapsi and could readmit them to the sacraments and the Church after they had performed proper penances. A synod of Western bishops in Rome in October 251 upheld Cornelius, condemned the teachings of Novatian, and excommunicated him and his followers. When persecutions of the Christians started up again in 253 under Emperor Gallus, Cornelius was exiled to Centum Cellae (Civita Vecchia), where he died a martyr probably of hardships he was forced to endure.
Cyprian is important in the development of Christian thought and practice in the third century, especially in northern Africa. Highly educated, a famous orator, he was converted to Christianity as an adult. He distributed his goods to the poor, and amazed his fellow citizens by making a vow of chastity before his Baptism. Within two years he had been ordained a priest and was chosen, against his will, as Bishop of Carthage (near modern Tunis).
Cyprian complained that the peace the Church had enjoyed had weakened the spirit of many Christians and had opened the door to converts who did not have the true spirit of faith. When the Decian persecution began, many Christians easily abandoned the Church. It was their reinstatement that caused the great controversies of the third century, and helped the Church progress in its understanding of the Sacrament of Penance. Novatus, a priest who had opposed Cyprian’s election, set himself up in Cyprian’s absence (he had fled to a hiding place from which to direct the Church–bringing criticism on himself) and received back all apostates without imposing any canonical penance. Ultimately he was condemned. Cyprian held a middle course, holding that those who had actually sacrificed to idols could receive Communion only at death, whereas those who had only bought certificates saying they had sacrificed could be admitted after a more or less lengthy period of penance. Even this was relaxed during a new persecution.
During a plague in Carthage, he urged Christians to help everyone, including their enemies and persecutors. A friend of Pope Cornelius, Cyprian opposed the following pope, Stephen. He and the other African bishops would not recognize the validity of Baptism conferred by heretics and schismatics. This was not the universal view of the Church, but Cyprian was not intimidated even by Stephen’s threat of excommunication.
He was exiled by the emperor and then recalled for trial. He refused to leave the city, insisting that his people should have the witness of his martyrdom.
Cyprian was a mixture of kindness and courage, vigor and steadiness. He was cheerful and serious, so that people did not know whether to love or respect him more. He waxed warm during the baptismal controversy; his feelings must have concerned him, for it was at this time that he wrote his treatise on patience. St. Augustine remarks that Cyprian atoned for his anger by his glorious martyrdom.
My given name is Thasius Cyprianus. I was born in Africa about 200 A.D., the son of a rich pagan senator. I was the Bishop of Carthage.
The esteem in which the Church holds Lawrence is seen in the fact that today’s celebration ranks as a feast. We know very little about his life. He is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.
He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II. Four days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four clerics suffered martyrdom, probably during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian.
A well–known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum. When the prefect of Rome heard of this, he imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, "You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures–the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him–only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words."
Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. "I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory." After three days he gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, "These are the treasure of the Church."
The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die–but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, "It is well done. Turn it over and eat it!" The church built over Lawrence’s tomb became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages.
Chrysogonus, a Greek Christian, martyred under Diocletian at Aquileia at the beginning of the fourth century.
John and Paul
John and Paul, Roman brothers, were imperial officers of high repute. When Julian the Apostate summoned them to appear at his court they refused, in order to remain faithful to their Master in heaven. Having been allowed ten days in which to reconsider their decision, the brothers used the time distributing their possessions to the poor. Firm in their love of God and fellow men, John and Paul were beheaded in about A.D. 362.
Sts. Cosmas and Damian
Nothing is known of their lives except that they suffered martyrdom in Syria during the persecution of Diocletian.
A church erected on the site of their burial place was enlarged by the emperor Justinian. Devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West. A famous basilica was erected in their honor in Constantinople. Their names were placed in the canon of the Mass, probably in the sixth century.
Legend says that they were twin brothers born in Arabia, who became skilled doctors. They were among those who are venerated in the East as the "moneyless ones" because they did not charge a fee for their services. It was impossible that such prominent persons would escape unnoticed in time of persecution: They were arrested and beheaded.
Sts. Cosmas and Damian were brothers, born in Arabia, who had become eminent for their skill in the science of medicine. Being Christians, they were filled with the spirit of charity and never took money for their services. At Egaea in Cilicia, where they lived, they enjoyed the highest esteem of the people. When the persecution under Diocletian broke out, their very prominence rendered them marked objects of persecution. Being apprehended by order of Lysias, governor of Cilicia, they underwent various torments about the year 283. Their feast day is September 26th. They are patron saints of pharmacists.
June 24, Aug 29
John the Baptist was born to herald mankind’s Redeemer. He was sanctified in his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit Elizabeth. The Baptist practiced in a heroic degree the virtues of purity, penance, and incessant prayer: but the crown of his holiness was his selfless humility. "He must increase, but I must decrease." John was beheaded to satisfy the rancor of a wicked woman.
(d. 36 A.D.?)
All we know of Stephen is found in Acts of the Apostles, chapters six and seven. It is enough to tell us what kind of man he was:
At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenist (Greek–speaking) Christians complained about the Hebrew–speaking Christians, saying that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.... (Acts 6:1–5)
Acts says that Stephen was a man filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders among the people. Certain Jews, members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen, debated with Stephen but proved no match for the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. They persuaded others to make the charge of blasphemy against him. He was seized and carried before the Sanhedrin.
In his speech, Stephen recalled God’s guidance through Israel’s history, as well as Israel’s idolatry and disobedience. He then claimed that his persecutors were showing this same spirit. "[Y]ou always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors" (Acts 7:51b).
His speech brought anger from the crowd. "But [Stephen], filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God....’ They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him....As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them’" (Acts 7:55–56, 58a, 59, 60b).
According to Acts 1:15–26, during the days after the Ascension, Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (about 120 of Jesus’ followers). Now that Judas had betrayed his ministry, it was necessary, Peter said, to fulfill the scriptural recommendation: "May another take his office." "Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection" (Acts 1:21–22).
They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven.
Matthias is not mentioned by name anywhere else in the New Testament.
The Greek Matthias (or, in some manuscripts, Maththias), is a name derived from Mattathias, Heb. Mattithiah, signifying "gift of Yahweh." Matthias was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and had been with Him from His baptism by John to the Ascension (Acts i, 21, 22). It is related (Acts, i, 15-26) that in the days following the Ascension, Peter proposed to the assembled brethren, who numbered one hundred and twenty, that they choose one to fill the place of the traitor Judas in the Apostolate. Two disciples, Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias were selected, and lots were drawn, with the result in favour of Matthias, who thus became associated with the eleven Apostles. Zeller has declared this narrative unhistoric, on the plea that the Apostles were in Galilee after the death of Jesus. As a matter of fact they did return to Galilee, but the Acts of the Apostles clearly state that about the feast of Pentecost they went back to Jerusalem.
All further information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory. According to Nicephorus (Hist. eccl., 2, 40), he first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Ethiopia (that is to say, Colchis) and was crucified. The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition: Matthias in interiore AEthiopia, ubi Hyssus maris portus et Phasis fluvius est, hominibus barbaris et carnivoris praedicavit Evangelium. Mortuus est autem in Sebastopoli, ibique prope templum Solis sepultus (Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and cannibals in the interior of Ethiopia, at the harbour of the sea of Hyssus, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun). Still another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded (cf. Tillemont, "Memoires pour servir a l’histoire eccl. des six premiers siècles", I, 406–7). It is said that St. Helena brought the relics of St. Matthias to Rome, and that a portion of them was at Trier. Bollandus (Acta SS., May, III) doubts if the relics that are in Rome are not rather those of the St. Matthias who was Bishop of Jerusalem about the year 120, and whose history would seem to have been confounded with that of the Apostle. The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthias on 24 February and the Greek Church on 9 August.
Clement of Alexandria (Strom., III, 4) records a sentence that the Nicolaitans ascribe to Matthias: "we must combat our flesh, set no value upon it, and concede to it nothing that can flatter it, but rather increase the growth of our soul by faith and knowledge". This teaching was probably found in the Gospel of Matthias which was mentioned by Origen (Hom. i in Lucam); by Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, 25), who attributes it to heretics; by St. Jerome (Praef. in Matth.), and in the Decree of Gelasius (VI, 8) which declares it apocryphal. It is at the end of the list of the Codex Barrocciamus (206). This Gospel is probably the document whence Clement of Alexandria quoted several passages, saying that they were borrowed from the traditions of Matthias, Paradoseis, the testimony of which he claimed to have been invoked by the heretics Valentinus, Marcion, and Basilides (Strom., VII, 17). According to the Philosophoumena, VII, 20, Basilides quoted apocryphal discourses, which he attributed to Matthias. These three writings: the gospel, the Traditions, and the Apocryphal Discourses were identified by Zahn (Gesch. des N. T. Kanon, II, 751), but Harnack (Chron. der altchrist. Litteratur, 597) denies this identification. Tischendorf ("Acta apostolorum apocrypha", Leipzig, l85I) published after Thilo, 1846, "Acta Andreae et Matthiae in urbe anthropophagarum ", which, according to Lipsius, belonged to the middle of the second century. This apocrypha relates that Matthias went among the cannibals and, being cast into prison, was delivered by Andrew. Needless to say, the entire narrative is without historical value. Moreover, it should be remembered that, in the apocryphal writings, Matthew and Matthias have sometimes been confounded.
Read more: http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/M/stmatthias.asp#ixzz3dlQyL9Ca
Barnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, comes as close as anyone outside the Twelve to being a full–fledged apostle. He was closely associated with St. Paul (he introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles) and served as a kind of mediator between the former persecutor and the still suspicious Jewish Christians.
When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.
Later, Paul and Barnabas, now clearly seen as charismatic leaders, were sent by Antioch officials to preach to the Gentiles. Enormous success crowned their efforts. After a miracle at Lystra, the people wanted to offer sacrifice to them as gods–Barnabas being Zeus, and Paul, Hermes–but the two said, "We are of the same nature as you, human beings. We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God" (see Acts 14:8–18).
But all was not peaceful. They were expelled from one town, they had to go to Jerusalem to clear up the ever–recurring controversy about circumcision and even the best of friends can have differences. When Paul wanted to revisit the places they had evangelized, Barnabas wanted to take along John Mark, his cousin, author of the Gospel, but Paul insisted that, since Mark had deserted them once, he was not fit to take along now. The disagreement that followed was so sharp that Barnabas and Paul separated, Barnabas taking Mark to Cyprus, Paul taking Silas to Syria. Later, they were reconciled–Paul, Barnabas and Mark. When Paul stood up to Peter for not eating with Gentiles for fear of his Jewish friends, we learn that "even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy" (see Galatians 2:1–13).
Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch after St. Peter. When Emperor Trajan tried to force the Christians of that region to worships the Roman gods, the greatest obstacle to his purpose proved to be the aged bishop of Antioch. Trajan ordered that the intrepid prelate be taken to Rome in the year 107 and there thrown to the loins in the arena. The magnificent letters Ignatius sent to several Christian communities during his journey recall the mysticism of St. Paul’s Epistles. "My yearning is for death. My Love has been crucified, and I am not on fire with the love of earthly things. I desire incorruptible love," he wrote.
Also called Theophorus (ho Theophoros); born in Syria, around the year 50; died at Rome between 98 and 117.
More than one of the earliest ecclesiastical writers have given credence, though apparently without good reason, to the legend that Ignatius was the child whom the Savior took up in His arms, as described in Mark, ix, 35. It is also believed, and with great probability, that, with his friend Polycarp, he was among the auditors of the Apostle St. John. If we include St. Peter, Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch and the immediate successor of Evodius (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", II, iii, 22). Theodoret ("Dial. Immutab.", I, iv, 33a, Paris, 1642) is the authority for the statement that St. Peter appointed Ignatius to the See of Antioch. St. John Chrysostom lays special emphasis on the honor conferred upon the martyr in receiving his episcopal consecration at the hands of the Apostles themselves ("Hom. in St. Ig.", IV. 587). Natalis Alexander quotes Theodoret to the same effect (III, xii, art. xvi, p. 53).
All the sterling qualities of ideal pastor and a true soldier of Christ were possessed by the Bishop of Antioch in a preeminent degree. Accordingly, when the storm of the persecution of Domitian broke in its full fury upon the Christians of Syria, it found their faithful leader prepared and watchful. He was unremitting in his vigilance and tireless in his efforts to inspire hope and to strengthen the weaklings of his flock against the terrors of the persecution. The restoration of peace, though it was short–lived, greatly comforted him. But it was not for himself that he rejoiced, as the one great and ever–present wish of his chivalrous soul was that he might receive the fullness of Christian discipleship through the medium of martyrdom. His desire was not to remain long unsatisfied. Associated with the writings of St. Ignatius is a work called "Martyrium Ignatii ", which purports to be an account by eyewitnesses of the martyrdom of St. Ignatius and the acts leading up to it. In this work, which such competent Protestant critics as Pearson and Ussher regard as genuine, the full history of that eventful journey from Syria to Rome is faithfully recorded for the edification of the Church of Antioch. It is certainly very ancient and is reputed to have been written by Philo, deacon of Tarsus, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian, who accompanied Ignatius to Rome. It is generally admitted, even by those who regarded it as authentic, that this work has been greatly interpolated. Its most reliable form is that found in the "Martyrium Colbertinum" which closes the mixed recension and is so called because its oldest witness is the tenth–century Codex Colbertinus (Paris).
According to these Acts, in the ninth year of his reign, Trajan, flushed with victory over the Scythians and Dacians, sought to perfect the universality of his dominion by a species of religious conquest. He decreed, therefore, that the Christians should unite with their pagan neighbors in the worship of the gods. A general persecution was threatened, and death was named as the penalty for all who refused to offer the prescribed sacrifice. Instantly alert to the danger that threatened, Ignatius availed himself of all the means within his reach to thwart the purpose of the emperor. The success of his zealous efforts did not long remain hidden from the Church’s persecutors. He was soon arrested and led before Trajan, who was then sojourning in Antioch. Accused by the emperor himself of violating the imperial edict, and of inciting others to like transgressions, Ignatius valiantly bore witness to the faith of Christ. If we may believe the account given in the "Martyrium", his bearing before Trajan was characterized by inspired eloquence, sublime courage, and even a spirit of exultation. Incapable of appreciating the motives that animated him, the emperor ordered him to be put in chains and taken to Rome, there to become the food of wild beasts and a spectacle for the people.
d amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated." Despite all this, his journey was a kind of triumph. News of his fate, his destination, and his probable itinerary had gone swiftly before. At several places along the road his fellow–Christians greeted him with words of comfort and reverential homage. It is probable that he embarked on his way to Rome at Seleucia, in Syria, the nearest port to Antioch, for either Tarsus in Cilicia, or Attalia in Pamphylia, and thence, as we gather from his letters, he journeyed overland through Asia Minor. At Laodicea, on the River Lycus, where a choice of routes presented itself, his guards selected the more northerly, which brought the prospective martyr through Philadelphia and Sardis, and finally to Smyrna, where Polycarp, his fellow–disciple in the school of St. John, was bishop. The stay at Smyrna, which was a protracted one, gave the representatives of the various Christian communities in Asia Minor an opportunity of greeting the illustrious prisoner, and offering him the homage of the Churches they represented. From the congregations of Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles, deputations came to comfort him. To each of these Christian communities he addressed letters from Smyrna, exhorting them to obedience to their respective bishops, and warning them to avoid the contamination of heresy. These, letters are redolent with the spirit of Christian charity, apostolic zeal, and pastoral solicitude. While still there he wrote also to the Christians of Rome, begging them to do nothing to deprive him of the opportunity of martyrdom.
From Smyrna his captors took him to Troas, from which place he dispatched letters to the Christians of Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Polycarp. Besides these letters, Ignatius had intended to address others to the Christian communities of Asia Minor, inviting them to give public expression to their sympathy with the brethren in Antioch, but the altered plans of his guards, necessitating a hurried departure, from Troas, defeated his purpose, and he was obliged to content himself with delegating this office to his friend Polycarp. At Troas they took ship for Neapolis. From this place their journey led them overland through Macedonia and Illyria. The next port of embarkation was probably Dyrrhachium (Durazzo). Whether having arrived at the shores of the Adriatic, he completed his journey by land or sea, it is impossible to determine. Not long after his arrival in Rome he won his long–coveted crown of martyrdom in the Flavian amphitheater. The relics of the holy martyr were borne back to Antioch by the deacon Philo of Cilicia, and Rheus Agathopus, a Syrian, and were interred outside the gates not far from the beautiful suburb of Daphne. They were afterwards removed by the Emperor Theodosius II to the Tychaeum, or Temple of Fortune which was then converted into a Christian church under the patronage of the martyr whose relics it sheltered. In 637 they were translated to St. Clement’s at Rome, where they now rest. The Church celebrates the feast of St. Ignatius on 1 February.
The character of St. Ignatius, as deduced from his own and the extant writings of his contemporaries, is that of a true athlete of Christ. The triple honor of apostle, bishop, and martyr was well merited by this energetic soldier of the Faith. An enthusiastic devotion to duty, a passionate love of sacrifice, and an utter fearlessness in the defense of Christian truth, were his chief characteristics. Zeal for the spiritual well–being of those under his charge breathes from every line of his writings. Ever vigilant lest they be infected by the rampant heresies of those early days; praying for them, that their faith and courage may not be wanting in the hour of persecution; constantly exhorting them to unfailing obedience to their bishops; teaching them all Catholic truth ; eagerly sighing for the crown of martyrdom, that his own blood may fructify in added graces in the souls of his flock, he proves himself in every sense a true, pastor of souls, the good shepherd that lays down his life for his sheep.
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Under the Emperor Hadrian, in A.D. 117, Pope Alexander I suffered martyrdom, together with the priests Eventius and Theodulus, Juvenal, Bishop of Narni, was executed on May 3, A.D. 377.
Feastday: March 18
St. Alexander, Bishop and Martyr. Alexander was a student with Origen at the famous Christian school of Alexandria in the late second century. He became bishop of Cappadocia and during the persecution of Severus was imprisoned for several years (204–211). Following his release from prison, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was proclaimed coadjutor bishop there in the year 212. Demetrius, the bishop of Alexandria, censured Alexander for participating in the ordination of Origen and for encouraging Origen to teach in churches while still a layman. Despite this, Alexander received Origen in exile. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Alexander developed a great theological library. During the persecution of Decius, he was seized and again imprisoned. After making a public confession of faith, he was condemned and thrown to the wild beasts, but they refused to attack him. Alexander was then taken to Caesarea where he died in chains in the year 251. The Church recognizes him as a martyr. St. Alexander, despite his great learning and important ecclesiastical positions, was known as an individual of great mildness, especially in his sermons. When put to the test during two persecutions, he remained steadfast in faith and was willing to suffer death for the Faith.
Sts. Marcellinus and Peter
Marcellinus and Peter were prominent enough in the memory of Church to be included among the saints of the Roman Canon. Mention of their names is optional in our present Eucharistic Prayer I.
Marcellinus was a priest and Peter was an exorcist, that is, someone authorized by the Church to deal with cases of demonic possession. They were beheaded during the persecution of Diocletian. Pope Damasus wrote an epitaph apparently based on the report of their executioner, and Constantine erected a basilica over the crypt in which they were buried in Rome. Numerous legends sprang from an early account of their death.
Feast Day: June 2
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St. Felicity (Perpetua and Felicity)
"When my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and thus weaken my faith, I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel–waterpot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am–a Christian.’"
So writes Perpetua, young, beautiful, well–educated, a noblewoman of Carthage, mother of an infant son and chronicler of the persecution of the Christians by Emperor Septimius Severus.
Despite threats of persecution and death, Perpetua, Felicity (a slave woman and expectant mother) and three companions, Revocatus, Secundulus and Saturninus, refused to renounce their Christian faith. For their unwillingness, all were sent to the public games in the amphitheater. There, Perpetua and Felicity were beheaded, and the others killed by beasts.
Perpetua’s mother was a Christian and her father a pagan. He continually pleaded with her to deny her faith. She refused and was imprisoned at 22.
In her diary, Perpetua describes her period of captivity: "What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all, I was tormented with anxiety for my baby.... Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but I obtained leave for my baby to remain in the prison with me, and being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else."
Felicity gave birth to a girl a few days before the games commenced.
Perpetua’s record of her trial and imprisonment ends the day before the games. "Of what was done in the games themselves, let him write who will." The diary was finished by an eyewitness.
Perpetua, unwilling to renounce Christianity, comforted her father in his grief over her decision, "It shall happen as God shall choose, for assuredly we depend not on our own power but on the power of God."
From their most valuable genuine acts, quoted by Tertullian, l. de anima, c. 55, and by St. Austin, serm. 280, 283, 294. The first part of these acts, which reaches to the eve of her martyrdom, was written by St. Perpetua. The vision of St. Saturus was added by him. The rest was subjoined by an eye–witness of their death. See Tillemont, t. 3, p. 139. Ceillier, t. 2, p. 213. These acts have been often republished; but are extant, most ample and correct, in Ruinart. They were publicly read in the churches of Africa, as appears from St. Austin, Serm. 180. See them vindicated from the suspicion of Montanism, by Orsi, Vindicae Act. SS. Perpetuae et Felicitatis.
A violent persecution being set on foot by the emperor Severus, in 202, it reached Africa the following year; when, by order of Minutius Timinianus, (or Firminianus,) five catechumens were apprehended at Carthage for the faith: namely, Revocatus, and his fellow–slave Felicitas, Saturninus, and Secundulus, and Vibia Perpetua. Felicitas was seven months gone with child; and Perpetua had an infant at her breast, was of a good family, twenty–two years of age, and married to a person of quality in the city. She had a father, a mother, and two brothers; the third, Dinocrates, died about seven years old. These five martyrs were joined by Saturus, probably brother to Saturninus, and who seems to have been their instructor: he underwent a voluntary imprisonment, because he would not abandon them. The father of St. Perpetua, who was a pagan, and advanced in years, loved her more than all his other children. Her mother was probably a Christian, as was one of her brothers, the other a catechumen. The martyrs were for some days before their commitment kept under a strong guard in a private house: and the account Perpetua gives of their sufferings to the eve of their death, is as follows: "We were in the hands of our persecutors, when my father, out of the affection he bore me, made new efforts to shake my resolution. I said to him: ’Can that vessel, which you see, change its name?’ He said: ’No.’ I replied: ’Nor can I call myself any other than I am, that is to say, a Christian.’ At that word my father in a rage fell upon me, as if he would have pulled my eyes out, and beat me: but went away in confusion, seeing me invincible: after this we enjoyed a little repose, and in that interval received baptism. The Holy Ghost, on our coming out of the water, inspired me to pray for nothing but patience under corporal pains. A few days after this we were put into prison: I was shocked at the horror and darkness of the place, for till then I knew not what such sort of places were. We suffered much that day, chiefly on account of the great heat caused by the crowd, and the ill–treatment we met with from the soldiers. I was moreover tortured with concern, for that I had not my infant. But the deacons, Tertius and Pomponius, who assisted us, obtained, by money, that we might pass some hours in a more commodious part of the prison to refresh ourselves. My infant being brought to me almost famished, I gave it the breast. I recommended him afterwards carefully to my mother, and encouraged my brother, but was much afflicted to see their concern for me. After a few days my sorrow was changed into comfort, and my prison itself seemed agreeable. One day my brother said to me: ’Sister, I am persuaded that you are a peculiar favorite of Heaven: pray to God to reveal to you whether this imprisonment will end in martyrdom or not, and acquaint me of it.’ I, knowing God gave me daily tokens of his goodness, answered, full of confidence, ’I will inform you tomorrow.’ I therefore asked that favor of God, and had this vision. I saw a golden ladder which reached from earth to the heavens; but so narrow, that only one could mount it at a time. To the two sides were fastened all sorts of iron instruments, as swords, lances, hooks, and knives; so that if any one went up carelessly he was in great danger of having his flesh torn by those weapons. At the foot of the ladder lay a dragon of an enormous size, who kept guard to turn back and terrify those that endeavored to mount it. The first that went up was Saturus, who was not apprehended with us, but voluntarily surrendered himself afterwards on our account: when he was got to the top of the ladder, he turned towards me and said: ’Perpetua, I wait for you; but take care lest the dragon bite you.’ I answered: ’In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he shall not hurt me.’ Then the dragon, as if afraid of me, gently lifted his head from under the ladder, and I, having got upon the first step, set my foot upon his head. Thus I mounted to the top, and there I saw a garden of an immense space, and in the middle of it a tall man sitting down dressed like a shepherd, having white hair. He was milking his sheep, surrounded with many thousands of persons clad in white. He called me by my name, bid me welcome, and gave me some curds made of the milk which he had drawn: I put my hands together and took and ate them; and all that were present said aloud, Amen. The noise awaked me, chewing something very sweet. As soon as I had related to my brother this vision, we both concluded that we should suffer death.
"After some days, a rumor being spread that we were to be examined, my father came from the city to the prison overwhelmed with grief: ’Daughter,’ said he, ’have pity on my gray hairs, have compassion on your father, if I yet deserve to be called your father; if I myself have brought you up to this age: if you consider that my extreme love of you, made me always prefer you to all your brothers, make me not a reproach to mankind. Have respect for your mother and your aunt; have compassion on your child that cannot survive you; lay aside this resolution, this obstinacy, lest you ruin us all: for not one of us will dare open his lips any more if any misfortune be fall you.’ He took me by the hands at the same time and kissed them; he threw himself at my feet in tears, and called me no longer daughter, but, my lady. I confess, I was pierced with sharp sorrow when I considered that my father was the only person of our family that would not rejoice at my martyrdom. I endeavored to comfort him, saying: ’Father, grieve not; nothing will happen but what pleases God; for we are not at our own disposal.’ He then departed very much concerned. The next day, while we were at dinner, a person came all on a sudden to summon us to examination. The report of this was soon spread, and brought together a vast crowd of people into the audience–chamber. We were placed on a sort of scaffold before the judge, who was Hilarian, procurator of the province, the proconsul being lately dead. All who were interrogated before me confessed boldly Jesus Christ. When it came to my turn, my father instantly appeared with my infant. He drew me a little aside, conjuring me in the most tender manner not to be insensible to the misery I should bring on that innocent creature to which I had given life. The president Hilarian joined with my father, and said: ’What! will neither the gray hairs of a father you are going to make miserable, nor the tender innocence of a child, which your death will leave an orphan, move you? Sacrifice for the prosperity of the emperor.’ I replied, ’I will not do it.’ ’Are you then a Christian?’ said Hilarian. I answered: ’Yes, I am.’ As my father attempted to draw me from the scaffold, Hilarian commanded him to be beaten off, and he had a blow given him with a stick, which I felt as much as if I had been struck myself; so much was I grieved to see my father thus treated in his old age. Then the judge pronounced our sentence, by which we were all condemned to be exposed to wild beasts. We then joyfully returned to our prison; and as my infant had been used to the breast, I immediately sent Pomponius, the deacon, to demand him of my father, who refused to send him. And God so ordered it that the child no longer required to suck, nor did my milk incommode me." Secundulus, being no more mentioned, seems to have died in prison before this interrogatory. Before Hilarian pronounced sentence, he had caused Saturus, Saturninus, and Revocatus, to be scourged; and Perpetua and Felicitas to be beaten on the face. They were reserved for the shows which were to be exhibited for the soldiers in the camp, on the festival of Geta, who had been made Caesar four years before by his father Severus, when his brother Caracalla was created Augustus. St. Perpetua relates another vision with which she was favored, as follows: "A few days after receiving sentence, when we were all together in prayer, I happened to name Dinocrates, at which I was astonished, because I had not before had him in my thoughts; and I that moment knew that I ought to pray for him. This I began to do with great fervor and sighing before God; and the same night I had the following vision: I saw Dinocrates coming out of a dark place, where there were many others, exceeding hot and thirsty; his face was dirty, his complexion pale, with the ulcer in his face of which he died at seven years of age, and it was for him that I had prayed. There seemed a great distance between him and me, so that it was impossible for us to come to each other. Near him stood a vessel full of water, whose brim was higher than the statue of an infant: he attempted to drink, but though he had water he could not reach it. This mightily grieved me, and I awoke. By this I knew my brother was in pain, but I trusted I could by prayer relieve him: so I began to pray for him, beseeching God with tears, day and night, that he would grant me my request; as I continued to do till we were removed to the damp prison: being destined for a public show on the festival of Caesar Geta. The day we were in the stocks I had this vision: I saw the place, which I had beheld dark before, now luminous; and Dinocrates, with his body very clean and well clad, refreshing himself, and instead of his wound a scar only. I awoke, and I knew he was relieved from his pain.
"Some days after, Pudens, the officer who commanded the guards of the prison, seeing that God favored us with many gifts, had a great esteem of us, and admitted many people to visit us for our mutual comfort. On the day of the public shows my father came to find me out, overwhelmed with sorrow. He tore his beard, he threw himself prostrate on the ground, cursed his years, and said enough to move any creature; and I was ready to die with sorrow to see my father in so deplorable a condition. On the eve of the shows I was favored with the following vision. The deacon Pomponius, methought, knocked very hard at the prison–door, which I opened to him. He was clothed with a white robe, embroidered with innumerable pomegranates of gold. He said to me: ’Perpetua, we wait for you, come along.’ He then took me by the hand and led me through very rough places into the middle of the amphitheatre, and said: ’Fear not.’ And, leaving me, said again: ’I will be with you in a moment, and bear a part with you in your pains.’ I was wondering the beasts were not let out against us, when there appeared a very ill–favored Egyptian, who came to encounter me with others. But another beautiful troop of young men declared for me, and anointed me with oil for the combat. Then appeared a man of prodigious stature, in rich apparel, having a wand in his hand like the masters of the gladiators, and a green bough on which hung golden apples. Having ordered silence, he said that the bough should be my prize, if I vanquished the Egyptian: but that if he conquered me, he should kill me with a sword. After a long and obstinate engagement, I threw him on his face, and trod upon his head. The people applauded my victory with loud acclamations. I then approached the master of the amphitheatre, who gave me the bough with a kiss, and said: ’Peace be with you, my daughter.’ After this I awoke, and found that I was not so much to combat with wild beasts as with the devils." Here ends the relation of St. Perpetua.
St. Saturus had also a vision which he wrote himself. He and his companions were conducted by a bright angel into a most delightful garden, in which they met some holy martyrs lately dead, namely, Jocundus, Saturninus, and Artaxius, who had been burned alive for the faith, and Quintus, who died in prison. They inquired after other martyrs of their acquaintance, say the acts, and were conducted into a most stately place, shining like the sun: and in it saw the king of this most glorious place surrounded by his happy subjects, and heard a voice composed of many, which continually cried: "Holy, holy, holy." Saturus, turning to Perpetua, said: "You have here what you desired." She replied: "God be praised, I have more joy here than ever I had in the flesh." He adds, Going out of the garden they found before the gate, on the right hand, their bishop of Carthage, Optatus, and on the left, Aspasius, priest of the same church, both of them alone and sorrowful. They fell at the martyr’s feet, and begged they would reconcile them together, for a dissension had happened between them. The martyrs embraced them, saving: "Are not you our bishop, and you a priest of our Lord? It is our duly to prostrate ourselves before you." Perpetua was discoursing with them; but certain angels came and drove hence Optatus and Aspasius; and bade them not to disturb the martyrs, but be reconciled to each other. The bishop Optatus was also charged to heal the divisions that reigned among several of his church. The angels, after these reprimands, seemed ready to shut the gates of the garden. "Here," says he, "we saw many of our brethren and martyrs likewise. We were fed with an ineffable odor, which delighted and satisfied us." Such was the vision of Saturus. The rest of the acts were added by an eye–witness. God had called to himself Secondulus in prison. Felicitas was eight months gone with child, and as the day of the shows approached, she was inconsolable lest she should not be brought to bed before it came; fearing that her martyrdom would be deferred on that account, because women with child were not allowed to be executed before they were delivered: the rest also were sensibly afflicted on their part to leave her alone in the road to their common hope. Wherefore they unanimously joined in prayer to obtain of God that she might be delivered against the shows. Scarce had they finished their prayer, when Felicitas found herself in labor. She cried out under the violence of her pain: one of the guards asked her, if she could not bear the throes of childbirth without crying out, what she would do when exposed to the wild beasts. She answered: "It is I that suffer what I now suffer; but then there will be another in me that will suffer for me, because I shall suffer for him." She was then delivered of a daughter, which a certain Christian woman took care of, and brought up as her own child. The tribune, who had the holy martyrs in custody, being informed by some persons of little credit, that the Christians would free themselves out of prison by some magic enchantments, used them the more cruelly on that account, and forbade any to see them. Thereupon Perpetua said to him: "Why do you not afford us some relief, since we are condemned by Caesar, and destined to combat at his festival? Will it not be to your honor that we appear well fed?" At this the tribune trembled and blushed, and ordered them to be used with more humanity, and their friends to be admitted to see them. Pudens, the keeper of the prison, being already converted, secretly did them all the good offices in his power. The day before they suffered they gave them, according to custom, their last meal, which was called a free supper’ and they ate in public. But the martyrs did their utmost to change it into an Agape, or Love–feast. Their chamber was full of people, whom they talked to with their usual resolution, threatening them with the judgments of God, and extolling the happiness of their own sufferings. Saturus smiling at the curiosity of those that came to see them, said to them, "Will not tomorrow suffice to satisfy your inhuman curiosity in our regard? However you may seem now to pity us, tomorrow you will clap your hands at our death, and applaud our murderers. But observe well our faces, that you may know them again at that terrible day when all men shall be judged." They spoke with such courage and intrepidity, as astonished the infidels, and occasioned the conversion of several among them.
The day of their triumph being come, they went out of the prison to go to the amphitheatre. Joy sparkled in their eyes, and appeared in all their gestures and words. Perpetua walked with a composed countenance and easy pace, as a woman cherished by Jesus Christ, with her eyes modestly cast down: Felicitas went with her, following the men, not able to contain her joy. When they came to the gate of the amphitheatre the guards would have given them, according to custom, the superstitious habits with which they adorned such as appeared at these sights. For the men, a red mantle, which was the habit of the priests of Saturn: for the women, a little fillet round the head, by which the priestesses of Ceres were known. The martyrs rejected those idolatrous ceremonies; and, by the mouth of Perpetua, said, they came thither of their own accord on the promise made them that they should not be forced to any thing contrary to their religion. The tribune then consented that they might appear in the amphitheatre habited as they were. Perpetua sung, as being already victorious; Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus threatened the people that beheld them with the judgments of God: and as they passed over against the balcony of Hilarian, they said to him; "You judge us in this world, but God will judge you In the next." The people, enraged at their boldness, begged they might be scourged, which was granted. They accordingly passed before the Venatores, or hunters, each of whom gave them a lash. They rejoiced exceedingly in being thought worthy to resemble our Saviour in his sufferings. God granted to each of them the death they desired; for when they were discoursing together about what kind of martyrdom would be agreeable to each, Saturninus declared that he would choose to be exposed to beasts of several sorts in order to the aggravation of his sufferings. Accordingly he and Revocatus, after having been attacked by a leopard, were also assaulted by a bear. Saturus dreaded nothing so much as a bear, and therefore hoped a leopard would dispatch him at once with his teeth. He was then exposed to a wild boar, hut the beast turned upon his keeper, who received such a wound from him that he died in a few days after, and Saturus was only dragged along by him. Then they tied the martyr to the bridge near a bear, but that beast came not out of his lodge, so that Saturus, being sound and not hurt, was called upon for a second encounter. This gave him an opportunity of speaking to Pudens, the jailer that had been converted. The martyr encouraged him to constancy in the faith, and said to him: "You see I have not yet been hurt by any beast, as I desired and foretold; believe then steadfastly in Christ; I am going where you will see a leopard with one bite take away my life." It happened so, for a leopard being let out upon him, covered him all over with blood, whereupon the people jeering, cried out, "He is well baptized." The martyr said to Pudens, "Go, remember my faith, and let our sufferings rather strengthen than trouble you. Give me the ring you have on your finger." Saturus, having dipped it in his wound, gave it him back to keep as a pledge to animate him to a constancy in his faith, and fell down dead soon after. Thus he went first to glory to wait for Perpetua, according to her vision. Some with Mabillon,1 think this Prudens is the martyr honored in Africa, on the 29th of April.
In the meantime, Perpetua and Felicitas had been exposed to a wild cow; Perpetua was first attacked, and the cow having tossed her up, she fell on her back. Then putting herself in a sitting posture, and perceiving her clothes were torn, she gathered them about her in the best manner she could, to cover herself, thinking more of decency than her sufferings. Getting up, not to seem disconsolate, she tied up her hair, which was fallen loose, and perceiving Felicitas on the ground much hurt by a toss of the cow, she helped her to rise. They stood together, expecting another assault from the beasts, but the people crying out that it was enough, they were led to the gate Sanevivaria, where those that were not killed by the beasts were dispatched at the end of the shows by the confectores. Perpetua was here received by Rusticus, a catechumen, who attended her. This admirable woman seemed just returning to herself out of a long ecstasy, and asked when she was to fight the wild cow. Being told what had passed, she could not believe it till she saw on her body and clothes the marks of what she had suffered, and knew the catechumen. With regard to this circumstance of her acts, St. Austin cries out, "Where was she when assaulted and torn by so furious a wild beast, without feeling her wounds, and when, after that furious combat, she asked when it would begin? What did she, not to see what all the world saw? What did she enjoy who did not feel such pain. By what love, by what vision, by what potion was she so transported out of herself, and as it were divinely inebriated, to seem without feeling in a mortal body?" She called for her brother, and said to him and Rusticus, "Continue firm in the faith, love one another, and be not scandalized at our sufferings." All the martyrs were now brought to the place of their butchery. But the people, not yet satisfied with beholding blood, cried out to have them brought into the middle of the amphitheatre, that they might have the pleasure of seeing them receive the last blow. Upon this, some of the martyrs rose up, and having given one another the kiss of peace, went of their own accord into the middle of the arena; others were dispatched without speaking, or stirring out of the place they were in. St. Perpetua fell into the hands of a very timorous and unskillful apprentice of the gladiators, who, with a trembling hand, gave her many slight wounds, which made her languish a long time. Thus, says St. Austin, did two women, amidst fierce beasts and the swords of gladiators, vanquish the devil and all his fury. ’the day of their martyrdom was the 7th of March, as it is marked in the most ancient martyrologies, and in the Roman calendar as old as the year 354, published by Bucherius St. Prosper says they suffered at Carthage, which agrees with all the circumstances. Their bodies were in the great church of Carthage, in the fifth age, as St. Victor2 informs us. Saint Austin says, their festival drew yearly more to honor their memory in their church, than curiosity had done to their martyrdom, They are mentioned in the canon of the Mass
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As in the case of Agnes, another virgin–martyr of the early Church, almost nothing is historically certain about this saint except that she was martyred in Sicily during the persecution of Emperor Decius in 251.
Legend has it that Agatha, like Agnes, was arrested as a Christian, tortured and sent to a house of prostitution to be mistreated. She was preserved from being violated, and was later put to death.
She is claimed as the patroness of both Palermo and Catania. The year after her death, the stilling of an eruption of Mt. Etna was attributed to her intercession. As a result, apparently, people continued to ask her prayers for protection against fire.
We have her panegyrics, by St. Aldhelm, in the seventh, and St. Methodius, Patriarch of Constantinople, in the ninth centuries; also a hymn in her honour among the poems of Pope Damasus, and another by St. Isidore of Seville, in Bollandus, p. 596. The Greeks have interpolated her acts; but those in Latin are very ancient. They are abridged by Tillemont, t. 3, p. 409. See also Rocci Pyrrho, in Sicilia Sacra, on Palermo, Catana, and Malta.
The cities of Palermo and Catana, in Sicily, dispute the honour of her birth; but they do much better who, by copying her virtues, and claiming her patronage, strive to become her fellow–citizens in heaven. It is agreed that she received the crown of martyrdom at Catana, in the persecution of Decius, in the third consulship of that prince, in the year of our Lord 251. She was of a rich and illustrious family, and having been consecrated to God from her tender years, triumphed over many assaults upon her chastity. Quintianus, a man of consular dignity, bent on gratifying both his lust and avarice, imagined he should easily compass his wicked designs on Agatha’s person and estate by means of the emperor’s edict against the Christians. He therefore caused her to be apprehended and brought before him at Catana. Seeing herself in the hands of the persecutors, she made this prayer: "Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desire–possess alone all that I am. I am your sheep, make me worthy to overcome the devil." She wept, and prayed for courage and strength all the way she went. On her appearance, Quintianus gave orders for her being put into the hands of Aphrodisia, a most wicked woman, who, with six daughters, all prostitutes, kept a common stew. The saint suffered in this infamous place assaults and stratagems against her virtue infinitely more terrible to her than any tortures or death itself. But placing her confidence in God, she never ceased with sighs and most earnest tears to implore his protection, and by it was an overmatch for all their hellish attempts the whole month she was there. Quintianus, being informed of her constancy after thirty days, ordered her to be brought before him. The virgin, in her first interrogatory, told him that to be a servant of Jesus Christ was the most illustrious nobility and true liberty. The judge, offended at her resolute answers, commanded her to be buffeted and led to prison. She entered it with great joy, recommending her future conflict to God. The next day she was arraigned a second time at the tribunal, and answered with equal constancy that Jesus Christ was her life and her salvation. Quintianus then ordered her to be stretched on the rack, which torment was usually accompanied with stripes, the tearing of the sides with iron hooks, and burning them with torches or matches. The governor, enraged to see her suffer all this with cheerfulness, commanded her breast to be tortured, and afterwards to be cut off. At which she made him this reproach: "Cruel tyrant, do you not blush to torture this part of my body, you that sucked the breasts of a woman yourself? "He remanded her to prison, with a severe order that neither salves nor food should be allowed her. But God would be himself her physician, and the apostle St. Peter in a vision comforted her, healed all her wounds,. and filled her dungeon with a heavenly light. Quintianus, four days after, not the least moved at the miraculous cure of her wounds, caused her to be rolled naked over live coals mixed with broken potsherds. Being carried back to prison, she made this prayer: "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer: receive now my soul." After which words she sweetly gave up the ghost. Her name is inserted in the canon of the mass in the calendar of Carthage, as ancient as the year 530, and in all martyrologies of the Latins and Greeks. Pope Symmachus built a church in Rome on the Aurelian Way under her name, about the year 500, which is fallen to decay. St. Gregory the Great enriched a church which he purged from the Arian impiety with her relics, which it still possesses. This church had been rebuilt in her honour by Ricimer, general of the Western Empire, in 460. Gregory II built another famous church at Rome, under her invocation, in 726, which Clement VIII gave to the congregation of the Christian doctrine. St. Gregory the Great ordered some of her relics to be placed in the church of the monastery of St. Stephen, in the Isle of Capreae, now Capri. The chief part, which remained at Catana, was carried to Constantinople by the Greek general, who drove the Saracens out of Sicily about the year 1040; these were brought back to Catana in 1127, a relation of which translation, written by Mauritius, who was then bishop, is recorded by Rocci Pyrrho and Bollandus. The same authors relate in what manner the torrent of burning sulphur and stones which issue from mount Aetna, in great eruptions, was several times averted from the walls of Catana by the veil of St. Agatha, (taken out of her tomb,) which was carried in procession. Also that through her inter. cession, Malta (where she is honored as patroness of the island) was pre served from the Turks who invaded it in 1551. Small portions of relics cf. St. Agatha are said to be distributed in many places.
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Every little girl named Lucy must bite her tongue in disappointment when she first tries to find out what there is to know about her patron saint. The older books will have a lengthy paragraph detailing a small number of traditions. Newer books will have a lengthy paragraph showing that there is little basis in history for these traditions. The single fact survives that a disappointed suitor accused Lucy of being a Christian and she was executed in Syracuse (Sicily) in the year 304. But it is also true that her name is mentioned in the First Eucharistic Prayer, geographical places are named after her, a popular song has her name as its title and down through the centuries many thousands of little girls have been proud of the name Lucy.
One can easily imagine what a young Christian woman had to contend with in pagan Sicily in the year 300. If you have trouble imagining, just glance at today’s pleasure–at–all–costs world and the barriers it presents against leading a good Christian life.
Her friends must have wondered aloud about this hero of Lucy’s, an obscure itinerant preacher in a far–off captive nation that had been destroyed more than 200 years before. Once a carpenter, he had been crucified by the Roman soldiers after his own people turned him over to the Roman authorities. Lucy believed with her whole soul that this man had risen from the dead. Heaven had put a stamp on all he said and did. To give witness to her faith she had made a vow of virginity.
What a hubbub this caused among her pagan friends! The kindlier ones just thought her a little strange. To be pure before marriage was an ancient Roman ideal, rarely found but not to be condemned. To exclude marriage altogether, however, was too much. She must have something sinister to hide, the tongues wagged.
Lucy knew of the heroism of earlier virgin martyrs. She remained faithful to their example and to the example of the carpenter, whom she knew to be the Son of God. She is the patroness of eyesight.
The glorious virgin and martyr St. Lucy, one of the brightest ornaments of the church of Sicily, was born of honourable and wealthy parents in the city of Syracusa, and educated from her cradle in the faith of Christ. She lost her father in her infancy, but Eutychia, her mother, took singular care to furnish her with tender and sublime sentiments of piety and religion. By the early impressions which Lucy received and the strong influence of divine grace, Lucy discovered no disposition but toward virtue, and she was yet very young when she offered to God the flower of her virginity. This vow, however, she kept a secret, and her mother, who was a stranger to it, pressed her to marry a young gentleman who was a pagan. The saint sought occasions to hinder this design from taking effect, and her mother was visited with a long and troublesome flux of blood, under which she laboured four years without finding any remedy by recourse to physicians. At length she was persuaded by her daughter to go to Catana and offer up her prayers to God for relief at the tomb of St. Agatha. St. Lucy accompanied her thither, and their prayers were successful.
Hereupon our saint disclosed to her mother her desire of devoting herself to God in a state of perpetual virginity, and of bestowing her fortune on the poor: and Eutychia, in gratitude, left her at full liberty to pursue her pious inclinations. The young nobleman, with whom the mother had treated about marrying her, came to understand this by the sale of her jewels and goods, and the distribution of the price among the poor, and in his rage accused her before the governor Paschasius as a Christian, the persecution of Diocletian then raging with the utmost fury. The judge commanded the holy virgin to be exposed to prostitution in a brothel" house; but God rendered her immovable, so that the guards were not able to carry her thither. He also made her an over–match for the cruelty of the persecutors, in overcoming fire and other torments. After a long and glorious combat she died in prison of the wounds she had received,–about the year 304. She was honoured at Rome in the sixth century among the most illustrious virgins and martyrs, whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England till the change of religion, as a holy day of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at Syracusa for many years; but was at length translated into Italy, and thence by the authority of the Emperor Otho I to Metz, as Sigebert of Gemblours relates. It is there exposed to public veneration in a rich chapel of St. Vincent’s Church. A portion of her relics was carried to Constantinople and brought thence to Venice, where it is kept with singular veneration. St. Lucy is often painted with the balls of her eyes laid in a dish: perhaps her eyes were defaced or plucked out, though her present acts make no mention of any such circumstance.
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Almost nothing is known of this saint except that she was very young–12 or 13–when she was martyred in the last half of the third century. Various modes of death have been suggested–beheading, burning, strangling.
Legend has it she was a beautiful girl whom many young men wanted to marry. Among those she refused, one reported her to the authorities as being a Christian. She was arrested and confined to a house of prostitution. The legend continues that a man who looked upon her lustfully lost his sight and had it restored by her prayer. She was condemned, executed and buried near Rome in a catacomb that eventually was named after her. The daughter of Constantine built a basilica in her honor.
Few legends of saints have been more cherished than that of the virgin martyr Agnes. She was held in high regard by the primitive Christian Church, and her name has remained a symbol of maidenly purity through the ages. According to tradition, Agnes was a Christian girl of Rome, perhaps twelve or thirteen years old, when Diocletian began his persecutions. Like St. Lucy, she was sentenced by a judge to a house of ill fame, but a young man who looked upon her lustfully was stricken blind. Thereafter she was taken out to be burned, but whether she met her death by fire or sword we cannot know with any certainty. Although we have no contemporary sources for the facts of her life and martyrdom, there is little reason to doubt the main outline of the story. References to this young saint appear in many Church writings of later date. St. Ambrose, St. Damasus, and Prudentius all praise her purity and heroism. Her name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Agnes’ crypt was in the Via Nomentana, and the stone covering her remains was carven with the words, (Agna sanctissima) (most holy lamb). A church in her honor is presumed to have been built at Rome in the time of Constantine the Great. In the apse of this basilica, which was rebuilt in the seventh century by Pope Honorius, there is still to be seen the large and beautiful mosaic depicting the saint. St. Agnes is the patroness of young girls and her symbol is, naturally, a lamb. On the anniversary of her martyrdom, the Pope, after high pontifical Mass in her church at Rome, blesses two lambs, and their wool is later woven into the (pallia) worn by archbishops.
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Although Cecilia is one of the most famous of the Roman martyrs, the familiar stories about her are apparently not founded on authentic material. There is no trace of honor being paid her in early times. A fragmentary inscription of the late fourth century refers to a church named after her, and her feast was celebrated at least in 545.
According to legend, Cecilia was a young Christian of high rank betrothed to a Roman named Valerian. Through her influence Valerian was converted, and was martyred along with his brother. The legend about Cecilia’s death says that after being struck three times on the neck with a sword, she lived for three days, and asked the pope to convert her home into a church. Since the time of the Renaissance she has usually been portrayed with a viola or a small organ.
St. Cecelia, virgin and martyr. The "acts" of St. Cecelia say that she was brought up as a Christian amidst all the luxury of a patrician family in pagan Rome. Though she had vowed virginity her father forced her to marry a young pagan named Valerian. Cecelia told Valerian of her vow, and he was converted by a vision of her guardian angel. Later, Valerian and his brother Tiburius (also a convert) were beheaded for giving burial to Christian martyrs. When Cecelia interred the bodies of Valerian and Tiburius at her villa on the Appian Way, she herself was arrested. After the persecutor had tried unsuccessfully to suffocate her in the bathroom of her own home, she was beheaded. St. Cecelia has been chosen as the saint of musicians because of the following sentence in her "Acts," "While the instruments were playing (at her wedding feast) profane music, Cecelia sang rather to God in her heart."
The name of St. Cecilia has always been most illustrious in the church, and ever since the primitive ages is mentioned with distinction in the canon of the mass, and in the sacramentaries and calendars of the church. Her spouse Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus, an officer, who were her companions in martyrdom, are also mentioned in the same authentic and venerable writings. St. Cecilia was a native of Rome, of a good family, and educated in the principles and perfect practice of the Christian religion. In her youth she by vow consecrated her virginity to God, yet was compelled by her parents to marry a nobleman named Valerian. Him she converted to the faith, and soon after gained to the same his brother Tiburtius. The men first suffered martyrdom, being beheaded for the faith. St. Cecilia finished her glorious triumph some days after them. Their acts, which are of very small authority, make them contemporary with Pope Urban I, and consequently place their martyrdom about the year 230, under Alexander Severus; others, however, place the triumph of these martyrs under Marcus Aurelius, between the years 176 and 180. Their sacred bodies were deposited in part of the cemetery of Calixtus, which part, from our saint, was called St. Cecilia’s cemetery. Mention is made of an ancient Church of St. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in the year 500. This church being fallen to decay, Pope Paschal I began to rebuild it; but was in some pain how he should find the body of the saint, for it was thought that the Lombards had taken it away, as they had many others from the cemeteries of Rome, when they besieged that city under King Astulphus in 755. One Sunday, as this pope was assisting at matins as was his wont, at St. Peter’s, he fell into a slumber, in which he was advertised by St. Cecilia herself that the Lombards had in vain sought for her body, and that he should find it; and he accordingly discovered it in the cemetery called by her name, clothed in a robe of gold tissue, with linen cloths at her feet, dipped in her blood. With her body was found that of Valerian, her husband; and the pope caused them to be translated to her church in the city; as also the bodies of Tiburtius and Maximus, martyrs, and of the popes Urban and Lucius, which lay in the adjoining cemetery of Praetextatus, on the same Appian road. This translation was made in 821. Pope Paschal founded a monastery in honour of these saints, near the Church of St. Cecilia, that the monks might perform the office day and night. He adorned that church with great magnificence, and gave to it silver plate to the amount of about nine hundred pounds–among other things a ciborium, or tabernacle, of five hundred pounds weight; and a great many pieces of rich stuffs for veils and such kinds of ornaments; in one of which was represented the angel crowning St. Cecilia, Valerian, and Tiburtius. This church, which gives title to a cardinal priest, was sumptuously rebuilt in 1599 by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati, nephew to Pope Gregory XIV, when Clement VIII caused the bodies of these saints to be removed under the high altar, and deposited in a most sumptuous vault in the same church called the Confession of St. Cecilia; it was enriched in such a manner by Cardinal Paul Emilius Sfondrati as to dazzle the eye and astonish the spectator. This church of St. Cecilia is called In Trastevere, or Beyond the Tiber, to distinguish it from two other churches in Rome which bear the name of this saint.
St. Cecilia, from her assiduity in singing the divine praises (in which, according to her Acts, she often joined instrumental music with vocal), is regarded as patroness of church music. The psalms, and many sacred canticles in many other parts of the holy scripture, and the universal practice both of the ancient Jewish and of the Christian church, recommend the religious custom of sometimes employing a decent and grave music in sounding forth the divine praises. By this homage of praise we join the heavenly spirits in their uninterrupted songs of adoration, love, and praise. And by such music we express the spiritual joy of our hearts in this heavenly function, and excite ourselves therein to holy jubilation and devotion. Divine love and praise are the work of the heart, without which all words or exterior signs are hypocrisy and mockery. Yet as we are bound to consecrate to God our voices and all our organs and faculties, and all creatures which we use, so we ought to employ them all in magnifying his sanctity, greatness, and glory, and sometimes to accompany our interior affections of devotion with the most expressive exterior signs. St. Chrysostom elegantly extols the good effects of sacred music, and shows how strongly the fire of divine love is kindled in the soul by devout psalmody. St. Austin teaches that "it is useful in moving piously the mind and kindling the affections of divine love." St. Charles Borromeo in his youth allowed himself no other amusement but that of grave music, with a view to that of the church. As to music as an amusement, too much time must never be given to it; and extreme care ought to be taken, as a judicious and experienced tutor observes, that children be not set to learn it very young, because it is a thing which bewitches the senses, dissipates the mind exceedingly, and alienates it from serious studies, as daily experience shows. Soft and effeminate music is to be always shunned with abhorrence, as the corrupter of the heart and the poison of virtue.
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One of the virgin martyrs mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, she was burned at the stake in Dalmatia for her faith about the year 304.
Taken from the Acts of St. Anastasia, who is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and commemorated by the Church [old calendar] on December 25, St. Anastasia was a spiritual child of St. Chrysogonus (also martyred). The time frame is during the Diocletian persecution in the fourth century perhaps the year 304 A.D.
St. Anastasia was a Roman lady of noble descent. Her father was an opulent and noble pagan; but her mother, who was a Christian, caused her to be baptized in her infancy, and secretly reared her in sentiments of Christian piety, in which she made great progress.
St. Anastasia had been married to a noble Roman, named Publius, who was a pagan; he loved his wife much, but having discovered her acts of piety, and that she was a Christian, from a loving husband he became a cruel tyrant, confined her to the house, and treated her like a slave. The saint, rejoiced that she could suffer for the love of Jesus Christ.
Publius, her cruel husband, having been appointed by the emperor ambassador to the King of Persia, gave orders to his domestics that they should maltreat his wife during his absence and that there should be no fear if she would be found dead upon his return. But God ordained that Publius met with an untimely death upon his journey; while the saint, having regained her pious labors in behalf of the prisoners of Jesus Christ.
St. Anastasia, inflamed with the love of God, occupied her time in consoling and succoring the Christians, particularly those who were in prison, who she exhorted to suffer for the faith. Having heard of the arrest of St. Chrysogonus, she hurried to his prison, and esteemed herself fortunate in having it in her power to be of service to him in this trial. He had been in prison for one year, during which he instructed his fellow–prisoners who were Christians, and converted many pagans to the faith. St. Anastasia rendered him such assistance, by reason of her extraordinary works of charity.
St. Chrysogonus, by order of Diocletian on November 24 in the year 303, was beheaded, but St. Anastasia continued her mission to the prisoners. One day upon an errand of charity, and having found that all the holy confessors had been butchered by order of the emporer, she wept bitterly. When officers of the court asked why she wept, she replied "I weep because I have lost my brethren, who have been cruelly put to death." Hence she was arrested and brought before the prefect, Florus, who got no satisfaction from her defence and so then he sent her to the emperor Diocletian. Diocletian was unsuccessful in exhorting her to abandon a religion which was proscribed thoroughout the empire, and so sent her back to the prefect Florus. He sent her to the pontiff of the capitol, Upian, in the hope that he could convince her to sacrifice to the gods.
Upian having used all his arts of persuasion in vain, said to her: "Now I shall give thee but three days to determine." Anastasia replied: "They are three too many; thou mayest imagine them already past. I am a Christian, and am anxious to die for Jesus Christ. From me thou shalt never get any other answer."
Upian then employed the assistance of three idolatrous women; but this having proved ineffectual, he made a second attempt himself, in which he had the effrontery to be guilty of some immodest action. This was instantly punished by the Almighty; for he was struck blind upon the spot, and seized by convulsions that within an hour terminated his life.
Florus, enraged at the death of Upian, caused the saint to be shut up in prison, with the intention of starving her; but the Lord miraculously preserved her life. Florus transferred her to another prison thinking the jailer had transgressed his orders to starve her – but she continued to live without food. Florus then ordered her to be put on board a ship with 120 idolaters – the ship was bored with holes and was supposed to sink. The ship soon filled with water, but instead of sinking went ashore; and the miracle worked the conversion of all these persons, who afterwards had the glory of suffering martyrdom for Jesus Christ. St. Anastasia was then conducted to the island of Palmarola, under sentence of death; she consummated her triumph in the flames.
A Christian lady obtained her body, and gave it honourable burial near Zara, in Dalmatia; but about the year 460, under the Emperor Leo, her relics were transferred Constantinople, and placed, as Cardinal Orsi writes, in the celebrated church of the Resurrection, called The Anastasia.
PS There is also another St. Anastasia recorded in the same book who was martyred in the year 249 AD. She was martyred along with St. Cyril of Rome under the Valerian persecution. This St. Anastasia is often referred to as the Elder to distinguish her from St. Anastasia, widow, above.