The New Evangelization - Europe



















































































































































SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA or LISBON
Confessor & Doctor - AD 1231 (June 13)

Confessor, Doctor of the Church (June 13)Although though he was a native of Lisbon, Anthony derived his surname from the Italian city of Padua, where his mature years were passed and where his relics are still venerated in the basilica, Il Santo. He was born in 1195 of a noble Portuguese family, and was baptized Ferdinand. His parents sent him to be educated by the clergy of the cathedral of Lisbon. At the age of fifteen he joined the canons regular[1] of St. Augustine, and at seventeen, in order to have more seclusion, asked for and obtained leave to transfer to the priory of St. Cross, of the same order, at Coimbra, then the capital of Portugal. There, for a period of eight years, he devoted himself to study and prayer. With the help of a remarkable memory he acquired a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.

In the year 1220, Don Pedro, crown prince of Portugal, brought back from Morocco the relics of some Franciscan missionaries who had recently suffered martyrdom. The young student conceived an ardent desire to die for his faith, a hope he had little chance of realizing while he lived in a monastic enclosure. He spoke of this to some mendicant Franciscans who came to St. Cross, and was encouraged by them to apply for admission to their order. Although he met with some obstacles, he at length obtained his release and received the Franciscan habit in the chapel of St. Anthony of Olivares, near Coimbra, early in 1221. He changed his name to Anthony in honor of St. Anthony of Egypt, to whom this chapel was dedicated.

Almost at once he was permitted to embark for Morocco on a mission to preach Christianity to the Moors. He had scarcely arrived when he was prostrated by a severe illness, which obliged him to return to Europe. The ship in which he sailed for home was driven out of its course by contrary winds and he found himself landed at Messina, Sicily. From there he made his way to Assisi, where, he had learned from his Sicilian brethren, a chapter general was about to be held. It was the great gathering of 1221, the last chapter, as it proved, open to all members of the order, and presided over by Brother Elias, the new vicar-general, with the saintly Francis seated at his feet. The whole spectacle seems to have deeply impressed the young Portuguese friar.

At the close of the proceedings the friars set out for the posts assigned to them by their respective provincial ministers. In the absence of any Portuguese provincial, Anthony was allowed to attach himself to Brother Gratian, the provincial of Romagna, who sent him to the lonely hermitage of San Paolo, near Forli, either at his own request, that he might live for a time in retirement, or as chaplain to the lay friars of the community. We do not know whether Anthony was already a priest at the time. What is certain is that no one then suspected the brilliant intellectual gifts latent in the sickly young brother. When he was not praying in the chapel or in a little grotto, he was serving the other friars by washing their cooking pots and dishes after the common meal.

His talents were not to remain hidden long. It happened that an ordination service of both Franciscans and Dominicans was to be held at Forli, on which occasion all the candidates for consecration were to be entertained at the Franciscan Convent there. Through some misunderstanding, not one of the Dominicans had come prepared to deliver the expected address at the ceremony and no one among the Franciscans seemed ready to fill the breach. Anthony, who was present, perhaps in attendance on his superior, was told by him to go forward and speak whatever the Holy Ghost put into his mouth. Diffidently, he obeyed. Once having begun he delivered an address which astonished all who heard it by its eloquence, fervor, and learning. Brother Gratian promptly sent the brilliant young friar out to preach in the cities of the province. As a preacher Anthony was an immediate success. He proved particularly effective in converting heretics, of whom there were many in northern Italy. They were often men of education and open to conviction by Anthony's keen and resourceful methods of argument.

In addition to his work as an itinerant preacher, he was appointed reader in theology to the Franciscans, the first to fill such a post. In a letter, generally considered authentic, and characteristically guarded in its approval of book learning, Francis himself confirmed the appointment. "To my dearest brother Anthony, brother Francis sends greetings in Jesus Christ. I am well pleased that you should read sacred theology to the friars, provided that such study does not quench the spirit of holy prayer and devotion according to our rule."

Anthony spent two years in northern Italy, after which he taught theology in the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse and held the offices of guardian or prior of a monastery at Puy and of custodian at Limoges. For his ability in formulating arguments against the heresies of the Albigensians, he became widely known under the sobriquet of "Hammer of Heretics." It became more and more plain that his career lay in the pulpit. Anthony had not Francis' sweetness and simplicity, and he was no poet, but he had learning, eloquence, marked powers of logical analysis and reasoning, a burning zeal for souls, a magnetic personality, and a sonorous voice that carried far. The mere sight of him sometimes brought sinners to their knees, for he appeared to radiate spiritual force. Crowds flocked to hear him, and hardened criminals, careless Catholics, heretics, all alike were converted and brought to Confession. Men locked up their shops and offices to go and attend his sermons; women rose early or stayed overnight in church to secure their places. When churches could not hold the congregations, he preached to them in public squares and market places.

In 1226, shortly after the death of St. Francis, Anthony was recalled to Italy, apparently to become a provincial minister. It is not clear what his attitude was towards the dissensions which were rising everywhere in the order over the nature of the obedience to be paid to the rule and testament of Francis. Anthony, it seems, acted as envoy from the discordant chapter general of 1226 to the innovating Pope Gregory IX, to lay before him the various conflicts that had arisen. On that same occasion he obtained from Gregory his release from office-holding, so that he might devote himself to preaching. The Pope had a high respect for him, and because of his extraordinary familiarity with the Scriptures once called him "the Ark of the Testament."

Thereafter Anthony made his home in Padua, a city which he already knew and where he was highly revered. There, more than anywhere else, he could see the results of his ministry. Not only were his sermons listened to by enormous congregations, but they led to a widespread reformation of morals and conduct in the city. Long standing quarrels were amicably settled, hopeless prisoners were liberated, owners of ill-gotten goods made restitution, often in public at Anthony's feet. In the name of the poor he denounced the prevailing vice of extortionate usury and induced the city magistrates to pass a law exempting from prison debtors willing to surrender all their possessions to satisfy their creditors. He is said to have ventured boldly into the presence of the truculent and dangerous Duke Eccelino III, the Emperor's son-in-law, to plead for the liberation of some citizens of Verona whom the duke was holding captive. The attempt was unsuccessful, but due to the respect he inspired he was listened to with tolerance and allowed to depart unmolested.

In the spring of 1231, after preaching a powerful course of sermons, Anthony's strength gave out and he retired with two of the brothers to a woodland retreat. It was soon dear that his days were numbered, and he asked to be taken back to Padua. He never got beyond the outskirts of the city. On June 13, in the apartment reserved for the chaplain of the sisterhood of Poor Clares of Arcella, he received the last rites and died. He was only in his thirty-sixth year. Within a year of his death he was canonized, and the Paduans have always regarded his relics as their most precious possession. They built a basilica to their saint in 1163.

The innumerable benefits he has won for those who prayed at his altars have obtained for Anthony the name of the "Wonder-working Saint." Since the seventeenth century he has often been painted with the Infant Saviour on his arm because of a late legend to the effect that once, when stopping with a friend, his host, glancing through a window, had a glimpse of him gazing with rapture on the Holy Child, whom he was holding in his arms. In the earlier portraits he usually carries a book, symbolic of his knowledge of the Bible, or a lily. Occasionally he is accompanied by a mule which, legend says, fell on its knees before the Sacrament when upheld in the hands of the saint, and by so doing converted its heretical owner to a belief in the Real Presence. Anthony is the special patron of barren and pregnant women, of the poor, and of travelers; alms given to obtain his intercession are called "St. Anthony's Bread." How he came to be invoked, as he now is, as the finder of lost articles has not been satisfactorily explained. The only story that bears on the subject at all is contained in the so called Chronicles of the Twenty-four Generals, number 21. A novice ran away from his monastery carrying with him a valuable Psalter which Anthony had been using. He prayed for its recovery and the novice was frightened by a startling apparition into bringing it back.

1. The canons, or clergy, attached to a church or cathedral for the conduct of its services, are called regular when they live under a monastic rule. Canons Regular of St. Augustine, that is Regulars who follow the rule of St. Augustine, were popular at this time. The Mother House of Anthony's Order was Holy Cross in Coimbra, thus his particular Order was also known as the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross. Suppressed by the Masonic government which overthrew the King of Portugal in 1833, this ancient Portuguese Order was re-established by priests of the Opus Sanctorum Angelorum in 1977, and definitively re-erected by Pope John Paul II in 1981.


SAINT AUGUSTINE of CANTERBURY
Bishop & Confessor - AD 604 (May 27)

First Archbishop of Canterbury, Apostle of the English; date of birth unknown; d. 26 May, 604. Symbols: cope, pallium, and mitre as Bishop of Canterbury, and pastoral staff and gospels as missionary. Nothing is known of his youth except that he was probably a Roman of the better class, and that early in life he become a monk in the famous monastery of St. Andrew erected by St. Gregory out of his own patrimony on the Cælian Hill. It was thus amid the religious intimacies of the Benedictine Rule and in the bracing atmosphere of a recent foundation that the character of the future missionary was formed. Chance is said to have furnished the opportunity for the enterprise which was destined to link his name for all time with that of his friend and patron, St. Gregory, as the "true beginner" of one of the most important Churches in Christendom and the medium by which the authority of the Roman See was established over men of the English-speaking race. It is unnecessary to dwell here upon Bede's well-known version of Gregory's casual encounter with English slaves in the Roman market place (H.E., II, i), which is treated under Gregory the Great (q.v.). Some five years after his elevation to the Roman See (590) Gregory began to look about him for ways and means to carry out the dream of his earlier days. He naturally turned to the community he had ruled more than a decade of years before in the monastery on the Cælian Hill. Out of these he selected a company of about forty and designated Augustine, at that time Prior of St. Andrew's, to be their representative and spokesman. The appointment, as will appear later on, seems to have been of a somewhat indeterminate character; but from this time forward until his death in 604 it is to Augustine as "strengthened by the confirmation of the blessed Father Gregory (roboratus confirmatione beati patris Gregorii, Bede, H. E., I, xxv) that English, as distinguished from British, Christianity owes its primary inspiration.

The event which afforded Pope Gregory the opportunity he had so long desired of carrying out his great missionary plan in favour of the English happened in the year 595 or 596. A rumour had reached Rome that the pagan inhabitants of Britain were ready to embrace the Faith in great numbers, if only preachers could be found to instruct them. The first plan which seems to have occurred to the pontiff was to take measures for the purchase of English captive boys of seventeen years of age and upwards. These he would have brought up in the Catholic Faith with idea of ordaining them and sending them back in due time as apostles to their own people. He according wrote to Candidus, a presbyter entrusted with the administration of a small estate belonging to the patrimony of the Roman Church in Gaul, asking him to secure revenues and set them aside for this purpose. (Greg., Epp., VI, vii in Migne, P.L., LXXVII.) It is possible, not only to determine approximately the dates of these events, but also to indicate the particular quarter of Britain from which the rumour had come. Aethelberht became King of Kent in 559 or 560, and in less than twenty years he succeeded in establishing an overlordship that extended from the boulders of the country of the West Saxons eastward to the sea and as far north as the Humber and the Trent. The Saxons of Middlesex and of Essex, together with the men of East Anglia and of Mercia, were thus brought to acknowledge him at Bretwalda, and he acquired a political importance which began to be felt by the Frankish princes on the other side of the Channel. Charibert of Paris gave him his daughter Bertha in marriage, stipulating, as part of the nuptial agreement, that she should be allowed the free exercise of her religion. The condition was accepted (Bede, H. E., I, xxv) and Luidhard, a Frankish bishop, accompanied the princess to her new home in Canterbury, where the ruined church of St. Martin, situated a short distance beyond the walls, and dating from Roman-British times, was set apart for her use (Bede, H. E.,I, xxvi). The date of this marriage, so important in its results to the future fortunes of Western Christianity, is of course largely a matter of conjecture; but from the evidence furnished by one or two scattered remarks in St. Gregory's letters (Epp., VI) and from the circumstances which attended the emergence of the kingdom of the Jutes to a position of prominence in the Britain of this period, we may safely assume that it had taken place fully twenty years before the plan of sending Augustine and his companions suggested itself to the pope.

The pope was obliged to complain of the lack of episcopal zeal among Aethelberht Christian neighbours. Whether we are to understand the phrase ex vicinis (Greg., Epp.,VI) as referring to Gaulish prelates or to the Celtic bishops of northern and western Britain, the fact remains that neither Bertha's piety, nor Luidhard's preaching, nor Aethelberht's toleration, nor the supposedly robust faith of British or Gaulish neighbouring peoples was found adequate to so obvious an opportunity until a Roman pontiff, distracted with the cares of a world supposed to be hastening to its eclipse, first exhorted forty Benedictines of Italian blood to the enterprise. The itinerary seem to have been speedily, if vaguely, prepared; the little company set out upon their long journey in the month of June, 596. They were armed with letters to the bishops and Christian princes of the countries through which they were likely to pass, and they were further instructed to provide themselves with Frankish interpreters before setting foot in Britain itself. Discouragement, however, appears early to have overtaken them on their way. Tales of the uncouth islanders to whom they were going chilled their enthusiasm, and some of their number actually proposed that they should draw back. Augustine so far compromised with the waverers that he agreed to return in person to Pope Gregory and lay before him plainly the difficulties which they might be compelled to encounter. The band of missionaries waited for him in the neighbourhood of Aix-en-Provence. Pope Gregory, however, raised the drooping spirits of Augustine and sent him back without delay to his faint-hearted brethren, armed with more precise, and as it appeared, more convincing authority.

Augustine was named abbot of the missionaries (Bede, H. E.,I, xxiii) and was furnished with fresh letters in which the pope made kindly acknowledgment of the aid thus far offered by Protasius, Bishop of Aix-en-Provence, by Stephen, Abbot of Lérins, and by a wealthy lay official of patrician rank called Arigius [Greg., Epp., VI (indic. xiv) num. 52 sqq.;sc. 3,4,5 of the Benedictine series]. Augustine must have reached Aix on his return journey some time in August; for Gregory's message of encouragement to the party bears the date of July the twenty-third, 596. Whatever may have been the real source of the passing discouragement no more delays are recorded. The missionaries pushed on through Gaul, passing up through the valley of the Rhone to Arles on their way to Vienne and Autun, and thence northward, by one of several alternatives routes which it is impossible now to fix with accuracy, until they come to Paris. Here, in all probability, they passed the winter months; and here, too, as is not unlikely, considering the relations that existed between the family of the reigning house and that of Kent, they secured the services of the local presbyters suggested as interpreters in the pope's letters to Theodoric and Theodebert and to Brunichilda, Queen of the Franks.

In the spring of the following year they were ready to embark. The name of the port at which they took ship has not been recorded. Boulogne was at that time a place of some mercantile importance; and it is not improbable that they directed their steps thither to find a suitable vessel in which they could complete the last and not least hazardous portion of their journey. All that we know for certain is that they landed somewhere on the Isle of Thanet (Bede, H. E.,I, xxv) and that they waited there in obedience to King Aethelberht orders until arrangements could be made for a formal interview. The king replied to their messengers that he would come in person from Canterbury, which was less than a dozen miles away. It is not easy to decide at this date between the four rival spots, each of which has claimed the distinction of being the place upon which St. Augustine and his companions first set foot. The Boarded Groin, Stonar, Ebbsfleet, and Richboroughlast named, if the present course of the Stour has not altered in thirteen hundred years, then forming part of the mainlandeach has its defenders. The curious in such matters may consult the special literature on the subject cited at the close of this article. The promised interview between the king and the missionaries took place within a few days. It was held in the open air, sub divo, says Bede (Bede, H.E.,I, xxv), on a level spot, probably under a spreading oak in deference to the king's dread of Augustine's possible incantations. His fear, however, was dispelled by the native grace of manner and the kindly personality of his chief guest who addressed him through an interpreter. The message told "how the compassionate Jesus had redeemed a world of sin by His own agony and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would believe" (Aelfric, ap. Haddan and Stubbs, III, ii). The king's answer, while gracious in its friendliness, was curiously prophetic of the religious after-temper of his race. "Your words and promise are very fair" he is said to have replied, "but as they are new to us and of uncertain import, I cannot assent to them and give up what I have long held in common with the whole English nation. But since you have come as strangers from so great a distance, and, as I take it, are anxious to have us also share in what you conceive to be both excellent and true, we will not interfere with you, but receive you, rather, in kindly hospitality and take care to provide what may be necessary for your support. Moreover, we make no objection to your winning as many converts as you can to your creed". (Bede, H.E., I, xxv.)

The king more than made good his words. He invited the missionaries to take up their abode in the royal capital of Canterbury, then a barbarous and half-ruined metropolis, built by the Kentish folk upon the site of the old Roman military town of Durovernum. In spite of the squalid character of the city, the monks must have made an impressive picture as they drew near the abode "over against the Kings' Street facing the north", a detail preserved in William Thorne's (c. 1397) "Chronicle of the Abbots of St. Augustine's Canterbury," p.1759, assigned them for a dwelling. The striking circumstances of their approach seem to have lingered long in popular remembrance; for Bede, writing fully a century and a third after the event, is at pains to describe how they came in characteristic Roman fashion (more suo) bearing "the holy cross together with a picture of the Sovereign King, Our Lord Jesus Christ and chanting in unison this litany", as they advanced: "We beseech thee, O Lord, in the fulness of thy pity that Thine anger and Thy holy wrath be turned away from this city and from Thy holy house, because we have sinned: Alleluia!" It was an anthem out of one of the many "Rogation" litanies then beginning to be familiar in the churches of Gaul and possibly not unknown also at Rome. The building set apart for their use must have been fairly large to afford shelter to a community numbering fully forty. It stood in the Stable Gate, not far from the ruins of an old heathen temple; and the tradition in Thorn's day was that the parish church of St. Alphage approximately marked the site. Here Augustine and his companions seemed to have established without delay the ordinary routine of the Benedictine rule as practiced at the close of the sixth century; and to it they seem to have added in a quiet way the apostolic ministry of preaching. The church dedicated to St. Martin in the eastern part of the city which had been set apart for the convenience of Bishop Luidhard and Queen Bertha's followers many years before was also thrown open to them until the king should permit a more highly organized attempt at evangelization.

The evident sincerity of the missionaries, their single-mindedness, their courage under trial, and, above all, the disinterested character of Augustine himself and the unworldly note of his doctrine made a profound impression on the mind of the king. He asked to be instructed and his baptism was appointed to take place at Pentecost. Whether the queen and her Frankish bishop had any real hand in the process of this comparatively sudden conversion, it is impossible to say. St. Gregory's letter written to Bertha herself, when the news of the king's baptism had reached Rome, would lead us to infer, that, while little or nothing had been done before Augustine's arrival, afterwards there was an endeavor on the part of the queen to make up for past remissness. The pope writes: "Et quoniam, Deo volente, aptum nunc tempus est, agate, ut divina gratia co-operante, cum augmento possitis quod neglectum est reparare". [Greg. Epp., XI (indic., iv), 29.] The remissness does seem to have been atoned for, when we take into account the Christian activity associated with the names of this royal pair during the next few months. Aethelberht's conversion naturally gave a great impetus to the enterprise of Augustine and his companions. Augustine himself determined to act at once upon the provisional instruction he had received from Pope Gregory. He crossed over to Gaul and sought episcopal consecration at the hands of Virgilius, the Metropolitan of Arles. Returning almost immediately to Kent, he made preparations for that more active and open form of propaganda for which Aethelberht's baptism had prepared a way. It is characteristic of the spirit which actuated Augustine and his companions that no attempt was made to secure converts on a large scale by the employment of force. Bede tells us that it was part of the king's uniform policy "to compel no man to embrace Christianity" (H. E., I, xxvi) and we know from more than one of his extant letters what the pope though of a method so strangely at variance with the teaching of the Gospels. On Christmas Day, 597, more than ten thousand persons were baptized by the first "Archbishop of the English". The great ceremony probably took place in the waters of the Swale, not far from the mouth of the Medway. News of these extraordinary events was at once dispatched to the pope, who wrote in turn to express his joy to his friend Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria, to Augustine himself, and to the king and queen. (Epp., VIII, xxx; XI, xxviii; ibid., lxvi; Bede, H. E., I, xxxi, xxxii.) Augustine's message to Gregory was carried by Lawrence the Presbyter, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Peter one of the original colony of missionary monks. They were instructed to ask for more Gospel labourers, and, if we may trust Bede's account in this particular and the curious group of letters embodied in his narrative, they bore with them a list of dubia, or questions, bearing upon several points of discipline and ritual with regard to which Augustine awaited the pope's answer.

The genuineness of the document or libellus, as Bede calls it (H.E., II, i), in which the pope is alleged to have answered the doubts of the new archbishop has not been seriously called in question; though scholars have felt the force of the objection which St. Boniface, writing in the second quarter of the eighth century, urges, viz., that no trace of it could be found in the official collection of St. Gregory's correspondence preserved in the registry of the Roman Church. It contains nine responsa, the most important of which are those that touch upon the local differences of ritual, the question of jurisdiction, and the perpetually recurring problem of marriage relationships. "Why", Augustine had asked "since the faith is one, should there be different usages in different churches; one way of saying Mass in the Roman Church, for instance, and another in the Church of Gaul?" The pope's reply is, that while "Augustine is not to forget the Church in which he has been brought up", he is at liberty to adopt from the usage of other Churches whatever is most likely to prove pleasing to Almighty God. "For institutions", he adds, "are not to be loved for the sake of places; but places, rather, for the sake of institutions". With regard to the delicate question of jurisdiction Augustine is informed that he is to exercise no authority over the churches of Gaul; but that "all the bishops of Britain are entrusted to him, to the end that the unlearned may be instructed, the wavering strengthened by persuasion and the perverse corrected with authority". [Greg., Epp., XI (indic., iv), 64; Bede, H. E., I, xxvii.] Augustine seized the first convenient opportunity to carry out the graver provisions of this last enactment. He had already received the pallium on the return of Peter and Lawrence from Rome in 601. The original band of missionaries had also been reinforced by fresh recruits, among whom "the first and most distinguished" as Bede notes, "were Mellitus, Justus, Paulinus, and Ruffinianus". Of these Ruffinianus was afterwards chosen abbot of the monastery established by Augustine in honour of St. Peter outside the eastern walls of the Kentish capital. Mellitus became the first English Bishop of London; Justus was appointed to the new see of Rochester, and Paulinus became the Metropolitan of York.

Aethelberht, as Bretwalda, allowed his wider territory to be mapped out into dioceses, and exerted himself in Augustine's behalf to bring about a meeting with the Celtic bishops of Southern Britain. The conference took place in Malmesbury, on the borders of Wessex, not far from the Severn, at a spot long described in popular legend as Austin's Oak. (Bede, H.E., II, ii.) Nothing came of this attempt to introduce ecclesiastical uniformity. Augustine seems to have been willing enough to yield certain points; but on three important issues he would not compromise. He insisted on an unconditional surrender on the Easter controversy; on the mode of administering the Sacrament of Baptism; and on the duty of taking active measures in concert with him for the evangelization of the Saxon conquerors. The Celtic bishops refused to yield, and the meeting was broken up. A second conference was afterwards planned at which only seven of the British bishops convened. They were accompanied this time by a group of their "most learned men" headed by Dinoth, the abbot of the celebrated monastery of Bangor-is-coed. The result was, if anything, more discouraging than before. Accusations of unworthy motives were freely bandied on both sides. Augustine's Roman regard for form, together with his punctiliousness for personal precedence as Pope Gregory's representative, gave umbrage to the Celts. They denounced the Archbishop for his pride, and retired behind their mountains. As they were on the point of withdrawing, they heard the only angry threat that is recorded of the saint: "If ye will not have peace with the brethren, ye shall have war from your enemies; and if ye will not preach the way of life to the English, ye shall suffer the punishment of death at their hands". Popular imagination, some ten years afterwards, saw a terrible fulfilment of the prophecy in the butchery of the Bangor monks at the hands of Aethelfrid the Destroyer in the great battle won by him at Chester in 613.

These efforts toward Catholic unity with the Celtic bishops and the constitution of a well-defined hierarchy for the Saxon Church are the last recorded acts of the saint's life. His death fell in the same year says a very early tradition (which can be traced back to Archbishop Theodore's time) as that of his beloved father and patron, Pope Gregory.... He was buried, in true Roman fashion, outside the walls of the Kentish capital in a grave dug by the side of the great Roman road which then ran from Deal to Canterbury over St. Martin's Hill and near the unfinished abbey church which he had begun in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul and which was afterwards to be dedicated to his memory. When the monastery was completed, his relics were translated to a tomb prepared for them in the north porch.


SAINT BENEDICT
Abbot & Patriarch of the Western Monks - AD c.547 (July 11)

Founder of western monasticism, born at Nursia, c. 480; died at Monte Cassino, 543. The only authentic life of Benedict of Nursia is that contained in the second book of St. Gregory's "Dialogues". It is rather a character sketch than a biography and consists, for the most part, of a number of miraculous incidents, which, although they illustrate the life of the saint, give little help towards a chronological account of his career. St. Gregory's authorities for all that he relates were the saint's own disciples, viz. Constantinus, who succeeded him as Abbot of Monte Cassino; and Honoratus, who was Abbot of Subiaco when St. Gregory wrote his "Dialogues".

Benedict was the son of a Roman noble of Nursia, a small town near Spoleto, and a tradition, which St. Bede accepts, makes him a twin with his sister Scholastica. His boyhood was spent in Rome, where he lived with his parents and attended the schools until he had reached his higher studies. Then "giving over his books, and forsaking his father's house and wealth, with a mind only to serve God, he sought for some place where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose; and in this sort he departed [from Rome], instructed with learned ignorance and furnished with unlearned wisdom" (Dial. St. Greg., II, Introd. in Migne, P.L. LXVI). There is much difference of opinion as to Benedict's age at the time. It has been very generally stated as fourteen, but a careful examination of St. Gregory's narrative makes it impossible to suppose him younger than nineteen or twenty. He was old enough to be in the midst of his literary studies, to understand the real meaning and worth of the dissolute and licentious lives of his companions, and to have been deeply affected himself by the love of a woman (Ibid. II, 2). He was capable of weighing all these things in comparison with the life taught in the Gospels, and chose the latter, He was at the beginning of life, and he had at his disposal the means to a career as a Roman noble; clearly he was not a child, As St. Gregory expresses it, "he was in the world and was free to enjoy the advantages which the world offers, but drew back his foot which he had, as it were, already set forth in the world" (ibid., Introd.). If we accept the date 480 for his birth, we may fix the date of his abandoning the schools and quitting home at about A.D. 500.

Benedict does not seem to have left Rome for the purpose of becoming a hermit, but only to find some place away from the life of the great city; moreover, he took his old nurse with him as a servant and they settled down to live in Enfide, near a church dedicated to St. Peter, in some kind of association with "a company of virtuous men" who were in sympathy with his feelings and his views of life. Enfide, which the tradition of Subiaco identifies with the modern Affile, is in the Simbrucini mountains, about forty miles from Rome and two from Subiaco. It stands on the crest of a ridge which rises rapidly from the valley to the higher range of mountains, and seen from the lower ground the village has the appearance of a fortress. As St. Gregory's account indicates, and as is confirmed by the remains of the old town and by the inscriptions found in the neighbourhood, Enfide was a place of greater importance than is the present town. At Enfide Benedict worked his first miracle by restoring to perfect condition an earthenware wheat-sifter (capisterium) which his old servant had accidentally broken. The notoriety which this miracle brought upon Benedict drove him to escape still farther from social life, and "he fled secretly from his nurse and sought the more retired district of Subiaco". His purpose of life had also been modified. He had fled Rome to escape the evils of a great city; he now determined to be poor and to live by his own work. "For God's sake he deliberately chose the hardships of life and the weariness of labour" (ibid., 1).

A short distance from Enfide is the entrance to a narrow, gloomy valley, penetrating the mountains and leading directly to Subiaco. Crossing the Anio and turning to the right, the path rises along the left face oft the ravine and soon reaches the site of Nero's villa and of the huge mole which formed the lower end of the middle lake; across the valley were ruins of the Roman baths, of which a few great arches and detached masses of wall still stand. Rising from the mole upon twenty five low arches, the foundations of which can even yet be traced, was the bridge from the villa to the baths, under which the waters of the middle lake poured in a wide fall into the lake below. The ruins of these vast buildings and the wide sheet of falling water closed up the entrance of the valley to St. Benedict as he came from Enfide; to-day the narrow valley lies open before us, closed only by the far off mountains. The path continues to ascend, and the side of the ravine, on which it runs, becomes steeper, until we reach a cave above which the mountain now rises almost perpendicularly; while on the right hand it strikes in a rapid descent down to where, in St. Benedict's day, five hundred feet below, lay the blue waters of the lake. The cave has a large triangular-shaped opening and is about ten feet deep. On his way from Enfide, Benedict met a monk, Romanus, whose monastery was on the mountain above the cliff overhanging the cave. Romanus had discussed with Benedict the purpose which had brought him to Subiaco, and had given him the monk's habit. By his advice Benedict became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake. St. Gregory tells us little of these years, He now speaks of Benedict no longer as a youth (puer), but as a man (vir) of God. Romanus, he twice tells us, served the saint in every way he could. The monk apparently visited him frequently, and on fixed days brought him food.

During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, he matured both in mind and character, in knowledge of himself and of his fellow-man, and at the same time he became not merely known to, but secured the respect of, those about him; so much so that on the death of the abbot of a monastery in the neighbourhood (identified by some with Vicovaro), the community came to him and begged him to become its abbot. Benedict was acquainted with the life and discipline of the monastery, and knew that "their manners were diverse from his and therefore that they would never agree together: yet, at length, overcome with their entreaty, he gave his consent" (ibid., 3). The experiment failed; the monks tried to poison him, and he returned to his cave. From this time his miracles seen to have become frequent, and many people, attracted by his sanctity and character, came to Subiaco to be under his guidance. For them he built in the valley twelve monasteries, in each of which he placed a superior with twelve monks. In a thirteenth he lived with "a few, such as he thought would more profit and be better instructed by his own presence" (ibid., 3). He remained, however, the father or abbot of all. With the establishment of these monasteries began the schools for children; and amongst the first to be brought were Maurus and Placid.

The remainder of St. Benedict's life was spent in realizing the ideal of monasticism which he has left us drawn out in his Rule, and before we follow the slight chronological story given by St. Gregory, it will be better to examine the ideal, which, as St. Gregory says, is St. Benedict's real biography (ibid., 36). We will deal here with the Rule only so far as it is an element in St. Benedict's life.

THE BENEDICTINE RULE

1. Before studying St. Benedict's Rule it is necessary to point out that it is written for laymen, not for clerics. The saint's purpose was not to institute an order of clerics with clerical duties and offices, but an organization and a set of rules for the domestic life of such laymen as wished to live as fully as possible the type of life presented in the Gospel. "My words", he says, "are addressed to thee, whoever thou art, that, renouncing thine own will, dost put on the strong and bright armour of obedience in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King." (Prol. to Rule.) Later, the Church imposed the clerical state upon Benedictines, and with the state came a preponderance of clerical and sacerdotal duties, but the impress of the lay origin of the Benedictines has remained, and is perhaps the source of some of the characteristics which mark them off from later orders.

2. Another characteristic feature of the saint's Rule is its view of work. His so-called order was not established to carry on any particular work or to meet any special special crisis in the Church, as has been the case with other orders. With Benedict the work of his monks was only a means to goodness of life. The great disciplinary force for human nature is work; idleness is its ruin. The purpose of his Rule was to bring men "back to God by the labour of obedience, from whom they had departed by the idleness of disobedience". Work was the first condition of all growth in goodness. It was in order that his own life might be "wearied with labours for God's sake" that St. Benedict left Enfide for the cave at Subiaco. It is necessary, comments St. Gregory, that God's elect should at the beginning, when life and temptations are strong are strong in them, "be wearied with labour and pains". In the regeneration of human nature in the order of discipline, even prayer comes after work, for grace meets with no co-operation in the soul and heart of an idler. When the Goth "gave over the world" and went to Subiaco, St. Benedict gave him a bill-hook and set him to clear away briars for the making of a garden. "Ecce! labora!" go and work. Work is not, as the civilization of the time taught, the condition peculiar to slaves; it is the universal lot of man, necessary for his well-being as a man, and essential for him as a Christian.

3. The religious life, as conceived by St. Benedict is essentially social. Life apart from one's fellows, the life of a hermit, if it is to be wholesome and sane, is possible only for a few, and these few must have reached an advanced stage of self-discipline while living with others (Rule, 1). The Rule, therefore, is entirely occupied with regulating the life of a community of men who live and work and pray and eat together, and this is not merely for a course of training, but as a permanent element of life at its best. The Rule conceives the superiors as always present and in constant touch with every member of the government, which is best described as patriarchal, or paternal (ibid., 2, 3, 64). The superior is the head of a family; all are the permanent members of a household. Hence, too, much of the spiritual teaching of the Rule is concealed under legislation which seems purely social and domestic organization (ibid. 22-23, 35-41). So intimately connected with domestic life is the whole framework and teaching of the Rule that a Benedictine may be more truly said to enter or join a particular household than to join an order. The social character of Benedictine life has found expression in a fixed type for monasteries and in the kind of works which Benedictines undertake, and it is secured by an absolute communism in possessions (ibid. 33, 34, 54, 55), by the rigorous suppression of all differences of worldly rank - "no one of noble birth may [for that reason] be put before him that was formerly a slave" (ibid. 2). and by the enforced presence of everyone at the routine duties of the household.

4. Although private ownership is most strictly forbidden by the Rule, it was no part of St. Benedict's conception of monastic life that his monks, as a body, should strip themselves of all wealth and live upon the alms of the charitable; rather his purpose was to restrict the requirements of the individual to what was necessary and simple, and to secure that the use and administration of the corporate possessions should be in strict accord with the teaching of the Gospel. The Benedictine ideal of poverty is quite different from the Franciscan. The Benedictine takes no explicit vow of poverty; he only vows obedience according to the Rule. The rule allows all that is necessary to each individual, together with sufficient and varied clothing, abundant food (excluding only the flesh of quadrupeds), wine and ample sleep (ibid., 39, 40, 41, 55). Possessions could be held in common, they might be large, but they were to be administered for the furtherance of the work of the community and for the benefit of others. While the individual monk was poor, the monastery was to be in a position to give alms, not to be compelled to seek them. It was to relieve the poor, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to bury the dead, to help the afflicted (ibid., 4), to entertain all strangers (ibid., 3). The poor came to Benedict to get help to pay their debts (Dial. St. Greg., 27); they came for food (ibid., 21, 28).

5. St. Benedict originated a form of government which is deserving of study. It is contained in chapters 2, 3, 31, 64, 65 of the Rule and in certain pregnant phrases scattered through other chapters. As with the Rule itself, so also his scheme of government is intended not for an order but for a single community. He presupposes that the community have bound themselves, by their promise of stability, to spend their lives together under the Rule. The superior is then elected by a free and universal suffrage. The government may be described as a monarchy, with the Rule as its constitution. Within the four corners of the Rule everything is left to the discretion of the abbot, the abuse of whose authority is checked by religion (Rule, 2), by open debate with the community on all important matters, and with its representative elders in smaller concerns (ibid., 3). The reality of these checks upon the wilfulness of the ruler can be appreciated only when it is remembered that ruler and community were bound together for life, that all were inspired by the single purpose of carrying out the conception of life taught in the Gospel, and that the relation of the members of the community to one another and to the abbot, and of the abbot to them, were elevated and spiritualized by a mysticism which set before itself the acceptance of the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as real and work-a-day truths.

6. (a) When a Christian household, a community, has been organized by the willing acceptance of its social duties and responsibilities, by obedience to an authority, and, further, is under the continuous discipline of work and self-denial, the next step in the regeneration of its members in their return to God is prayer. The Rule deals directly and explicitly only with public prayer. For this Benedict assigns the Psalms and Canticles, with readings from the Scriptures and Fathers. He devotes eleven chapters out of the seventy-three of his Rule to regulating this public prayer, and it is characteristic of the freedom of his Rule and of the "moderation" of the saint, that he concludes his very careful directions by saying that if any superior does not like his arrangement he is free to make another; this only he says he will insist on, that the whole Psalter will be said in the course of a week. The practice of the holy Fathers, he adds, was resolutely "to say in a single day what I pray we tepid monks may get through in a whole week" (ibid., 18). On the other hand, he checks indiscreet zeal by laying down the general rule "that prayer made in common must always be short" (ibid., 20). It is very difficult to reduce St. Benedict's teaching on prayer to a system, for this reason, that in his conception of the Christian character, prayer is coexistent with the whole life, and life is not complete at any point unless penetrated by prayer. .

(b) The form of prayer which thus covers the whole of our waking hours, St. Benedict calls the first degree of humility. It consists in realizing the presence of God (ibid., 7). The first step begins when the spiritual is joined to the merely human, or, as the saint expresses it, it is the first step in a ladder, the rungs of which rest at one end in the body and at the other in the soul. The ability to exercise this form of prayer is fostered by that care of the "heart" on which the saint so often insists; and the heart is saved from the dissipation that would result from social intercourse by the habit of mind which sees in everyone Christ Himself. "Let the sick be served in very deed as Christ Himself" (ibid., 36). "Let all guests that come be received as Christ" (ibid., 53). "Whether we be slaves or freemen, we are all one in Christ and bear an equal rank in the service of Our Lord" (ibid., 2).

(c) Secondly, there is public prayer. This is short and is to be said at intervals, at night and at seven distinct hours during the day, so that, when possible, there shall be no great interval without a call to formal, vocal, prayer (ibid., 16). The position which St. Benedict gave to public, common prayer can best be described by saying that he established it as the centre of the common life to which he bound his monks. It was the consecration, not only of the individual, but of the whole community to God by the oft-repeated daily public acts of faith. and of praise and adoration of the Creator; and this public worship of God, the opus Dei, was to form the chief work of his monks, and to be the source from which all other works took their inspiration, their direction, and their strength.

(d) Lastly, there is private prayer, for which the saint does not legislate. It follows individual gifts - "If anyone wishes to pray in private, let him go quietly into the oratory and pray, not with a loud voice, but with tears and fervour of heart" (ibid., 52). "Our prayer ought to be short and with purity of heart, except it be perchance prolonged by the inspiration of divine grace" (ibid., 20). But if St. Benedict gives no further directions on private prayer, it is because the whole condition and mode of life secured by the Rule, and the character formed by its observance, lead naturally to the higher states of prayer. As the Saint writes: "Whoever, therefore, thou art that hastenest to thy heavenly country, fulfil by the help of Christ this little Rule which we have written for beginners; and then at length thou shalt arrive, under God's protection, at the lofty summits of doctrine and virtue of which we have spoken above" (ibid., 73). for guidance in these higher states the Saint refers to the Fathers, Basil and Cassian.

From this short examination of the Rule and its system of prayer, it will be obvious that to describe the Benedictine as a contemplative order is misleading, if the word is used in its modern technical sense as excluding active work; the "contemplative" is a form of life framed for different circumstances and with a different object from St. Benedict's. The Rule, including its system of prayer and public psalmody, is meant for every class of mind and every degree of learning. It is framed not only for the educated and for souls advanced in perfection, but it organizes and directs a complete life which is adapted for simple folk and for sinners, for the observance of the Commandments and for the beginnings of goodness. "We have written this Rule", writes St. Benedict, "that by observing it in monasteries, we may shew ourselves to have some degree of goodness in life and a beginning of holiness. But for him who would hasten to the perfection of religion, there are the teachings of the holy Fathers, the following whereof bringeth a man to the height of perfection" (ibid., 73). Before leaving the subject of prayer it will be well to point out again that by ordering the public recitation and singing of the Psalter, St. Benedict was not putting upon his monks a distinctly clerical obligation. The Psalter was the common form of prayer of all Christians; we must not read into his Rule characteristics which a later age and discipline have made inseparable from the public recitation of the Divine Office.

We can now take up again the story of Benedict's life. How long he remained at Subiaco we do not know. Abbot Tosti conjectures it was until the year 529. Of these years St. Gregory is content to tell no more than a few stories descriptive of the life of the monks, and of the character and government of St. Benedict. The latter was making his first attempt to realize in these twelve monasteries his conception of the monastic life. We can fill in many of the details from the Rule. By his own experiment and his knowledge of the history of monasticism the saint had learnt that the regeneration of the individual, except in abnormal cases, is not reached by the path of solitude, nor by that of austerity, but by the beaten path of man's social instinct, with its necessary conditions of obedience and work; and that neither the body nor the mind can be safely overstrained in the effort to avoid evil (ibid., 64). Thus, at Subiaco we find no solitaries, no conventual hermits, no great austerities, but men living together in organized communities for the purpose of leading good lives, doing such work as came to their hand - carrying water up the steep mountain-side, doing the other household work, raising the twelve cloisters, clearing the ground, making gardens, teaching children, preaching to the country people, reading and studying at least four hours a day, receiving strangers, accepting and training new-comers, attending the regular hours of prayer, reciting and chanting the Psalter. The life at Subiaco and the character of St. Benedict attracted many to the new monasteries, and their increasing numbers and growing influence came the inevitable jealousy and persecution, which culminated with a vile attempt of a neighboring priest to scandalize the monks by an exhibition of naked women, dancing in the courtyard of the saint's monastery (Dial. St. Greg., 8). To save his followers from further persecution Benedict left Subiaco and went to Monte Cassino.

Upon the crest of Monte Cassino "there was an ancient chapel in which the foolish and simple country people, according to the custom of the old Gentiles, worshipped the god Apollo. Round about it likewise upon all sides there were woods for the service of devils, in which, even to that very time, the mad multitude of infidels did offer most wicked sacrifice. The man of God, coming hither,, feat in pieces the idol, overthrew the altar, set fire on the woods and in the temple of Apollo built the oratory of St. Martin: and where the altar of the same Apollo was, he made an oratory of St. John: and by his continual preaching he brought the people dwelling in those parts to embrace the faith of Christ" (ibid., 8). On this spot the saint built his monastery. His experience at Subiaco had led him to alter his plans, and now, instead of building several houses with a small community in each, he kept all his monks in one monastery and provided for its government by appointing a prior and deans (Rule, 65, 21). We find no trace in his Rule, which was most probably written at Monte Cassino, of the view which guided him when he built the twelve small monasteries at Subiaco. The life which we have witnessed at Subiaco was renewed at Subiaco was renewed at Monte Cassino, but the change in the situation and local conditions brought a corresponding modification in the work undertaken by the monks. Subiaco was a retired valley away in the mountains and difficult of access; Cassino was on one of the great highways to the south of Italy, and at no great distance from Capua. This brought the monastery into more frequent communication with the outside world. It soon became a centre of influence in a district in which there was a large population, with several dioceses and other monasteries. Abbots came to see and advise with Benedict. Men of all classes were frequent visitors, and he numbered nobles and bishops among his intimate friends. There were nuns in the neighbourhood whom the monks went to preach to and to teach. There was a village nearby in which St. Benedict preached and made many converts (Dial. St. Greg., 19). The monastery became the protector of the poor, their trustee (ibid., 31). their refuge in sickness, in trial, in accidents, in want.

Thus during the life of the saint we find what has ever since remained a characteristic feature of Benedictine houses, i.e. the members take up any work which is adapted to their peculiar circumstances, any work which may be dictated by their necessities. Thus we find the Benedictines teaching in poor schools and in the universities, practising the arts and following agriculture, undertaking the care of souls, or devoting themselves wholly to study. No work is foreign to the Benedictine, provided only it is compatible with living in community and with the performance of the Divine Office. This freedom in the choice of work was necessary in a Rule which was to be suited to all times and places, but it was primarily the natural result of the which St. Benedict had in view, and which he differs from the founders of later orders. These later had in view some special work to which they wished their disciples to devote themselves; St. Benedict's purpose was only to provide a Rule by which anyone might follow the Gospel counsels, and live, and work and pray, and save his soul. ST Gregory's narrative of the establishment of Monte Cassino does little more for us than to supply disconnected incidents which illustrate the daily life of the monastery. We gain only a few biographical facts. From Monte Cassino St. Benedict founded another monastery near Terracina, on the coast, about forty miles distant (ibid., 22). To the wisdom of long experience and to the mature virtues of the saint, was now added the gift of prophecy, of which St. Gregory gives many examples. Celebrated among these is the story of the visit of Totila, King of the Goths, in the year 543, when the saint "rebuked him for his wicked deeds, and in a few words told him all that should befall him, saying 'Much wickedness do you daily commit, and many sins have you done: now at length give over your sinful life. Into the city of Rome shall you enter, and over the sea shall you pass: nine years shall you reign, and in the tenth shall you leave this mortal life.' The king, hearing these things, was wonderfully afraid, and desiring the holy man to commend him to God in his prayers he departed: and from that time forward he was nothing so cruel as before he had been. Not long after he went to Rome, sailed over into Sicily, and in the tenth year of his reign he lost his kingdom together with his life." (ibid., 15).

Totila's visit to Monte Cassino in 543 is the only certain date we have in the saint's life. It must have occurred when Benedict was advanced in age. Abbot Tosti, following others, puts the saint's death in the same year. Just before his death we hear for the first time of his sister Scholastica. "She had been dedicated from her infancy to Our Lord, and used to come once a year to visit her brother. To whom the man of God went not far from the gate to a place that did belong to the abbey, there to give her entertainment" (ibid., 33). They met for the last time three days before Scholastica's death, on a day "when the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen". The sister begged her brother to stay the night, "but by no persuasion would he agree unto that, saying that he might not by any means tarry all night out of his abbey.... The nun receiving this denial of her brother, joining her hands together, laid them on the table; and so bowing her head upon them, she made her prayers to Almighty God, and lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightening and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Bennet, nor the monks that were with him, could put their head out of door" (ibid., 33). Three days later, "Benedict beheld the soul of his sister, which was departed from her body, in the likeness of a dove, to ascend into heaven: who rejoicing much to see her great glory, with hymns and lauds gave thanks to Almighty God, and did impart news of this her death to his monks whom also he sent presently to bring her corpse to his abbey, to have it buried in that grave which he had provided for himself" (ibid., 34).

It would seem to have been about this time that St. Benedict had that wonderful vision in which he came as near to seeing God as is possible for man in this life. St. Gregory and St. Bonaventure say that Benedict saw God and in that vision of God saw the whole world. St. Thomas will not allow that this could have been. Urban VIII, however, does not hesitate to say that "the saint merited while still in this mortal life, to see God Himself and in God all that is below him". If he did not see the Creator, he saw the light which is in the Creator, and in that light, as St. Gregory says, "saw the whole world gathered together as it were under on beam of the sun. At the same time he saw the soul of Germanus, Bishop of Capua, in a fiery globe carried up by the angels to Heaven" (ibid., 35). Once more the hidden things of God were shown to him, and he warned his brethren, both "those that lived daily with him and those that dwelt far off" of his approaching death. "Six days before he left this world he gave orders to have his sepulchre opened, and forthwith falling into an ague, he began with burning heat to wax faint; and when as the sickness daily increased, upon the sixth day he commanded his monks to carry him into the oratory, where he did arm himself receiving the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ; and having his weak body holden up betwixt the hands of his disciples, he stood with his own hands lifted up to heaven; and as he was in that manner praying, he gave up the ghost" (ibid., 37). He was buried in the same grave with his sister "in the oratory of St. John the Baptist, which [he] himself had built when he overthrew the altar of Apollo" (ibid.). There is some doubt whether the relics of the saint are still at Monte Cassino, or whether they were moved in the seventh century to Fleury. Abbot Tosti in his life of St. Benedict, discusses the question at length (chap. xi) and decides the controversy in favour of Monte Cassino.

Perhaps the most striking characteristics in St. Benedict are his deep and wide human feeling and his moderation. The former reveals itself in the many anecdotes recorded by St. Gregory. We see it in his sympathy and care for the simplest of his monks; his hastening to the help of the poor Goth who had lot his bill-hook; spending the hours of the night in prayer on the mountain to save his monks the labour of carrying water, and to remove from their lives a "just cause of grumbling"; staying three days in a monastery to help to induce one of the monks to "remain quietly at his prayers as the other monks did", instead of going forth from the chapel and wandering about "busying himself worldly and transitory things". He lets the crow from the neighboring woods come daily when all are at dinner to be fed by himself. His mind is always with those who are absent; sitting in his cell he knows that Placid is fallen into the lake; he foresees the accident to the builders and sends a warning to them; in spirit and some kind of real presence he is with the monks "eating and refreshing themselves" on their journey, with his friend Valentinian on his way to the monastery, with the monk taking a present from the nuns, with the new community in Terracina. Throughout St. Gregory's narrative he is always the same quiet, gentle, dignified, strong, peace-loving man who by the subtle power of sympathy becomes the centre of the lives and interests of all about him. We see him with his monks in the church, at their reading, sometimes in the fields, but more commonly in his cell, where frequent messengers find him "weeping silently in his prayers", and in the night hours standing at "the window of his cell in the tower, offering up his prayers to God"; and often, as Totila found him, sitting outside the door of his cell, or "before the gate of the monastery reading a book". He has given his own portrait in his ideal picture of an abbot (Rule, 64):

It beseemeth the abbot to be ever doing some good for his brethren rather than to be presiding over them. He must, therefore, be learned in the law of God, that he may know whence to bring forth things new and old; he must be chaste, sober, and merciful, ever preferring mercy to justice, that he himself may obtain mercy. Let him hate sin and love the brethren. And even in his corrections, let him act with prudence, and not go too far, lest while he seeketh too eagerly to scrape off the rust, the vessel be broken. Let him keep his own frailty ever before his eyes, and remember that the bruised reed must not be broken. And by this we do not mean that he should suffer vices to grow up; but that prudently and with charity he should cut them off, in the way he shall see best for each, as we have already said; and let him study rather to be loved than feared. Let him not be violent nor over anxious, not exacting nor obstinate, not jealous nor prone to suspicion, or else he will never be at rest. In all his commands, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be prudent and considerate. In the works which he imposeth let him be discreet and moderate, bearing in mind the discretion of holy Jacob, when he said: 'If I cause my flocks to be overdriven, they will all perish in one day'. Taking, then, such testimonies as are borne by these and the like words to discretion, the mother of virtues, let him so temper all things, that the strong may have something to strive after, and the weak nothing at which to take alarm.


SAINT BERNADETTE SOUBIROUS
Virgin, Patroness of Lourdes - AD 1879 (February 11)

Bernadette's canonization in 1933 was the culmination of a process which had been started nearly three-quarters of a century earlier: she is, therefore, a saint of modern times, and the remarkable facts of her life are readily accessible to all. Her story even challenges the interest of those who do not share the Catholic faith. Christianity had its beginnings among humble people without influence or riches, such as Bernadette. Perhaps it is a natural human instinct to rejoice when the lowly are lifted up to the heights, and especially when a child, neglected and untaught, is chosen for special grace and favor, thus becoming an instrument for good.

Born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, Bernadette was the first child of Francois and Louise Soubirous. At the time of her birth, Francois was a miller, operating a mill which had belonged to his wife's people. He was a good-natured, easy-going man, with little ability for carrying on a business, and before many years the mill had been forfeited for debt. During most of Bernadette's childhood he was an odd job man, picking up a day's work as opportunity offered, and, from time to time, escaping from his problems and responsibilities by turning to the delusive comfort of alcohol. His wife and children, naturally, were the chief sufferers from his ineffectualness. Louise, whose family was of somewhat better economic status than her husband's, was a hard worker, a warm-hearted neighbor, and exemplary in her observance of Catholic rites. Within a short space of years many children were born to her, only five of whom survived infancy. After Bernadette, there was another girl, Toinette Marie, and three boys. To help feed and clothe them it was often necessary for their harassed mother to go out to work by the day, doing laundry and other rough tasks for the more prosperous citizens, and, on one occasion, at least, helping to harvest a crop of grain. A peasant woman of the region has told of seeing little Bernadette, then about twelve, carrying the youngest baby to Louise in the field, to be nursed during the noon-day rest period. As a child, Bernadette not only did more than might be expected in caring for the smaller children, but helped in their moral and religious training as well.

Bernadette was never strong, and from the age of six she showed symptoms of the respiratory ailment that later became a chronic affliction. It is not clear at this early stage whether she suffered from asthma or tuberculosis, but we know that her mother was anxious about her health and made an effort to provide special food for her. When Bernadette was thirteen she was sent to the neighboring mountain hamlet of Bartres, to the home of one Marie Arevant, her foster mother. It was here that Bernadette had been taken for a few months when she was still an infant, to be nursed by Madame Arevant, who had just lost a baby. The woman now had a large family and little Bernadette made herself useful in the house and in the fields. One of her duties was to tend a small flock of sheep that grazed on a hillside nearby; it is this brief phase of her girlhood that has inspired artists to picture her as a shepherdess. Her life was a lonely one, and we get the impression that she was overworked and homesick while she remained in this peasant home. At all events she sent word to her parents that she wished to leave Bartres. One thing seemed especially to disturb her at this time; although she was now fourteen, she had not made her First Communion. Her foster mother had tried half-heartedly to prepare her, but after one or two sessions had impatiently given it up, saying that Bernadette was too dull to learn.

When Bernadette went back to Lourdes, it made her very happy to be admitted to the day school conducted by the Sisters of Charity and Christian Instruction. This was a teaching and nursing order whose mother-house is at Nevers, in central France. A hospice, a day school, and a boarding school were maintained at Lourdes by these devout nuns, who were, as a group, unusually well trained. Thus Bernadette at last began her secular education, and, under Abbe Pomian, continued to prepare for First Communion. She was also learning a little French, for up to this time she spoke only the local dialect. The nuns discovered that beneath a quiet, modest exterior, Bernadette had a winning personality and a lively sense of humor. This might have been a happy and constructive time for the little girl had it not been for the ever-increasing shadows of poverty at home.

After moving from one poor location to another, the Soubirous family was now living in a single room of a dilapidated structure in the rue des Petits Fosses; this damp, unwholesome place had once served as a jail and was known as Le Cachot, the Dungeon. Above loomed an ancient fortress, and the narrow cobbled street had once been a part of the moat. The town of Lourdes, itself very old, is situated in one of the most picturesque parts of France, lying in the extreme southwest, near the Spanish frontier, where the Pyrenees mountains rise sharply above the plains. From the craggy, wooded heights, several valleys descend to converge at this site, and the little river Gave rushes through the town, its turbulent current turning the wheels of many mills. There are escarpments of rock in and around Lourdes, the most famous being the Massabeille, a great mound jutting out from the base of a plateau. On the side facing the river it had an arch-shaped opening which led into a sizeable grotto-a grotto that was soon destined to become famous in every part of the world. At this time the Massabeille had, if not exactly an aura of evil, a touch of the sinister. According to legend, it had been sacred to the pagans of prehistoric times; now it served as a shelter for fishermen or herdsmen caught by sudden storms.

It was very cold on February 11, 1858, the day that was to mark the beginning of such an extraordinary series of events at the rock of Massabeille. When Bernadette returned from school her mother gave her permission to go down by the river to pick up driftwood and fallen branches. Toinette Marie, aged nine, and Marie Abadie, aged twelve, a neighbor's child, went with her. When the three girls reached the Massabeille, the two younger ones took off their wooden shoes to wade across an icy mill-stream which here joined the river. Bernadette, more sensitive, hung behind. Standing alone beside the river, she had started to remove her stockings when she heard a noise like a sudden rush of wind. Looking up towards the grotto she saw some movement among the branches, then there floated out of the opening a golden cloud, and in the midst of it was the figure of a beautiful young girl who placed herself in a small niche in the rock, at one side of the opening and slightly above it. In the crannies around this niche grew stunted vines and shrubs, and in particular a white eglantine. Bernadette, staring in fascination, saw that the luminous apparition was dressed in a soft white robe, with a broad girdle of blue, and a long white veil that partially covered her hair. Her eyes were blue and gentle. Golden roses gleamed on her bare feet. When the vision smiled and beckoned to Bernadette, the girl's fear vanished and she came a few steps nearer, then sank reverently to her knees. She drew her rosary from her pocket, for, in moments of stress, she habitually said her beads. The mysterious being also had a rosary, of large white beads, and to quote Bernadette's own account: "The Lady let me pray alone; she passed the beads of the rosary between her fingers, but said nothing; only at the end of each decade did she say the Gloria with me." When the recitation was finished, the Lady vanished into the cave and the golden mist disappeared with her. This experience affected Bernadette so powerfully that, when the other girls turned back to look for her, she was still kneeling, a rapt, faraway look on her face. They chided her, thinking she had passed the time praying to escape the task of gathering fuel. Tying up their twigs and branches into faggots, they started for home. Too full of her vision to keep quiet about it, before they had gone far Bernadette burst out with the whole wondrous story; she asked the girls to say nothing at home. But Toinette told Madame Soubirous that same evening, and soon the news spread further. Bernadette wished to go back to the Massabeille the next day, but her mother, after talking the matter over with a sister, refused her permission.

Bernadette now showed the independence of spirit-some were to characterize it as obstinacy-that became one of her outstanding traits. When she told her confessor of the apparition, Abbe Pomian made light of it, thinking the girl suffered from hallucinations. Nevertheless, on the following Sunday Bernadette asked if she might go to the grotto and her father told her she might go if she took a flask of holy water with her, to exorcise the apparition should it prove to be a demon. Bernadette, advancing ahead of several little friends who accompanied her, knelt before the grotto and soon the vision appeared as before. On their return the excited girls, although they had seen nothing, naturally began to tell their versions of the affair, and soon the town buzzed with varying reports and rumors. On the next market day the peasants heard of these strange happenings. The story reached the Mother Superior of the convent, who took a firm stand: she announced to the class preparing for Communion, comprising Bernadette's friends and companions for the most part, that they must stop talking and thinking of this matter. Bernadette's teacher, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, was even hostile.

The apparition was manifest to Bernadette for the third time on Thursday, February 18, when she went to the grotto accompanied by two women of Lourdes who thought the "damiezelo," as Bernadette called her, was the returning spirit of a young woman, one of their dear friends, who had died a few months before. On this occasion the same little figure appeared to Bernadette, smiled warmly, and spoke, asking Bernadette to come every day for fifteen days. Bernadette promised to come, provided she was given permission to do so. Since neither her god-mother, who was her mother's sister, nor the priest actually forbade it, Bernadette's parents offered no objection. On the following day her mother and aunt went with her, and on subsequent visits great crowds of people gathered on the Massabeille, or down by the river, hoping to see or hear something miraculous. During these two weeks the excitement increased to such a pitch that the civil authorities felt obliged to take action. The police were not content to threaten the Soubirous family; they must take Bernadette to the local police office for questioning and try to make her admit that it was all an elaborate hoax. Bernadette emerged from this and many another ordeal somewhat shaken but obdurate. The authorities continued to try to discredit her. They even gave currency to the report that the whole thing had been thought up by Bernadette's poverty-stricken parents, so that they might derive some profit from it. Francois and Louise Soubirous, from being puzzled, worried, and uncertain at the outset, had now come to believe in the supernatural character of their daughter's experiences, and stood loyally by her. They did not dream of exploiting the affair in their own interest. As a matter of fact, pious, well-meaning people were bringing them gifts of money and food, sometimes asking for a token from Bernadette. These offerings were declined; even Bernadette's small brothers were cautioned to accept nothing. The girl herself was adamant in her determination to have no part in any kind of trafficking; the record of her complete honesty and disinterestedness is clear and unquestioned. However, she found the sudden notoriety unpleasant, and this sensitivity to being stared at and talked about and pointed out was to last throughout her life. People began to gather at the grotto in the middle of the night, awaiting her appearance. It was rumored that she had a miraculous, healing touch. Several cures were attributed to her.

On Sunday, February 21, a number of persons went with her to the grotto, including citizens who had been highly skeptical. On this occasion, Bernadette reported later, the apparition said to her: "You will pray to God for sinners." On February 26, while she was in the trance-like state which lasted as long as she saw the vision, Bernadette crawled inside the grotto, and, at the Lady's bidding, uncovered with her bare hands a little trickle of water from which she drank and with which she bathed her face, still at the Lady's direction. This tiny spring continued to well up and by the next day was flowing steadily down into the river: to this day it has never ceased to gush forth from the grotto. The people regarded its discovery by Bernadette as a miracle.

On March 2 Bernadette saw the apparition for the thirteenth time. It was on this day that the Lady bade Bernadette to tell the priests that "a chapel should be built and a procession formed." Bernadette had no thought but to obey, in spite of the open hostility of the cure of Lourdes. Dean Peyramale, an imposing man of excellent family and background, received Bernadette and reprimanded her harshly, asking her to inquire the name of her visitant, and to tell her she must perform a real miracle, such as making the eglantine bloom out of season, to prove herself. During the preceding weeks he had ordered the priests to have nothing to do with the grotto, for it was the general practice of the clergy to discourage or ignore religious visionaries. Very often such persons were ill-balanced or suffering from delusions. As a matter of fact, Bernadette's experiences were proving contagious, and before long many others, young and old, were claiming to have had supernatural visions at the grotto and elsewhere. Dean Peyramale's stand of determined opposition was based on the necessity of restoring order in the parish.

On March 25, Lady Day, Bernadette started for the grotto at dawn. When the vision appeared to her, Bernadette said: "Would you kindly tell me who you are?" When the girl had repeated the question twice more, the Lady replied: "I am the Immaculate Conception. I want a chapel here." This answer, when reported by Bernadette, caused the local excitement to rise to a still higher pitch and the feeling grew that Bernadette's visitor was the Blessed Virgin. Only four years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception had been promulgated. The seventeenth apparition took place on April 7, and the final one, more than three months later, on July 16. By that time, the grotto, which the people were trying to make into a sanctuary and place of worship, had been barricaded by the town authorities to discourage worshipers and curiosity-seekers from congregating there. During the twenty-one years that she was to remain on earth, Bernadette never again saw the vision. The accounts of what she had seen and heard, which she was obliged to repeat so often, never varied in any significant detail.

Meanwhile the news of the phenomenal happenings at Lourdes had reached the very highest ecclesiastical and government circles: the bishop, the prefect, even Emperor Napoleon III and his pious wife Eugenie, became actors in the drama. On October 5, the mayor of Lourdes, on orders from above, had the grotto reopened. It was thought that the empress herself had had a voice in this decision. At all events, it seemed to be the only appropriate response to the overwhelming demand of the people for a shrine Bernadette's visions, the new spring, and the cures that were being reported, all had taken a profound hold on the popular imagination.

Due to a lucky turn, Bernadette's family was now more comfortably situated, and, to escape visitors, Bernadette went to live at the convent. Even there, intrusions upon her privacy were allowed; these she bore as patiently as she could. While her fame not only continued but steadily grew, Bernadette herself withdrew more and more. At the age of twenty she decided to take the veil. Since the state of her health precluded the more ascetic orders, it was considered best for her to join the Sisters who had taught and sheltered her. At twenty-two, therefore, she traveled to the motherhouse of the convent. Her novitiate was full of trials and sorrows. Acting under the quite unfounded notion that Bernadette's visions and all the attendant publicity might have made the young woman vain or self-important, Sister Marie Therese Vauzous, now novice-mistress at Nevers, was very severe with her former pupil. Although she made life difficult for Bernadette, the little novice met all tests with perfect humility. She cheerfully performed the menial tasks assigned to her, at first in the convent kitchen, although this work must have taxed her strength. Later, when it was noted that her sympathetic manner made her a favorite with sick people, she was appointed assistant infirmarian. Her step and touch were light, and her very presence brought comfort. But during these years, Bernadette was suffering from the chronic disease which was slowly draining her life away. She was finally given work in the sacristy, where cleverness with the needle made her work admired and cherished. She displayed a real gift for design and color in embroidering the sacred vestments. To all tasks she brought a pure grace of spirit and an utter willingness to serve.

In September, 1878, Bernadette made her perpetual and final vows. Her strength was ebbing away, but even when she was confined to wheel chair or bed, she went on with the fine needlework. And now she had more time for prayer and meditation. There is little outward drama in the life of a nun, but in Bernadette's case there was steady activity, steady growth, in things of the spirit. She had been told by her vision that she would not attain happiness in this world. Her childhood had been sad, and maturity had brought no easing of the burden she must carry. During the last two years of life a tumor developed on one knee, which was followed by caries of the bone. She suffered excruciating pain. One day, when a Superior came to visit her and said, "What are you doing in bed, you lazy little thing?" Bernadette simply replied, "I am doing my stint. I must be a victim." She felt that such was the Divine plan for her.

The nuns, the novice mistress, and the Superior had all long since come to regard her as the vessel of Divine grace and to believe in the reality of those visitations of her youth. She still suffered from the curiosity of visiting strangers. Not only did nuns and priests come to Nevers but celebrities from Paris and other parts of France came to see for themselves the now famous Bernadette. Disliking publicity as she did, yet not wishing to remain isolated and aloof if a glimpse of her could help or inspire any other human soul, she met this test too-and sometimes with a native cleverness. Once a visitor stopped her as she was passing down a corridor and asked where she could get a glimpse of Sister Bernadette. The little nun said, "Just watch that doorway and presently you will see her go through." And she slipped away through the door. Such was the prestige her presence gave to the order that many young women now joined it.

On her death-bed, in a spasm of pain, Bernadette pressed the crucifix closer to her, and cried, "All this is good for Heaven!" That afternoon, as the nuns of the convent knelt round her bed to repeat the prayers for the dying, they heard her say in a low voice, "Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me! A poor sinner, a poor sinner-" She could not finish. The date was April 16, 1879. As soon as the news spread, people came streaming towards the convent, chanting, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" Bernadette's body was placed in a casket which was sealed, then buried near the chapel of St. Joseph in the convent grounds. When it was exhumed in 1908 by the commission formed to forward the examination of Bernadette's life and character, it was found to be intact and uncorrupted. In August, 1913, Pope Pius X conferred the title of Venerable upon her, and in June, 1925, the ceremony of beatification took place. Since then, her body, reposing in a handsome glass reliquary, lies in the convent chapel, guarded above by a statue of the Blessed Virgin, and by the nuns who keep vigil. In Rome, on December 8, 1933, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, amidst a brilliant setting and the fanfare of silver trumpets, Bernadette Soubirous was admitted to the company of saints. This little nun, humble, unlettered, honest, and obedient, is venerated by the great host of Catholic worshipers throughout the world. Tens of thousands of them journey annually to the glorious shrine at Lourdes.

The story of Lourdes as a pilgrimage place forms a strange contrast to Bernadette's retired life of prayer and service. Its growth from a sleepy country town to its present status as the most popular pilgrimage place in Christendom has been phenomenal. A railroad line from Pau was built, facilitating the influx of visitors who, from the very first year, were drawn to Lourdes. Dean Peyramale and his superior, the bishop of Pau, who at first had scoffed, came to believe most ardently; it was the aged dean who found the money for raising the great basilica to Our Lady, which was completed in 1876. Participating in the ceremony were thirty-five prelates, a cardinal, and three thousand priests. Sister Bernadette had no share in these rites. Another church at the base of the basilica was erected and consecrated in 1901. The entire district has been enhanced by architecture and landscaping to make it an impressive sanctuary, with a background of great natural beauty.

Of the cures at Lourdes it can be said that even non-believers have observed something here that medical science cannot explain. The commission of physicians, known as the Bureau of Constatations, who examine evidence and report on their findings, operate with great caution and circumspection. The alleged cure must be immediate and permanent to be regarded as a miracle. Medical records prior to the trip are studied, as well as the patient's subsequent medical history. The patient may himself be a witness, and it is most moving to hear the words, "I was sick and now I am well," which give such comfort and hope to others who are ailing. Only a few cures each year stand up against these rigid tests, but those few are enough. The thousands-the lame, the halt, the blind -continue to come, to be washed in the waters of the spring, to share in the processions, the singing, the prayers, the impressive rites, and breathe the pure air of faith. The Canticle of Bernadette hovers in that air, and even those well persons who go to Lourdes simply searching for a renewal of faith find themselves amply rewarded, for the spirit of the child Bernadette is still a potent inspiration.


SAINT BERNARD of CLAIRVAUX
Abbot, Doctor of the Church – AD 1153 (August 20)

Bernard, son of Tescelin Sorrel, and Aleth, daughter of the lord of Montbard, was born in the family castle of Fontaines, near Dijon, in Burgundy. His pious French mother offered all her seven children-six sons and one daughter-to God at birth and devoted herself to their upbringing. According to the standards of that day, they were very well educated, the sons learning Latin and verse-making even before being trained in the profession of arms. Bernard was sent to Chatillon-on-the-Seine, to study in a college of secular canons. At school he gave evidence of a strong intellect as well as of a genuinely religious nature. During this period the death of his mother, to whom he was deeply attached, threw him into a state of prolonged and acute depression.

When Bernard finished his schooling at nineteen or thereabouts, he had, in addition to the advantages of noble birth and natural talent, the sweetness of temper, wit, and personal charm that make for popularity. Subject to strong temptations of the flesh, he often considered giving up the world, and even forsaking the study of literature, which was one of his greatest pleasures. He felt attracted to the Benedictine monastery at Citeaux,[1] founded fifteen years before by Robert of Molesme, Alberic, and Stephen Harding. One day Bernard knelt in prayer in a wayside church, to ask God's guidance as to his future. On arising all doubt had vanished and he was resolved to follow the strict Cistercian way of life. His uncle, Gaudry, a valiant fighting man, and Bernard's younger brothers, Bartholomew and Andrew, declared they would accompany him, and an appeal was made to their eldest brother, Guy. He, however, had a wife and two children; but when his wife soon after entered a convent, he also joined them. Gerard, another brother, was a soldier, engrossed in his calling; still, after being wounded and taken prisoner, he also heard God's call, and on his release followed the others. Hugh of Macon was also won over, and others who had previously given no thought to the religious life. Such was Bernard's eloquence that within a few weeks he had succeeded in persuading thirty-one Burgundian nobles to go with him to Citeaux. Bernard and his brothers gathered to bid their father farewell and ask his blessing. Only one son was left behind, Nivard, the youngest, and as the party rode away, Guy called to him, "Farewell, little Nivard! You will have all our lands and estates for yourself." "Oh," answered the boy, "then you are taking Heaven and leaving me only the earth! The division is too unequal!" Such was the pervasive spiritual atmosphere of this age of faith.

When they at length arrived at Citeaux near Easter, 1112, there had been no new novices for several years, and Stephen Harding, the abbot, received them with open arms. Bernard, now twenty-two, wished to live hidden and forgotten, concerned only with God. From the start, he trained himself to obey the command he later gave to all postulants, "If you desire to live in this house, leave your body behind; only spirits can enter here." At the end of a year, he and his companions-all save one-made their profession and continued their cloistered life. When Bernard was unable to reap the grain as fast as the others, he was assigned to lighter work, but he prayed God to give him strength to use a scythe properly, and soon did as well as the best. He used to say, "Our fathers built their monasteries in damp, unwholesome places, so that monks might have the uncertainty of life more sharply before their eyes." The Cistercians had in fact chosen swampy, unproductive lands, but their diligence was rapidly transforming them into fertile fields, gardens, and pastures. In 1113 Stephen founded the monastery of La Ferte, and in 1114 that of Pontigny. The Count of Troyes offered a site on his great estates for a third new monastery Stephen, aware of Bernard's exceptional abilities, appointed him abbot, and ordered him to take twelve monks, including his own brothers, and found a house in the diocese of Langres, in Champagne. They settled in the Valley of Wormwood, which had once been a retreat for robbers. Here they cleared a piece of land, and, with the help of the people round about, built themselves a plain dwelling.

The land was poor and the monks lived through a period of extreme hardship. Their bread was of the coarsest barley; wild herbs or boiled beech leaves sometimes served as vegetables. Also, Bernard was at first so severe in his discipline that the monks, though obedient, began to be discouraged. Their apathy made him realize his fault, and as a penalty he condemned himself to a long silence. At length he was bidden by a vision to start preaching again. He now took care that food should be more plentiful, though it was still coarse and simple. The fame of the house and its holy abbot soon spread through that part of France. The number of monks grew to one hundred and thirty. The monastery was given the name of Clairvaux.

Bernard, a prey to many anxieties, suffered from stomach trouble, but he never complained or took advantage of an indulgence for the sick. In 1118 he became so ill that his life was in danger. One of the powerful ecclesiastics of the time, William of Champeaux, bishop of Chalons, recognized in the ailing abbot a predestined leader. He obtained from the Cistercian chapter held in that year at Citeaux the authority to govern him for twelve months as his superior. Knowing that Bernard required rest and quiet, be placed him in a little house outside the monastic enclosure at Clairvaux, with orders not to follow the rule and to free his mind from all concerns of the community. Bernard, after living on a special diet and under a physician's care for this period, returned to the monastery in improved health. His old father and young Nivard had by then followed him there, and received their habits at his hands.

The four first daughter houses of Citeaux, namely, La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond, founded in their turn other houses, Clairvaux having the most numerous offshoots. In 1121 Bernard performed his first miracle. While singing Mass he restored to Josbert de la Ferte, a relative of his who had been stricken dumb, the power of speech. The man was enabled to confess before he died, three days later, and to make retribution for many acts of injustice. There are also accounts of sick persons whom Bernard cured by making the sign of the cross over them, all attested to by truthful eyewitnesses. Another story has to do with the church at Foigny which was infested with pestilential flies; Bernard pronounced an excommunication upon them, at which all died. This occurrence gave rise to the old French saying, "the curse of the flies of Foigny."

Because of his continued poor health, the general chapter relieved Bernard of work in the fields and directed him to devote himself to preaching and writing. The change gave him an opportunity to produce a treatise on Degrees of Humility and Pride, which contains an excellent analysis of human character. In 1122, at the request of the archbishop of Paris, he went up and preached to the university students who were candidates for Holy Orders. Some of them were so deeply impressed by his preaching that they accompanied him back to Clairvaux. A band of German knights who stopped to visit at Clairvaux returned later to ask admission to the order. Their conversion was the more remarkable as their main interest in life up to that time had been wars and tournaments. Centuries later, in his Art of Preaching, Erasmus wrote, Bernard is an eloquent preacher, much more by nature than by art; he is full of charm and vivacity, and knows how to reach and move the affections." Bernard was always willing to receive monks who came from other orders or to release any of his who wished to transfer to another religious institution in the hope of attaining greater perfection.

Notwithstanding his longing for a retired life, for years on end Bernard was traveling about Europe on missions connected with the Church. His reputation for learning and sanctity and his talent as a mediator became so famous that princes called on him to decide their disputes, bishops asked his opinion on problems involving their churches, and popes accepted his counsel. It was said that he governed the churches of the West from his isolated monastery at Citeaux. Once he wrote that his life was "overrun everywhere by anxieties, suspicions, cares. There is scarcely an hour free from the crowd of discordant applicants, and the troubles and cares of their business. I have no power to stop their coming and cannot refuse to see them, and they do not leave me even time to pray."

The election of unworthy men to the episcopacy and to other Church offices troubled Bernard deeply, and he fought it with all his might. A monk, his enemies said, should stay in his cloister and not bother himself with such matters. A monk, he replied, was as much a soldier of Christ as other Christians were, and had a special duty to defend the He of God's sanctuary. Bernard's outspoken censures had their effect in changing the way of life of several high churchmen. Henry, archbishop of Sens, and Stephen, bishop of Paris, renounced their attendance at court and their secular style of living. Abbot Suger of St. Denis,[2] who as regent of France lived for a time in great state, now gave up his worldly habits, resigned his secular posts, and busied himself reestablishing discipline in his own abbey. Bernard wrote to the dean of Languedoc: "You may imagine that what belongs to the Church belongs to you, while you officiate there. But you are mistaken; for though it is reasonable that one who serves the altar should live by the altar, yet it must not be to promote either his luxury or his pride. Whatever is taken beyond what is needed for bare nourishment and simple plain clothing is sacrilege and theft." Bernard also had a sharp exchange with Peter the Venerable, archabbot of Cluny, in which he criticized Peter's way of life and that of the Cluniacs.[3]

Bernard was obliged to assist at many important synods. He also helped to found the celebrated order of the Knights Templars.[4] A serious schism followed the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130. Innocent II was chosen pope by a majority of the cardinals, but simultaneously a minority faction elected one of their number, Cardinal Peter de Leone, who took the name of Anacletus. An ambitious and worldly man, Anacletus succeeded in getting the strongholds of Rome into his hands, and Pope Innocent fled to Pisa. A council of bishops was held soon afterwards at Etampes. Bernard attended and as a result of his vigorous defense, Innocent was recognized by the council. The new Pope soon went to France, where he was splendidly received by King Louis VI. Bernard went with him to Chartres, and there he met King Henry of England, who was also persuaded to acknowledge Innocent; then the party continued on to Germany, and Bernard was present at Innocent's; meeting with the Emperor Lothaire II, who offered recognition if he were given the right to invest new bishops. Bernard's remonstrances caused Lothaire to withdraw his condition, which, indeed, Innocent had already promptly rejected.

In 1131 Pope Innocent visited Clairvaux. He was received by a simple procession of monks. At table the food consisted of coarse bread, vegetables and herbs, with one small fish for the Pope, which the others, writes the chronicler, had to view from a distance. The following year Bernard accompanied the Pope back to Italy, reconciled him with several cities, and went on with him to Rome. Innocent then made him legate to Germany, and along the way north Bernard preached in the Pope's behalf and converted sinners. Having brought more harmony to the Church in Germany, Bernard returned to Italy to assist at the council of Pisa. There it was voted to excommunicate schismatics. Later he went to Milan and persuaded the people to become reconciled with both Innocent and the emperor. The citizens helped him to establish at nearby Chiaravalle the first Cistercian monastery in Italy. Returning to Clairvaux, he took with him a number of postulants for admission, among them a young canon of Pisa, Peter Bernard, later to become Pope Eugenius III. As his first task after arriving at the monastery, the future pontiff was asked to stoke the fire in the calefactory.[5]

A year before Bernard had been called into Aquitaine, where William, the duke of that province, was persecuting the adherents of Pope Innocent, and had expelled the bishops of Poitiers and Limoges. William was a prince of great wealth, gigantic stature, and exceptional ability, who from his youth on had been irreverent and aggressive. Bernard's prayers and persuasion having failed to prevail on William to restore the bishops, he used a more powerful weapon. He went to the church to say Mass, while the duke and other schismatics stood at the door, as under excommunication. The kiss of peace before the Communion had been given, when suddenly Bernard laid the wafer of the Host on the paten, turned, and holding it high advanced with it to the door, his eyes flashing and his countenance all on fire. "Hitherto," he said, "I have entreated and besought you, and you have despised me. Other servants of God have joined their prayers to mine, and you have not regarded them. Now the Son of the Virgin, the Lord and Head of that Church which you persecute, comes in person to see if you will repent. He is your judge, at whose name every knee bows, in Heaven, in Earth, and in Hell. Into His hands your obstinate soul will one day fall. Will you despise Him? Will you scorn Him as you have done His servants?" Unable to bear more, the terrified duke fell on his face. Bernard lifted him up, and bade him salute the bishop of Poitiers. The duke did as bidden, abandoned the schism, and restored the bishop to his see. William afterwards founded a new Cistercian monastery and went on pilgrimage to Compostella,[6] in the course of which he died.

Through Bernard's efforts other schisms were healed. The death of Anacletus in 1138 opened the way to peace, for though his adherents elected a successor, Bernard's preaching in Rome won them over to Innocent. After these valiant labors, Bernard returned to Clairvaux. He refused five bishoprics which were offered to him in order to concentrate on preaching to his own monks; his sermons on the Song of Songs became particularly famous.

We now come to one of the famous controversies of medieval times. Bernard was recognized as the most eloquent and influential man of his age. Next to him in stature was the brilliant and unfortunate teacher, Peter Abelard,[7] who was a far greater scholar than Bernard. It was perhaps inevitable that the two should clash, for they represented opposite currents of thought. Bernard was a defender of traditional authority, of "faith not as an opinion but as a certitude"; Abelard spoke for the new rationalism, represented by Anselm, and for the free exercise of human reason. In 1121 Abelard's orthodoxy had been questioned, and a synod had condemned him to burn his book on the Trinity. Forced to keep away from Paris, where he enjoyed great popularity as a teacher, he had lived as a hermit for many years. He had returned to resume his lectures, and in 1139 William of St. Thierry, a Cistercian, denounced him as a heretic to the legate of the Holy See, and also to Bernard, saying they were the only men powerful enough to crush the error. Bernard had three private talks with Abelard, in which the latter promised to withdraw what was dangerous in his views, but he remained defiant. In 1141 at a council at Sens, Abelard was formally arraigned, charged with heresy on a number of counts. Bernard was at first unwilling to appear; but when Abelard's supporters claimed that he was afraid to meet the recalcitrant teacher face to face, he felt obliged to attend. Abelard listened to the charges drawn up by Bernard, and refused to make a defense, though told he might do so. He felt that the bishops were solidly massed against him, so with an appeal to the Pope he left the assemblage. The bishops then condemned as heretical seventeen propositions taken from Abelard's writings, sentenced him to silence, and wrote an account of the proceedings for Pope Innocent, who confirmed the sentence. Stopping off at the monastery of Cluny on his way to Rome, Abelard heard of the Pope's confirmation. By this time he was completely broken in health and spirit; his death followed in April, 1142. Bernard has been severely criticized for his uncompromising attitude, but he felt that Abelard's brilliance made him extremely dangerous. He wrote to the Pope that Abelard was "trying to reduce to nothing the merits of Christian faith, since he seems himself able by human reason to comprehend God altogether."

One of Bernard's great friends was the Irish bishop, Malachy (Maelmhaedhoc l'Morgair), a zealous reformer of monasticism in his native isle. After retiring from the see of Armagh, Malachy came to Clairvaux, and died there some years later in Bernard's arms. He had brought a number of young men with him from Ireland to be trained under Bernard, and in 1142 the first Cistercian monastery was established in Ireland. In 1145 that same Peter Bernard of Pisa who had followed Bernard to Clairvaux in 1138 was elected Pope, taking the name of Eugenius III. Bernard felt a fatherly concern for Eugenius, a shy and retiring man, unaccustomed to public life. For his guidance he wrote the most important of his works, On Consideration. In it he impressed on Eugenius the varied obligations of his office, but reminded him to reserve time every day for self-examination and contemplation, a duty more vital than any official business. There was danger, he wrote, of becoming so preoccupied as to fall into forgetfulness of God; the reformation of the Church must begin at the very top, for if the Pope fails, the whole Church is dragged down. This book has been in high repute with the clergy ever since Bernard's time.

Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of Abelard, now attracted Bernard's noticeand his flaming opposition. Arnold had been condemned with Abelard by the council of Sens, but four years later, in Rome, he led a movement of the commune of citizens to overthrow the Pope and set up a government on the model of the ancient Roman republic. His stirring up of the populace compelled Eugenius to flee the city for a time. There were uprisings elsewhere against the temporal authority of the bishops, but the whole movement was confused and badly organized. Arnold was tried and condemned by the Church, and later executed by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

During this time the Albigensian heresy,[8] with all its startling social and moral implications, had been making alarming progress in the south of France. In 1145 the papal legate to France, Cardinal Alberic, asked Bernard to go down to Languedoc. III and weak though he was, Bernard obeyed, stopping to preach along the way Geoffrey, his secretary, accompanied him, and relates various miracles to which he was an eyewitness. At a village in Perigord Bernard blessed with the sign of the cross some loaves of bread, saying, "By this you shall know the truth of our doctrines and the falsehood of what the heretics teach, if such as are sick among you recover their health on eating these loaves." The bishop of Chartres, who stood near Bernard, afraid of the possible outcome, added, "That is, if they eat with a right faith, they will be cured." But Bernard insisted on his own statement, "whoever tastes will be cured." And a number of sick persons were, in fact, made well after eating the bread. Although the supporters of the heresy were stubborn and violent, especially at Toulouse and Albi, in a short time he had apparently restored orthodoxy. Twenty-five years later, however, the Albigensians had a stronger hold on the country than ever. The great St. Dominic, whose story appears later in this volume, then came to win back the country once more.

On Christmas Day, 1144, the Seljuk Turks captured Edessa, chief city of one of the Christian principalities set up by the First Crusade. Appeals for help went at once to Europe, for the position of all Christians in Syria was jeopardized. King Louis VII of France announced his intention of leading a new crusade, and the Pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Holy War. Bernard began at Vezelay on Palm Sunday, 1146. Queen Eleanor and a company of nobles, the first to take the cross, were followed by such a throng that the supply of cloth badges[9] was exhausted and Bernard tore strips from his own habit to make more. Having roused France, he wrote to the rulers and peoples of England, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Moravia, Bohemia, and Bavaria, and went in person to Germany. Bernard had to deal there with a half-crazy monk, who in his name was inciting the populace to massacre Jews. He then made a triumphant tour through the Rhineland. The Emperor Conrad III took the cross, and set out in May, 1147; Louis of France soon followed.

This Second Crusade was a miserable failure. Conrad's army was cut to pieces crossing the mountains of Asia Minor. Louis was diverted to the East and his forces were exhausted by a futile siege of Damascus. The chief reason for the collapse of the great enterprise lay within the crusaders themselves. Many were led by sordid motives; they committed every kind of lawless act on their march. Bernard, because he had seemed to promise success, was bitterly criticized. In reply he declared that he had trusted the Divine mercy to bless a crusade undertaken for the honor of His Name, but that the army's sins had brought catastrophe; yet who could judge of its true success or failure? "How is it," he asked, "that the rashness of mortals dares condemn what they cannot understand?"

Soon after the return of the defeated crusaders, Bernard started to organize a third expedition to deliver the Holy Land from the Turks, working this time with Abbot Suger, who had opposed the previous venture. But early in 1151 Suger died; France was again on the verge of civil war and the project was dropped. Pope Eugenius died in 1153, and that same year Bernard was taken with his last illness. He had long dwelt in Heaven in desire, though he had ascribed his desire to weakness rather than piety. "The saints," he said, "were moved to pray for death out of a longing to see Christ, but I am driven hence by scandals and evil." In the spring of 1153 the archbishop of Trier implored him to go to Metz and try to make peace between the citizens of Metz and the duke of Lorraine, who had subjugated them. Forgetting his infirmities, Bernard set out for Lorraine, and there prevailed on both sides to lay down their arms and later to accept the treaty he drew up for them.

Back at Clairvaux after performing this final work of mediation, the abbot's health failed rapidly. With his spiritual sons gathered round him, he received the Last Sacraments. He comforted them, saying that the unprofitable servant should not occupy a place uselessly, that the barren tree should be rooted up. On August 20 God took him. Bernard was sixty-three years old, had been abbot for thirty-eight years, and had seen sixty-eight monasteries established by his men from Clairvaux. According to one historian, he had "carried the twelfth century on his shoulders." Doctor Mellifluus, the Honey-Sweet Doctor, as he was called for his eloquence, had been the counselor of prelates and the reformer of disciplines; his writings have continued to inspire the faithful. Although he lived after Anselm of Canterbury, the great scholastic who used reason as a means to clarify faith, Bernard was on the side of the ancient doctors who trusted wholly to Scripture and faith and mystical experience. For the outstanding excellence of his life and works he is reckoned the last of the Church Fathers. He was canonized in 1174, twenty-one years after his death. His relics are at Clairvaux, his skull in the cathedral of Troyes; his emblems are a pen, bees, and instruments of the Passion.

END NOTES:

[1] Citeaux or Cistertium was some sixteen miles from Dijon. Cistercians have subsequently been divided into two Observances, the Common and the Strict. The latter, popularly known as the Trappists, requires perpetual silence except in cases of necessity, and abstinence from flesh, fish, and eggs, except in illness. Both Observances are rigidly cloistered and engage in manual labor, chiefly agricultural.

[2] Suger and his abbey are both famous in French history. The abbey was founded by Dagobert I on the spot where St. Denis, the Apostle of Paris, was interred, a few miles north of Paris. As the burial place of kings and princes, it became one of the most powerful abbeys in France. Suger was an able and trusted adviser of the King. He began the rebuilding of the abbey in the then new Gothic style.

[3] Peter the Venerable of the monastery of Cluny was a reformer of the Cluniac Order, but his zeal did not halt its decline, which proceeded rapidly after his time. It had been founded in 910 at Cluny, in eastern France, and by Bernard's time had spread to all parts of Europe and the Holy Land. During the two and a half centuries when it flourished, its influence was potent, and the authority of its abbot stood next to that of the pope. It was organized on the principle that performance of the Divine Office should be well-nigh the sole occupation of its monks, and all services were carried out with impressive ritual and splendor.

[4] The Knights Templars, or Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was one of the three great military and religious orders founded in the twelfth century for the defense of the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem and the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land. The others were the Teutonic knights and the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, later called the Knights of Malta. The Templars were an order of warrior monks of the Rule of St. Benedict, much praised at the outset for disciplining and converting the rabble of "rogues and impious men, robbers and committers of sacrilege, perjurors and adulterers" who streamed eastward more for gain and adventure than for any religious purpose. Before Bernard's death the Templars were established in all parts of Latin Christendom and had grown fabulously rich

[5] The calefactory was a room with a fire in it for warming oneself in winter. The only other fires in most medieval monasteries were in the kitchen (generally out of bounds for the community), the infirmary, and, perhaps, the guest house. The cells, church, corridors, library, scriptorium, etc., were unheated.

[6] Compostella was the site of a famous pilgrimage church in the province of Galicia in northwestern Spain. According to legend, the Apostle James the Great preached the Gospel there and the church contained his bones. With Toledo it remained a stronghold of Christian faith when most of Spain was ruled by Mohammedans.

[7] Of the many accounts of Abelard's life, Helen Waddell's novel, Peter Abelard, is one of the best for the clarity of its treatment of the theological controversies of the time.

[8] This heresy, a revival of the Manichaeism of Augustine's day, flourished in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Albigensians taught a dualistic doctrine, namely, that there were two opposing spirits in the universe, good and evil, and that all matter was evil and all spirit good. They denied the resurrection of the body. Their name was derived from the district of Albi in Languedoc.



SAINT BONAVENTURE
Cardinal-Bishop & Doctor - AD 1274 (July 14)

Born at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221, nothing is known of Bonaventure's parents save their names: Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. How his baptismal name of John came to be changed to that of Bonaventure is not clear. An attempt has been made to trace the latter name to the exclamation of St. Francis, O buona ventura, when Bonaventure was brought as an infant to him to be cured of a dangerous illness. This derivation is highly improbable; it seems based on a late fifteenth. century legend. Bonaventure himself tells us (Legenda S. Francisci Prolog.) that while yet a child he was preserved from death through the intercession of St. Francis, but there is no evidence that this cure took place during the lifetime of St. Francis or that the name Bonaventuro originated in any prophetical words of St. Francis. It was certainly borne by others before the Seraphic Doctor. No details of Bonaventure's youth have been preserved. He entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1238 or 1243; the exact year is uncertain. Wadding and the Bollandists hold for the later date, but the earlier one is supported by Sbaradea, Bonelli, Panfilo da Magliano, and Jeiler, and appears more probable. It is certain that Bonaventure was sent from the Roman Province, to which he belonged, to complete his studies at the University of Paris under Alexander of Hales, the great founder of the Franciscan School. The latter died in 1246, according to the opinion generally received, though not yet definitely established, and Bonaventure seems to have become his pupil about 1242. Be this as it may, Bonaventure received in 1248 the "licentiate" which gave him the right to teach publicly as Magister regens, and he continued to lecture at the university with great success until 1256, when he was compelled to discontinue, owing to the then violent outburst of opposition to the Mendicant orders on the part of the secular professors at the university. The latter, jealous, as it seems, of the academic successes of the Dominicans and Franciscans, sought to exclude them from teaching publicly. The smouldering elements of discord had been fanned into a flame in 1265, when Guillamne do Saint-Amour published a work entitled "The Perils of the Last Times", in which he attacked the Friars with great bitterness. It was in connexion with this dispute that Bonaventure wrote his treatise, "De paupertate Christi". It was not, however, Bonaventure, as some have erroneously stated, but Blessed John of Parma, who appeared before Alexander IV at Anagni to defend the Franciscans against their adversary. The Holy See having, as is well known, re-established the Mendicants in all their privileges, and Saint-Amour's book having been formally condemned, the degree of Doctor was solemnly bestowed on St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas at the university, 23 October, 1267.

In the meantime Bonaventure, though not yet thirty-six years old, had on 2 February, 1257, been elected Minister General of the Friars Minor—an office of peculiar difficulty, owing to the fact that the order was distracted by internal dissensions between the two factions among the Friars designated respectively the Spirituales and the Relaxti. The former insisted upon the literal observance of the original Rule, especially in regard to poverty, while the latter wished to introduce innovations and mitigations. This lamentable controversy had moreover been aggravated by the enthusiasm with which many of the "Spiritual" Friars had adopted the doctrines connected with the name of Abbot Joachim of Floris and set forth in the so-called "Evangelium aeternum". The introduction to this pernicious book, which proclaimed the approaching dispensation of the Spirit that was to replace the Law of Christ, was falsely attributed to Bl. John of Parma, who in 1267 had retired from the government of the order in favour of Bonaventure. The new general lost no time in striking vigorously at both extreme within the order. On the one hand, he proceeded against several of the Joachimite "Spirituals" as heretics before an ecclesiastical tribunal at Cittâ-della-Pieve; two of their leaders were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and John of Parma was only saved from a like fate through the personal intervention of Cardinal Ottoboni, afterwards Adrian V. On the other hand, Bonaventure had, in an encyclical letter issued immediately after his election, outlined a programme for the reformation of the Re1axti. These reforms he sought to enforce three years later at the General Chapter of Narbonne when the constitutions of the order which he had revised were promulgated anew. These so-called "Constitutiones Narbonenses" are distributed under twelve heads, corresponding to the twelve chapters of the Rule, of which they form an enlightened and prudent exposition, and are of capital importance in the history of Franciscan legislation. The chapter which issued this code of laws requested Bonaventure to write a "legend" or life of St. Francis which should supersede those then in circulation. This was in 1260. Three years later Bonaventure, having in the meantime visited a great part of the order, and having assisted at the dedication of the chapel on La Verna and at the translation of the remains of St Clare and of St. Anthony, convoked a general chapter of the order of Pisa at which his newly composed life of St. Francis was officially approved as the standard biography of the saint to the exclusion of all others. At this chapter of 1263, Bonaventure fixed the limits of the different provinces of the order and, among other ordinances, prescribed that at nightfall a bell should be rung in honour of the Annunciation, a pious practice from which the Angelus seems to have originated. There are no grounds, however, for the assertion that Bonaventure in this chapter prescribed the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the order. In 1264, at the earnest request of Cardinal Cajetan, Bonaventure consented to resume the direction of the Poor Clares which the Chapter of Pisa had entirely renounced the year before. He required the Clares, however, to acknowledge occasionally in writing that the favours tendered them by the Friars were voluntary acts of charity not arising from any obligation whatsoever. It is said that Pope Urban IV acted at Bonaventure's suggestion in attempting to establish uniformity of observance throughout all the monasteries of Clares. About this time (1264) Bonaventure founded at Rome the Society of the Gonfalone in honour of the Blessed Virgin which, if not the first confraternity instituted in the Church, as some have claimed, was certainly one of the earliest. In 1265 Clement IV, by a Bull dated 23 November, nominated Bonaventure to the vacant Archbishopric of York, but the saint, in keeping with his singular humility, steadfastly refused this honour and the pope yielded.

In 1266 Bonaventure convened a general chapter in Paris at which, besides other enactments, it was decreed that all the "legends" of St. Francis written before that of Bonaventure should be forthwith destroyed, just as the Chapter of Narbonne had in 1260 ordered the destruction of all constitutions before those then enacted. This decree has excited much hostile criticism. Some would fain see in it a deliberate attempt on Bonaventure's part to close the primitive sources of Franciscan history, to suppress the real Francis, and substitute a counterfeit in his stead. Others, however, regard the decree in question as a purely liturgical ordinance intended to secure uniformity in the choir "legends". Between these two conflicting opinions the truth seems to be that this edict was nothing more than another heroic attempt to wipe out the old quarrels and start afresh. One cannot but regret the circumstances of this decree, but when it is recalled that the appeal of the contending parties was ever to the words and actions of St. Francis as recorded in the earlier "legends", it would be unjust to accuse the chapter of "literary vandalism" in seeking to proscribe the latter. We have no details of Bonaventure's life between 1266 and 1269. In the latter year he convoked his fourth general chapter at Assisi, in which it was enacted that a Mass be sung every Saturday throughout the order in honour of the Blessed Virgin, not, however, in honour of her Immaculate Conception as Wadding among others has erroneously stated. It was probably soon after this chapter that Bonaventure composed his "Apologia pauperum", in which he silences Gerard of Abbeville who by means of an anonymous libel had revived the old university feud against the Friars. Two years later, Bonaventure was mainly instrumental in reconciling the differences among the cardinals assembled at Viterbo to elect a successor to Clement IV, who had died nearly three years before; it was on Bonaventure's advice that, 1 September, 1271, they unanimously chose Theobald Visconti of Piacenza who took the title of Gregory X. That the cardinals seriously authorized Bonaventure to nominate himself, as some writers aver, is most improbable. Nor is there any truth in the popular story that Bonaventure on arriving at Viterbo advised the citizens to lock up the cardinals with a view to hastening the election. In 1272 Bonaventure for the second time convened a general chapter at Pisa in which, apart from general enactments to further regular observances new decrees were issued respecting the direction of the Poor Clares, and a solemn anniversary was instituted on 25 August in memory of St. Louis. This was the first step towards the canonization of the holy king. who had been a special friend of Bonaventure, and at whose request Bonaventure composed his "Office of the Passion". On 23 June, 1273, Bonaventure. much against his will, was created Cardinal-Bishop of Albano, by Gregory X. It is said that the pope's envoys who brought him the cardinal's hat found the saint washing dishes outside a convent near Florence and were requested by him to bang it on a tree nearby until his hands were free to take it. Bonaventure continued to govern the Order of Friars Minor until 20 May, 1274, when at the General Chapter of Lyons, Jerome of Ascoli, afterwards Nicholas IV, was elected to succeed him. Meanwhile Bonaventure had been charged by Gregory X to prepare the questions to be discussed at the Fourteenth Oecumenical Council, which opened at Lyons 7 May, 1274.

The pope himself presided at the council, but he confided the direction of its deliberations to Bonaventure, especially charging him to confer with the Greeks on the points relating to the abjuration of their schism. It was largely due to Bonaventure's efforts and to those of the Friars whom he had sent to Constantinople, that the Greeks accepted the union effected 6 July, 1274. Bonaventure twice addressed the assembled Fathers, on 18 May, during a session of the Council, when he preached on Baruch, v, 5, and on 29 June, during pontifical Mass celebrated by the pope. While the council was still in session, Bonaventure died, Sunday, 15 July, 1274. The exact cause of his death is unknown, but if we may credit the chronicle of Peregrinus of Bologna. Bonaventure's secretary, which has recently (1905) been recovered and edited, the saint was poisoned. He was buried on the evening following his death in the church of the Friars Minor at Lyons, being honoured with a splendid funeral which was attended by the pope, the King of Aragon, the cardinals, and the other members of the council. The funeral oration was delivered by Pietro di Tarantasia, O.P., Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, afterwards Innocent V, and on the following day during the fifth session of the council, Gregory X spoke of the irreparable loss the Church had sustained by the death of Bonaventure, and commanded all prelates and priests throughout the whole world to celebrate Mass for the repose of his soul.

Bonaventure enjoyed especial veneration even during his lifetime because of his stainless character and of the miracles attributed to him. It was Alexander of Hales who said that Bonaventure seemed to have escaped the curse of Adam's sin. And the story of St. Thomas visiting Bonaventure's cell while the latter was writing the life of St. Francis and finding him in an ecstasy is well known. "Let us leave a saint to work for a saint", said the Angelic Doctor as he withdrew. When, in 1434, Bonaventure's remains were translated to the new church erected at Lyons in honour of St. Francis, his head was found in a perfect state of preservation, the tongue being as red as in life. This miracle not only moved the people of Lyons to choose Bonaventure as their special patron, but also gave a great impetus to the process of his canonization. Dante, writing long before, had given expression to the popular mind by placing Bonaventure among the saints in his "Paradiso", and no canonization was ever more ardently or universally desired than that of Bonaventure. That its inception was so long delayed was mainly due to the deplorable dissensions within the order after Bonaventure's death. Finally on 14 April, 1482, Bonaventure was enrolled in the catalogue of the saints by Sixtus IV. In 1562 Bonaventure's shrine was plundered by the Huguenots and the urn containing his body was burned in the public square. His head was preserved through the heroism of the superior, who hid it at the cost of his life but it disappeared during the French Revolution and every effort to discover it has been in vain. Bonaventure was inscribed among the principal Doctors of the Church by Sixtus V. 14 March, 1557. His feast is celebrated 14 July.


SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN
Widow, Foundress: Order of the Most Holy Savior – AD 1373 (July 23)

Early Life

The most celebrated saint of the Northern kingdoms, born about 1303; died 23 July, 1373. She was the daughter of Birger Persson, governor and provincial judge (Lagman) of Uppland, and of Ingeborg Bengtsdotter. Her father was one of the wealthiest landholders of the country, and, like her mother, distinguished by deep piety. St. Ingrid, whose death had occurred about twenty years before Bridget's birth, was a near relative of the family. Birger's daughter received a careful religious training, and from her seventh year showed signs of extraordinary religious impressions and illuminations. To her education, and particularly to the influence of an aunt who took the place of Bridget's mother after the latter's death (c. 1315), she owed that unswerving strength of will which later distinguished her.

Marriage

In 1316, at the age of thirteen, she was united in marriage to Ulf Gudmarsson, who was then eighteen. She acquired great influence over her noble and pious husband, and the happy marriage was blessed with eight children, among them St. Catherine of Sweden. The saintly life and the great charity of Bridget soon made her name known far and wide. She was acquainted with several learned and pious theologians, among them Nicolaus Hermanni, later Bishop of Linköping, Matthias, canon of Linköping, her confessor, Peter, Prior of Alvastrâ, and Peter Magister, her confessor after Matthias. She was later at the court of King Magnus Eriksson, over whom she gradually acquired great influence. Early in the forties (1341-43) in company with her husband she made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. On the return journey her husband was stricken with an attack of illness, but recovered sufficiently to finish the journey. Shortly afterwards, however, he died (1344) in the Cistercian monastery of Alvastrâ in East Gothland.

Widowhood

Bridget now devoted herself entirely to practices of religion and asceticism, and to religious undertakings. The visions which she believed herself to have had from her early childhood now became more frequent and definite. She believed that Christ Himself appeared to her, and she wrote down the revelations she then received, which were in great repute during the Middle Ages. They were translated into Latin by Matthias Magister and Prior Peter.

St. Bridget now founded a new religious congregation, the Brigittines, or Order of St. Saviour, whose chief monastery, at Vadstena, was richly endowed by King Magnus and his queen (1346). To obtain confirmation for her institute, and at the same time to seek a larger sphere of activity for her mission, which was the moral uplifting of the period, she journeyed to Rome in 1349, and remained there until her death, except while absent on pilgrimages, among them one to the Holy Land in 1373. In August, 1370, Pope Urban V confirmed the Rule of her congregation. Bridget made earnest representations to Pope Urban, urging the removal of the Holy See from Avignon back to Rome. She accomplished the greatest good in Rome, however, by her pious and charitable life, and her earnest admonitions to others to adopt a better life, following out the excellent precedents she had set in her native land. The year following her death her remains were conveyed to the monastery at Vadstena. She was canonized, 7 October, 1391, by Boniface IX.


SAINT CATHERINE LABOURE
Virgin - AD 1876 (November 28)

"That Thy Kingdom come, O Lord, let the Kingdom of Mary come." So prayed St. Louis Grignon de Montfort. "God, then, wishes to reveal and make known, Mary, the masterpiece of His hands, in these latter times.... As she is the dawn which precedes and reveals the Sun of Justice, who is Jesus Christ, she must be seen and recognized in order that Jesus Christ may also be." Dying in 1716, de Montfort's words were written a century before the French Revolution. Two centuries later came God's great warning to His creature man that he was going against his nature and destiny, that he had embarked upon the road to death. De Montfort's message lay hidden for 126 years after his death, in a coffer, as he had predicted.

In the darkness of the night of July 18-19, 1830, just before the hour of midnight, the counter revolution struck. God, through the person of Mary, visited man, as de Montfort predicted, though the fulfillment of his word was never expected so literally.

It happened in Paris . . . the center of revolutionary ferment. The night of July 18, 1830 was a dark one for Christ and Christianity. But Mary, "the dawn which precedes the Sun of Justice," approached. She made her entrance quickly, spoke her lines tersely, and retired from the scene. The alarm sounded; a note for the world was struck; this was the beginning of the end!

"Sister Laboure!"

It was almost midnight; Sister Laboure was asleep.

A cryptic figure of the world, Sister Laboure awoke, startled at the voice. She was sure she had heard someone call her, but not quite sure.

"Sister Laboure!"

She sat bolt upright in bed this time; there was no mistake. She was stunned. This voice in the darkness was without reason, without explanation-but there was no doubt about its certainty. Sister Laboure was perplexed and troubled. She did not understand.

"Sister Laboure!" A shining angel stood beside her bed! By now he was urgent and insistent. Sister Laboure was dazed.

"Come to the chapel, the Blessed Virgin is waiting for you."

Sister Laboure quickly recollected herself as best she could.

"I might awaken the other sisters if I get up."

"Do not fear, everyone is sound asleep. It is half past eleven. Come! I am waiting for you!"

Sister Catherine Laboure dressed quickly. It was risky business. She was only a novice of a few months' standing. Prowling around the convent by night would bring quick expulsion if detected. But when her guardian angel commanded, hers was not to reason why, hers only to obey in blind faith, leaving the rest to God and His Providence. Out through the corridors and down the halls they went, the convent lamps lighted all the way, a condition not to be explained naturally. The Chapel door was locked as usual, but at the touch of the angel it swung open. The Chapel, normally dark by night, was lighted brightly as if for Midnight Mass!

Up the aisle they walked, the angel leading Sister Catherine. He stopped before the director's chair in the sanctuary. Instinctively, Sister Catherine knelt. Nothing happened. In the strange weird silence of an uncanny experience, Catherine grew uneasy. The clock struck twelve.

"Here is the Blessed Virgin," said the angel.

Sister Laboure saw no one. Presently there was the sound of rustling silk, and a very beautiful and majestic Lady walked down the altar steps and seated herself in the director's chair. Sister Laboure knelt at the foot of the chair and together she talked with the Queen of Heaven for a long time. At first the conversation was personal; then there were messages from Our Lady herself to Father Aladel, Sister Catherine's confessor and spiritual director. And then there was the message for the world.

"Great troubles are about to happen in France," the Queen of Heaven said. "The danger will be great. But do not be afraid. The good God and St. Vincent will take care of the Sisters of Charity and the Priests of the Mission....

"My child, the Cross of Jesus will be hated, many priests will be put to death.

"The Archbishop will die. The streets will run with blood.

"My child, the whole world will be filled with trouble and sorrow.

"My child, the good God wishes to give you a mission. Later I shall let you know what it is. You will have much to suffer. But do not be afraid.

"The days are evil. Terrible things are going to happen in France. The King's throne will be overturned. The whole world will be filled with trouble of every kind. But come to the foot of this Altar often. Here many graces will be given to everyone who asks for them. They will be given to the rich and to the poor, the great and the lowly."

The climax had been reached; the Blessed Virgin arose and left.

"She has gone," said the angel. And he led Sister Laboure back to her bed where she lay awake for the rest of the night. The angel disappeared as quickly as he had come. The clock struck two; she had been away about two hours.

The night was still; no one suspected that a bomb had fallen from Heaven. It fell into 14 Rue de Bac in Paris and exploded silently while the world around slumbered and slept.

Its impact was to be felt very slowly and very gradually.

Meanwhile, the news of France's denouement was not entirely unknown to Zoe Laboure. Two years before, when she was eighteen, struggling with the problems of vocation, being very beautiful, she was obliged to decline offers of marriage. On the day of her First Holy Communion she had promised herself to God alone. After that she had a strange dream. She was in the church she frequented at Fain, kneeling in the Blessed Virgin's chapel. A very old, very serious and very holy priest was saying Mass.

When it was ended the priest turned and motioned to Zoe Laboure to come to him.

Frightened, Zoe walked backward, away from him. At the door of the church she turned and fled. Visiting a sick woman of her acquaintance she found the same priest there. "My daughter, you do well to care for the sick," he said. "You run away from me now, but some day you will be happy to come to me. The good God has designs upon you. Do not forget it." Zoe was more frightened than ever. "I ran so quickly my feet did not seem to touch the ground," she said later. She said nothing of this strange experience until about a year later, when she entered a house of the Sisters of Charity for the first time. She saw on the wall a picture of St. Vincent de Paul and recognized him as the priest of her dream. She confided this to Father Henry, a confessor, who assured her that she believed correctly that God was calling her to be a Sister of Charity. Hardly in the congregation a week, she had been favored with a vision of the heart of St. Vincent. It was variously seen by her to be shining, sorrowful, and glad.

Sister Laboure was given to understand that it shone in its purity, it was inflamed with love of God, and was sorrowful because of the disasters which were soon to descend upon France. He was glad because of God's promise and Our Lady's to watch over the Sisters of Charity and the Priests of the Mission throughout all the disorders soon to engulf France and the world.

"I don't know why," she said some time later," but it seems to me there is going to be a change in the Government of France."

Almost every day of her novitiate, Sister Laboure had seen visibly Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He appeared on Trinity Sunday crowned and in the robes of a king. At the Gospel of the Mass, the Cross was on His breast and His kingly garments fell to His feet. Sister Catherine was given to understand that this was a figure of what was about to happen to the King of France; he would be stripped of his office and power and his sceptre would pass to another.

A few months after her first visit to Rue de Bac, Our Lady was to pay her second visit to Sister Catherine Laboure. After the first fearsome message about the turn of events in France and the world, the Blessed Virgin, as always, was to propose a remedy, and preventive measures. Eight days after Her first visitation the July Revolutions broke out in Paris as She had prophesied, but the trouble died out almost as quickly as it had begun, and Our Lady was to prepare now for the more serious troubles that would be more than a mere passing incident. It was not even to begin the week Our Lady spoke it had already begun in the French Revolution the century before, but now was becoming critical. The situation was getting out of control, and the ever widening spiral of human affairs was to evolve into something of which Our Lady went on to speak, and to end finally in days which have not as yet come. They lay beyond Fatima, beyond the two world wars. Their consummation was to see the promise of Fatima come true. In their fulfilment all the messages of Our Lady were to become one message, terminating possibly before the year 1960, when the last part of Fatima will be made known. Our Lady's words to St. Catherine, full of hidden meaning are perhaps most comprehensively translated by Lady Cecil Kerr in "The Miraculous Medal":

"'My child, I have a mission to entrust to you. You will have to suffer much in the performance of it, but the thought that it will be for the glory of God will enable you to overcome all your trials. You will be opposed but do not be afraid. Grace will be given you. Tell all that takes place within you with simplicity and confidence. You will see certain things, you will receive inspirations in prayer. Give an account of everything to him who has charge of your soul.'

"I then asked the Blessed Virgin what was the meaning of certain things which had been shown me. She answered: 'My child, the times are evil and misfortunes are about to overwhelm France. The throne will be destroyed and the whole world convulsed by all sorts of calamities.' The Blessed Virgin looked very sad as she said this. 'But,' she added, 'come to the foot of this altar. Here graces will be poured out on all who ask for them, great or small. There will come a time when the danger will be great and it will seem that all is lost. But have confidence. You will feel that I am with you and that God and St. Vincent are protecting the communities. Have confidence, do not be discouraged, I shall be with you.' Then with tears in her eyes, Our Lady continued: 'There will be victims in other communities. There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. The Archbishop will die. My child, the cross will be despised and trodden underfoot. Our Lord's side will be pierced anew; the streets will run with blood, and the whole world will be in sorrow.'"

Unknown to Catherine, these words would bridge more than a century. That the Archbishop would die in about forty years time was revealed definitely to St.

Catherine, but of the final climax, we have no way of knowing whether or not Catherine fully appreciated the words she was to pass on to mankind. The Archbishop died, as the message said, in the Paris Commune-the first Communist revolution-which took place in France in 1871. Mary was coming to crush the head of Communism long before it inundated the world from Russia, and she closed with the germ of Fatima:

"My eyes are always watching you, I shall grant you many graces. Special graces will be given to all who ask for them, but people must pray." Saturday afternoon, November 27, 1830. The next day would be the First Sunday of Advent and the Sisters of Charity were making preparations for the coming of this great Christian Feast of the year. Sister Laboure was praying hard to know her mission, of which Our Lady had spoken on the first occasion. During her prayer she heard the same rustle of silk over St. Joseph's altar in the Chapel, and there stood the Blessed Virgin clothed in white! She was standing on a globe, one foot crushing the head of a serpent on the top of the globe.

In her hands she held a smaller ball, a golden one surmounted by a Cross, which represented the world. Our Lady was offering this to God, looking toward Heaven and praying for its acceptance by the Almighty. On her fingers were many rings, filled with jewels and precious stones, from which shining rays of light descended. Our Lady said to Sister Laboure:

"This ball which you see is the world, France in particular, and each person individually. I am praying for it and for everyone in the world. The rays which fall on this ball are the graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of the stones. For many people fail to receive graces because they neglect to ask for them."

After a time the small ball representing the world in Our Lady's hands vanished and she lowered her arms outstretched, and the rays glittered and glistened more brilliantly than before. Around her Queenly head appeared the luminous letters of the words: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." A frame of gold appeared around the entire vision as Our Lady said, "Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces; it should be worn around the neck.

Great graces will be given to those who wear it with confidence."

The apparition turned, revealing the model for the obverse. This was a large "M," surmounted by a Cross on a bar. Below the "M" were two hearts, one encompassed with thorns, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the other pierced with a sword, the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Encircling the whole were twelve stars bordering the golden elliptical frame. The vision disappeared.

It was repeated several times. The last time Our Lady said, "You will see me no more, but you will hear my voice in your meditations." Sister Catherine's confessor, Father Aladel, placed very little credence in her visions. The voice in the meditations complained that the medal had not been made. "But my dear Mother," Sister Catherine said, "I have told Father Aladel and he hasn't done anything about it."

"A day will come," replied the voice, "when Father Aladel will do what I wish. He is my servant and would fear to displease me."

The message jolted Father Aladel and he laid the matter before the Archbishop of Paris, who ordered the medal struck immediately and ordered the first quantity for himself.

Our Lady had opened the great drama. This was her first official herald, the Heaven-sent insignia of the modern Age of Mary. It was to be called the "Medal of the Immaculate Conception," the prayer inscribed on it honored Our Lady's unique privilege: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee." It would prepare the world for the great declaration of a quarter of a century later when Pius IX would declare the great dogma of the Immaculate Conception as an article of faith, an essential element of Catholic belief.

The medals of the Immaculate Conception streamed from the presses by the millions. They overflowed France into the world beyond.

Not long after there was an epidemic in France. The death rate soared and medical science was unable to cope with the crisis. People turned to the Sisters of Charity who gave them the Medal of the Immaculate Conception with the assurance that great graces would be showered upon all who would wear it with confidence, especially if it were worn around the neck. After the first cures, people demanded it excitedly. The Archbishop of Paris found it efficacious to secure the return to the Church of an archbishop nearby who repented on his deathbed. He died in the arms of his fellow prelate. So many favors, cures and conversions were effected through its instrumentality that its name and doctrinal significance were lost in the clamor; it became known simply as 'The Miraculous Medal."


SAINT CATHERINE of SIENA
Virgin - AD 1380 (April 30)

The Middle Ages were drawing to a close and the brave new world of the Renaissance was springing to life when Catherine Benincasa was born. The place was Siena, and the day was the feast of the Annunciation, 1347. Catherine and a twin sister who did not long survive were the youngest of twenty-five children. The father, Giacomo or Jacopo Benincasa, a prosperous wool dyer, lived with his wife Lapa and their family, sometimes comprising married couples and grandchildren, in a spacious house which the Sienese have preserved to the present day. As a child Catherine was so merry that the family gave her the pet name of Euphrosyne, which is Greek for Joy and also the name of an early Christian saint. At the age of six she had the remarkable experience which may be said to have determined her vocation. With her brother she was on the way home from a visit to a married sister, when suddenly she stopped still in the road, gazing up into the sky. She did not hear the repeated calls of the boy, who had walked on ahead. Only after he had gone back and seized her by the hand did she wake as from a dream. She burst into tears. Her vision of Christ seated in glory with the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John had faded. A year later the little girl made a secret vow to give her whole life to God. She loved prayer and solitude, and when she mingled with other children it was to teach them to do what gave her so much happiness.

When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the house hold, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone. Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience Long afterwards, in The Dialogue, she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter.

Catherine's father at last came to the realization that further pressure was useless, and his daughter was permitted to do as she pleased. In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.

At times now she was enraptured by celestial visions, but often too she was subjected to severe trials. Loathsome forms and enticing figures would present themselves to her imagination, and the most degrading temptations assailed her. There would be long intervals during which she felt abandoned by God. "O Lord, where wert Thou when my heart was so sorely vexed with foul and hateful temptations?" she asked, when after such a time of agonizing He had once more manifested Himself. She heard a voice saying, "Daughter, I was in thy heart, fortifying thee by grace," and the voice then said that God would now be with her more openly, for the period of probation was nearing an end.

On Shrove Tuesday, 1366, while the citizens of Siena were keeping carnival, and Catherine was praying in her room, a vision of Christ appeared, accompanied by His mother and the heavenly host. Taking the girl's hand, Our Lady held it up to Christ, who placed a ring upon it and espoused her to Himself, bidding her to be of good courage, for now she was armed with a faith that could overcome all temptations. To Catherine the ring was always visible, though invisible to others. The years of solitude and preparation were ended and soon afterwards she began to mix with her fellow men and learn to serve them. Like other Dominican tertiaries, she volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, choosing those afflicted with loathsome diseases-cases from which others were apt to shrink.

There gathered around this strong personality a band of earnest associates. Prominent among them were her two Dominican confessors, Thomas della Fonte and Bartholomew Dominici, the Augustinian Father Tantucci, Matthew Cenni, rector of the Misericordia Hospital, the artist Vanni, to whom we are indebted for a famous portrait of Catherine, the poet Neri di Landoccio dei Pagliaresi, her own sister-in-law Lisa, a noble young widow, Alessia Saracini, and William Flete, the English hermit. Father Santi, an aged hermit, abandoned his solitude to be near her, because, he said, he found greater peace of mind and progress in virtue by following her than he ever found in his cell. A warm affection bound her to these whom she called her spiritual family, children given her by God that she might help them along the way to perfection. She read their thoughts and frequently knew their temptations when they were away from her. Many of her early letters were written to one or another of them. At this time public opinion about Catherine was divided; many Sienese revered her as a saint, while others called her a fanatic or denounced her as a hypocrite. Perhaps as a result of charges made against her, she was summoned to Florence to appear before the general chapter of the Dominicans. Whatever the charges were, they were completely disproved, and shortly afterwards the new lector for the order in Siena, Raymund de Capua, was appointed her confessor. In this happy association, Father Raymund was in many things of the spirit her disciple. Later he became the saint's biographer.

After Catherine's return to Siena there was a terrible outbreak of the plague, during which she and her circle worked incessantly to relieve the sufferers. "Never did she appear more admirable than at this time," wrote a priest who had known her from girlhood. "She was always with the plague-stricken; she prepared them for death and buried them with her own hands. I myself witnessed the joy with which she nursed them and the wonderful efficacy of her words, which brought about many conversions." Among those who owed their recovery directly to her were Raymund of Capua himself, Matthew Cenni, Father Santi, and Father Bartholomew, all of whom contracted the disease through tending others. Her pity for dying men was not confined to those who were sick. She made it a practice to visit condemned persons in prison, hoping to persuade them to make their peace with God. On one occasion she walked to the scaffold with a young Perugian knight, sentenced to death for using seditious language against the government of Siena. His last words were: "Jesus and Catherine! "

Her deeds of mercy, coupled with a growing reputation as a worker of miracles, now caused the Sienese to turn to Catherine in all kinds of difficulties. Three Dominican priests were especially deputed to hear the confessions of those whom she had prevailed on to amend their lives. In settling disputes and healing old feuds she was so successful that she was constantly called upon to arbitrate at a time when all through Italy every man's hand seemed to be against his neighbor. It was partly, perhaps, with a view to turning the energies of Christendom away from civil wars that Catherine threw herself into Pope Gregory's campaign for another crusade to wrest the Holy Sepulchre from the Turks. This brought her into correspondence with Gregory himself.

In February, 1375, she accepted an invitation to visit Pisa, where she was welcomed with enthusiasm. She had been there only a few days when she had another of the spiritual experiences which seem to have presaged each new step in her career. She had made her Communion in the little church of St. Christina, and had been gazing at the crucifix, when suddenly there descended from it five blood-red rays which pierced her hands, feet and heart, causing such acute pain that she swooned. The wounds remained as stigmata, visible to herself alone during her life, but clearly to be seen after her death'.

She was still in Pisa when she received word that the people of Florence and Perugia had entered into a league against the Holy See and the French legates. The disturbance had begun in Florence, where the Guelphs and the Ghibellines[1] united to raise a large army under the banner of freedom from the Pope's control, and Bologna, Viterbo, and Ancona, together with other strongholds in the papal domain, rallied to the insurgents. Through Catherine's untiring efforts, the cities of Lucca, Pisa, and Siena held back. From Avignon, meanwhile, after an unsuccessful appeal to the Florentines, the Pope, Gregory XI, sent Cardinal Robert of Geneva with an army to put down the uprising, and laid Florence under an interdict. The effects of the ban on the life and prosperity of the city were so serious that its rulers sent to Siena, to ask Catherine to mediate with the Pope. Always ready to act as a peacemaker, she promptly set out for Florence. The city's magistrates met her as she drew near the gates, and placed the negotiations entirely in her hands, saying that their ambassadors would follow her to Avignon and confirm whatever she did there. Catherine arrived in Avignon on June 18, 1376, and was graciously received by the Pope. "I desire nothing but peace," he said; "I place the affair entirely in your hands, only I recommend to you the honor of the Church." As it happened, the Florentines proved untrustworthy and continued their intrigues to draw the rest of Italy away from allegiance to the Holy See. When their ambassadors arrived, they disclaimed all connection with Catherine, making it clear by their demands that they did not desire a reconciliation.

Although she had failed in this matter, her efforts in another direction were successful. Many of the troubles which then afflicted Europe were, to some degree at least, due to the seventy-four-year residence of the popes at Avignon, where the Curia[2] was now largely French. Gregory had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him. Since in her letters Catherine had urged his return so strongly, it was natural that they should discuss the subject now that they were face to face. "Fulfill what you have promised," she said, reminding him of a vow he had once taken and had never disclosed to any human being. Greatly impressed by what he regarded as a supernatural sign, Gregory resolved to act upon it at once.

On September 13, 1376, he set out from Avignon to travel by water to Rome, while Catherine and her friends left the city on the same day to return overland to Siena. On reaching Genoa she was detained by the illness of two of her secretaries, Neri di Landoccio and Stephen Maconi. The latter was a young Sienese nobleman, recently converted, who had become an ardent follower. When Catherine got back to Siena, she kept on writing the Pope, entreating him to labor for peace. At his request she went again to Florence, still rent by factions, and stayed there for some time, frequently in danger of her life. She did finally establish peace between the city governors and the papacy, but this was in the reign of Gregory's successor.

After Catherine returned to Siena, Raymund of Capua tells us, "she occupied herself actively in the composition of a book which she dictated under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost." This was the mystical work, in four treatises, called The Dialogue of St. Catherine.[3] Her health was now so impaired by austerities that she was never free from pain; yet her thin face was usually smiling. She was grieved by any sort of scandal in the Church, especially that of the Great Schism[4] which followed the death of Gregory XI. Urban VI was elected as his successor by the cardinals of Rome and Clement VII by the rebellious cardinals of Avignon. Western Christendom was divided; Clement was recognized by France, Spain, Scotland, and Naples; Urban by most of North Italy, England, Flanders, and Hungary. Catherine wore herself out trying to heal this terrible breach in Christian unity and to obtain for Urban the obedience due to the legitimate head. Letter after letter was dispatched to the princes and leaders of Europe. To Urban himself she wrote to warn him to control his harsh and arrogant temper. This was the second pope she had counseled, chided, even commanded. Far from resenting reproof, Urban summoned her to Rome that he might profit by her advice. Reluctantly she left Siena to live in the Holy City. She had achieved a remarkable position for a woman of her time. On various occasions at Siena, Avignon, and Genoa, learned theologians had questioned her and had been humbled by the wisdom of her replies.

Although Catherine was only thirty-three, her life was now nearing its close. On April 21, 1380, a paralytic stroke made her helpless from the waist downwards, and eight days later she passed away in the arms of her cherished friend, Alessia Saracini. The Dominicans at Rome still treasure the body of Catherine in the Minerva Church, but Siena has her head enshrined in St. Dominic's Church. Pope Pius II canonized Catherine in 1461. The saint's talents as a writer caused her to be compared with her countrymen, Dante and Petrarch. Among her literary remains are the Dialogue and some four hundred letters, many of them of great literary beauty, and showing warmth, insight, and aspiration. One of the important women of Europe, Catherine's gifts of heart and mind were used in the furtherance of the Christian ideal.

END NOTES:

[1] It is impossible to explain here in detail the complex political and religious currents of this troubled time. The two great powers, the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, were engaged in an intermittent struggle for power throughout the late Middle Ages. Ghibelline was the name given to the imperial party in Italy and Guelph to the supporters of the Papacy. Florence was traditionally a Guelph city, but Italians as a whole resented the long absence of the popes from Rome and the excessive influence of France in papal administration.

[2] The papal Curia consists of all organized bodies, congregations, tribunals, curial offices, and certain permanent commissions, which assist the pope in the government and administration of the Church.

[3] It is also known as The Book of Divine Doctrine. With the Divine Comedy of Dante it has stood as one of the supreme attempts in Italian literature to express the eternal in the symbols of the day.

[4] The Schism lasted from 1378 to 1418, when Church unity was restored with the election of Pope Martin V.


Sources include the Catholic Encyclopedia, Butler's Lives of the Saints, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Church and L'Osservatore Romano.

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