The New Evangelization - Asia

Martyr - AD 1644 

Bl. Andrew came from the province of RanRan (Phú Yên), today in Viet Nam, and was gifted with intelligence and a good heart. On the insistence of his mother, Fr de Rhodes, a famous Jesuit missionary, agreed to include him among his students. Andrew soon surpassed his fellow pupils. Together with his mother, he received Baptism in 1641. He would have been about 15 years of age, having been born in 1625 or 1626. At the time of his death in 1644, he was 19 or 20. In 1642 Andrew become one of Fr de Rhodes' closest co-workers and, after a year of further formation, he joined the Maison Dieu ("House of God") catechist association which Fr de Rhodes had instituted. Its members made a public promise to spend their entire lives serving the Church by helping priests and spreading the Gospel.

Before the end of July 1644, Mandarin Ong Nghe Bo returned to the province which he governed and where Andrew was living. He had orders from the King of Annam to prevent the expansion of Christianity in his kingdom. Fr de Rhodes, unaware of the Mandarin's intentions, paid him a courtesy visit, but was quickly informed that the King of Annam was angered at the great number of Cochin-Chinese who were following the Christian law. Fr de Rhodes must therefore leave the country and no longer teach Christian doctrine to the Cochin-Chinese; since the latter were the subjects of the King, they would incur the most severe penalties.

Fr de Rhodes left the palace and went directly to the prison where an elderly catechist was already incarcerated. Meanwhile the Mandarin had sent soldiers to Fr de Rhodes' house in search of another catechist, but he had left on an apostolic mission. They found young Andrew instead. In order not to return empty-handed to Ong Nghe Bo, they beat Andrew, bound him and transferred him to the Governor's palace.

On 25 July 1644 Andrew was taken to the Mandarin, who tried in various ways to make Andrew "desist from that foolish opinion of his, and give up the faith". But he replied that he was a Christian and most ready to undergo any suffering rather than abandon the law that he professed. Indignant at Andrew's inflexibility, the Mandarin ordered that he be taken to prison. The young Andrew was so serene and joyous at being able to suffer for Christ that people who came to see him recommended themselves to his prayers. He would not hear of this, but asked them to pray that God might give him the grace to be faithful to the end and to "respond with fullness of love to the infinite love of his Lord, who gave his life for men, by giving his own life".

The next day, 26 July, Andrew was taken to the Governor's public audience, where he was sentenced to death. In the afternoon, a captain led Andrew down the streets of Ke Cham to the place of execution, a field outside the city. Fr de Rhodes, many Portuguese and Vietnamese Christians, and even pagans followed the procession and witnessed the killing. Andrew exhorted the Christians to remain firm in their faith, not to be saddened by his death, and to help him with their prayers to be faithful to the end. He was executed with some blows of a lance and, finally, when he was about to be beheaded with a scimitar, he cried out the name of Jesus in a loud voice. Andrew accepted the sacrifice of his life for the faith and love of Christ.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 March 2000, page 2

Bishop & Doctor - AD 379 (January 2)

Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church.
Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender
of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century. With his friend
Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio
known as "The Three Cappadocians", far outclassing the other two in practical
genius and actual achievement. 

St. Basil the Elder, father of St. Basil the Great, was the son of a Christian of
good birth and his wife, Macrina (Acta SS., January, II), both of whom suffered for
the faith during the persecution of Maximinus Galerius (305-314), spending
several years of hardship in the wild mountains of Pontus. St. Basil the Elder
was noted for his virtue (Acta SS, May, VII) and also won considerable reputation
as a teacher in Caesarea. He was not a priest (Cf. Cave, Hist. Lit., I, 239). He
married Emmelia, the daughter of a martyr and became the father of ten children.
Three of these, Macrina, Basil, an Gregory are honoured as saints; and of the
sons, Peter, Gregory, and Basil attained the dignity of the episcopate. 

Under the care of his father and his grandmother, the elder Macrina, who
preserved the traditions of their countryman, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c.
213-275) Basil was formed in habits of piety and study. He was still young when
his father died and the family moved to the estate of the elder Macrina at Annesi
in Pontus, on the banks of the Iris. As a boy, he was sent to school at Caesarea,
then "a metropolis of letters", and conceived a fervent admiration for the local
bishop, Dianius. Later, he went to Constantinople, at that time "distinguished for
its teachers of philosophy and rhetoric", and thence to Athens. Here he became
the inseparable companion of Gregory of Nazianzus, who, in his famous
panegyric on Basil (Or. xliii), gives a most interesting description of their
academic experiences. According to him, Basil was already distinguished for
brilliancy of mind and seriousness of character and associated only with the
most earnest students. He was able, grave, industrious, and well advanced in
rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine. (As to his
not knowing Latin, see Fialon, Etude historique et littéraire sur St. Basile, Paris,
1869). We know the names of two of Basil's teachers at Athens — Prohaeresius,
possibly a Christian, and Himerius, a pagan. It has been affirmed, though
probably incorrectly, that Basil spent some time under Libanius. He tells us
himself that he endeavoured without success to attach himself as a pupil to
Eustathius (Ep., I). At the end of his sojourn at Athens, Basil being laden, says
St. Gregory of Nazianzus "with all the learning attainable by the nature of man",
was well equipped to be a teacher. Caesarea took possession of him gladly "as
a founder and second patron" (Or. xliii), and as he tells us (ccx), he refused the
splendid offers of the citizens of Neo-Caesarea, who wished him to undertake the
education of the youth of their city. 

To the successful student and distinguished professor, "there now remained",
says Gregory (Or. xliii), "no other need than that of spiritual perfection". Gregory
of Nyssa, in his life of Macrina, gives us to understand that Basil's brilliant
success both as a university student and a professor had left traces of
worldliness and self-sufficiency on the soul of the young man. Fortunately, Basil
came again in contact with Dianius, Bishop of Caesarea, the object of his boyish
affection, and Dianius seems to have baptized him, and ordained him Reader
soon after his return to Caesarea. It was at the same time also that he fell under
the influence of that very remarkable woman, his sister Macrina, who had
meanwhile founded a religious community on the family estate at Annesi. Basil
himself tells us how, like a man roused from deep sleep, he turned his eyes to
the marvellous truth of the Gospel, wept many tears over his miserable life, and
prayed for guidance from God: "Then I read the Gospel, and saw there that a
great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one's goods, the sharing of
them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life, and the refusal to allow
the soul to be turned by any sympathy towards things of earth" (Ep. ccxxiii). To
learn the ways of perfection, Basil now visited the monasteries of Egypt,
Palestine, Coele-Syria, and Mesopotamia. He returned, filled with admiration for
the austerity and piety of the monks, and founded a monastery in his native
Pontus, on the banks of the Iris, nearly opposite Annesi. (Cf. Ramsay, Hist.
Geog. of Asia Minor, London, 1890, p. 326). Eustathius of Sebaste had already
introduced the eremitical life into Asia Minor; Basil added the cenobitic or
community form, and the new feature was imitated by many companies of men
and women. (Cf. Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., VI, xxvii; Epiphanius, Haer., lxxv, 1;
Basil, Ep. ccxxiii; Tillemont, Mém., IX, Art. XXI, and note XXVI.) Basil became
known as the father of Oriental monasticism, the forerunner of St. Benedict. How
well he deserved the title, how seriously and in what spirit he undertook the
systematizing of the religious life, may be seen by the study of his Rule. He
seems to have read Origen's writings very systematically about this time, for in
union with Gregory of Nazianzus, he published a selection of them called the

Basil was drawn from his retreat into the area of theological controversy in 360
when he accompanied two delegates from Seleucia to the emperor at
Constantinople, and supported his namesake of Ancyra. There is some dispute
as to his courage and his perfect orthodoxy on this occasion (cf. Philostorgius,
Hist. Eccl., IV, xii; answered by Gregory of Nyssa, In Eunom., I, and Maran,
Proleg., vii; Tillemont, Mém., note XVIII). A little later, however, both qualities
seem to have been sufficiently in evidence, as Basil forsook Dianius for having
signed the heretical creed of Rimini. To this time (c. 361) may be referred the
"Moralia"; and a little later came to books against Eunomius (363) and some
correspondence with Athanasius. It is possible, also, that Basil wrote his
monastic rules in the briefer forms while in Pontus, and enlarged them later at
Caesarea. There is an account of an invitation from Julian for Basil to present
himself a court and of Basil's refusal, coupled with an admonition that angered
the emperor and endangered Basil's safety. Both incident and and
correspondence however are questioned by some critics. 

Basil still retained considerable influence in Caesarea, and it is regarded as fairly
probable that he had a hand in the election of the successor of Dianius who died
in 362, after having been reconciled to Basil. In any case the new bishop,
Eusebius, was practically placed in his office by the elder Gregory of Nazianzus.
Eusebius having persuaded the reluctant Basil to be ordained priest, gave him a
prominent place in the administration of the diocese (363). In ability for the
management of affairs Basil so far eclipsed the bishop that ill-feeling rose
between the two. "All the more eminent and wiser portion of the church was
roused against the bishop" (Greg. Naz., Or. xliii; Ep. x), and to avoid trouble
Basil again withdrew into the solitude of Pontus. A little later (365) when the
attempt of Valens to impose Arianism on the clergy and the people necessitated
the presence of a strong personality, Basil was restored to his former position,
being reconciled to the bishop by St. Gregory of Nazianzus. There seems to
have been no further disagreement between Eusebius and Basil and the latter
soon became the real head of the diocese. "The one", says Gregory of
Nazianzus (Or. xliii), "led the people the other led their leader". During the five
years spent in this most important office, Basil gave evidence of being a man of
very unusual powers. He laid down the law to the leading citizens and the
imperial governors, settled disputes with wisdom and finality, assisted the
spiritually needy, looked after "the support of the poor, the entertainment of
strangers, the care of maidens, legislation written and unwritten for the monastic
life, arrangements of prayers, (liturgy?), adornment of the sanctuary" (op. cit.). In
time of famine, he was the saviour of the poor. 

In 370 Basil succeeded to the See of Caesarea, being consecrated according to
tradition on 14 June. Caesarea was then a powerful and wealthy city (Soz., Hist.
Eccl., V, v). Its bishop was Metropolitan of Cappadocia and Exarch of Pontus
which embraced more than half of Asia Minor and comprised eleven provinces.
The see of Caesarea ranked with Ephesus immediately after the patriarchal sees
in the councils, and the bishop was the superior of fifty chorepiscopi (Baert).
Basil's actual influence, says Jackson (Prolegomena, XXXII) covered the whole
stretch of country "from the Balkans to the Mediterranean and from the Aegean
to the Euphrates". The need of a man like Basil in such a see as Caesarea was
most pressing, and he must have known this well. Some think that he set about
procuring his own election; others (e.g. Maran, Baronius, Ceillier) say that he
made no attempt on his own behalf. In any event, he became Bishop of Caesarea
largely by the influence of the elder Gregory of Nazianzus. His election, says the
younger Gregory (loc. cit.), was followed by disaffection on the part of several
suffragan bishops "on whose side were found the greatest scoundrels in the
city". During his previous administration of the diocese Basil had so clearly
defined his ideas of discipline and orthodoxy, that no one could doubt the
direction and the vigour of his policy. St. Athanasius was greatly pleased at
Basil's election (Ad Pallad., 953; Ad Joann. et Ant., 951); but the Arianizing
Emperor Valens, displayed considerably annoyance and the defeated minority of
bishops became consistently hostile to the new metropolitan. By years of tactful
conduct, however, "blending his correction with consideration and his gentleness
with firmness" (Greg. Naz., Or. xliii), he finally overcame most of his opponents. 

Basil's letters tell the story of his tremendous and varied activity; how he worked
for the exclusion of unfit candidates from the sacred ministry and the deliverance
of the bishops from the temptation of simony; how he required exact discipline
and the faithful observance of the canons from both laymen and clerics; how he
rebuked the sinful, followed up the offending, and held out hope of pardon to the
penitent. (Cf. Epp. xliv, xlv, and xlvi, the beautiful letter to a fallen virgin, as well
as Epp. liii, liv, lv, clxxxviii, cxcix, ccxvii, and Ep. clxix, on the strange incident of
Glycerius, whose story is well filled out by Ramsay, The Church in the Roman
Empire, New York, 1893, p. 443 sqq.) If on the one hand he strenuously
defended clerical rights and immunities (Ep. civ), on the other he trained his
clergy so strictly that they grew famous as the type of all that a priest should be
(Epp. cii, ciii). Basil did not confine his activity to diocesan affairs, but threw
himself vigorously into the troublesome theological disputes then rending the
unity of Christendom. He drew up a summary of the orthodox faith; he attacked
by word of mouth the heretics near at hand and wrote tellingly against those afar.
His correspondence shows that he paid visits, sent messages, gave interviews,
instructed, reproved, rebuked, threatened, reproached, undertook the protection
of nations, cities, individuals great and small. There was very little chance of
opposing him successfully, for he was a cool, persistent, fearless fighter in
defence both of doctrine and of principles. His bold stand against Valens
parallels the meeting of Ambrose with Theodosius. The emperor was
dumbfounded at the archbishop's calm indifference to his presence and his
wishes. The incident, as narrated by Gregory of Nazianzus, not only tells much
concerning Basil's character but throws a clear light on the type of Christian
bishop with which the emperors had to deal and goes far to explain why
Arianism, with little court behind it, could make so little impression on the
ultimate history of Catholicism. 

While assisting Eusebius in the care of his diocese, Basil had shown a marked
interest in the poor and afflicted; that interest now displayed itself in the erection
of a magnificent institution, the Ptochoptopheion, or Basileiad, a house for the
care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the
industrial training of the unskilled. Built in the suburbs, it attained such
importance as to become practically the centre of a new city with the name of he
kaine polis or "Newtown". It was the mother-house of like institutions erected in
other dioceses and stood as a constant reminder to the rich of their privilege of
spending wealth in a truly Christian way. It may be mentioned here that the
social obligations of the wealthy were so plainly and forcibly preached by St.
Basil that modern sociologists have ventured to claim him as one of their own,
though with no more foundation than would exist in the case of any other
consistent teacher of the principles of Catholic ethics. The truth is that St. Bail
was a practical lover of Christian poverty, and even in his exalted position
preserved that simplicity in food and clothing and that austerity of life for which he
had been remarked at his first renunciation of the world. 

In the midst of his labours, Basil underwent suffering of many kinds. Athanasius
died in 373 and the elder Gregory in 374, both of them leaving gaps never to be
filled. In 373 began the painful estrangement from Gregory of Nazianzus.
Anthimus, Bishop of Tyana, became an open enemy, Apollinaris "a cause of
sorrow to the churches" (Ep. cclxiii), Eustathius of Sebaste a traitor to the Faith
and a personal foe as well. Eusebius of Samosata was banished, Gregory of
Nyssa condemned and deposed. When Emperor Valentinian died and the Arians
recovered their influence, all Basil's efforts must have seemed in vain. His health
was breaking, the Goths were at the door of the empire, Antioch was in schism,
Rome doubted his sincerity, the bishops refused to be brought together as he
wished. "The notes of the church were obscured in his part of Christendom, and
he had to fare on as best he might,--admiring, courting, yet coldly treated by the
Latin world, desiring the friendship of Rome, yet wounded by her
reserve,--suspected of heresy by Damasus, and accused by Jerome of pride"
(Newman, The Church of the Fathers). Had he lived a little longer and attended
the Council of Constantinople (381), he would have seen the death of its first
president, his friend Meletius, and the forced resignation of its second, Gregory
of Nazianzus. Basil died 1 January, 379. His death was regarded as a public
bereavement; Jews, pagans, and foreigners vied with his own flock in doing him
honour. The earlier Latin martyrologies (Hieronymian and Bede) make no mention
of a feast of St. Basil. The first mention is by Usuard and Ado who place it on 14
June, the supposed date of Basil's consecration to the episcopate. In the Greek
"Menaea" he is commemorated on 1 January, the day of his death. In 1081,
John, Patriarch of Constantinople, in consequence of a vision, established a feast
in common honour of St. Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, to
be celebrated on 30 January. The Bollandists give an account of the origin of this
feast; they also record as worthy of note that no relics of St. Basil are mentioned
before the twelfth century, at which time parts of his body, together with some
other very extraordinary relics were reputed to have been brought to Bruges by a
returning Crusader. Baronius (c. 1599) gave to the Naples Oratory a relic of St.
Basil sent from Constantinople to the pope. The Bollandists and Baronius print
descriptions of Basil's personal appearance and the former reproduce two icons,
the older copied from a codex presented to Basil, Emperor of the East (877-886).

By common consent, Basil ranks among the greatest figures in church history
and the rather extravagant panegyric by Gregory of Nazianzus has been all but
equalled by a host of other eulogists. Physically delicate and occupying his
exalted position but a few years, Basil did magnificent and enduring work in an
age of more violent world convulsions than Christianity has since experienced.
(Cf. Newman, The Church of the Fathers). By personal virtue he attained
distinction in an age of saints; and his purity, his monastic fervour, his stern
simplicity, his friendship for the poor became traditional in the history of Christian
asceticism. In fact, the impress of his genius was stamped indelibly on the
Oriental conception of religious life. In his hands the great metropolitan see of
Caesarea took shape as the sort of model of the Christian diocese; there was
hardly any detail of episcopal activity in which he failed to mark out guiding lines
and to give splendid example. Not the least of his glories is the fact that toward
the officials of the State he maintained that fearless dignity and independence
which later history has shown to be an indispensable condition of healthy life in
the Catholic episcopate. 

Some difficulty has arisen out of the correspondence of St. Basil with the Roman
See. That he was in communion with the Western bishops and that he wrote
repeatedly to Rome asking that steps be taken to assist the Eastern Church in
her struggle with schismatics and heretics is undoubted; but the disappointing
result of his appeals drew from him certain words which require explanation.
Evidently he was deeply chagrined that Pope Damasus on the one hand
hesitated to condemn Marcellus and the Eustathians, and on the other preferred
Paulinus to Meletius in whose right to the See of Antioch St. Basil most firmly
believed. At the best it must be admitted that St. Basil criticized the pope freely
in a private letter to Eusebius of Samosata (Ep. ccxxxix) and that he was
indignant as well as hurt at the failure of his attempt to obtain help from the
West. Later on, however, he must have recognized that in some respects he had
been hasty; in any event, his strong emphasis of the influence which the Roman
See could exercise over the Eastern bishops, and his abstaining from a charge of
anything like usurpation are great facts that stand out obviously in the story of
the disagreement. With regard to the question of his association with the
Semi-Arians, Philostorgius speaks of him as championing the Semi-Arian cause,
and Newman says he seems unavoidably to have Arianized the first thirty years
of his life. The explanation of this, as well as of the disagreement with the Holy
See, must be sought in a careful study of the times, with due reference to the
unsettled and changeable condition of theological distinctions, the lack of
anything like a final pronouncement by the Church's defining power, the "lingering
imperfections of the Saints" (Newman), the substantial orthodoxy of many of the
so-called Semi-Arians, and above all the great plan which Basil was steadily
pursuing of effecting unity in a disturbed and divided Christendom.... 

Monk & Hermit - AD 1898

On May 8, 1828 in a mountain village of Beka'kafra, the highest village in the near-east, Charbel was born to a poor Maronite family. From childhood his life revealed a calling to "bear fruit as a noble Cedar of Lebanon". Charbel "grew in age and wisdom before God and men". At 23 years old he entered the monastery of  Our Lady of Mayfouk (north of Byblos) where he became a novice. After two years of novitiate, in 1853, he was sent to St. Maron monastery where he pronounced the monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Charbel was then transferred to the monastery of Kfeifan where he studied philosophy and theology. His ordination to the priesthood took place in 1859, after which he was sent back to St. Maron monastery. His teachers provided him
with good education and nurtured within him a deep love for monastic life. 

During his 19 years at St. Maron monastery, Charbel performed his priestly ministry and his monastic duties in an edifying way. He totally dedicated himself to Christ with undivided heart to live in silence before Nameless One. In 1875 Charbel was granted
permission to live as a hermit nearby the monastery at St. Peter and Paul hermitage. His 23 years of solitary life were lived in a spirit of total abandonment to God. 

Charbel's companions in the hermitage were the Son of God, as encountered in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, and the Blessed Mother. The Eucharist became the center of his life. He consumed the Bread of his Life and was consumed by it. Though
this hermit did not have a place in the world, the world had a great place in his heart. Through prayer and penance he offered himself as a sacrifice so that the world would return to God. It is in this light that one sees the importance of the following Eucharistic prayer in his life:  "Father of Truth, behold Your Son a sacrifice pleasing to You, accept this offering of Him who died for me..."

On December 16, 1898 while reciting the "Father of Truth" prayer at the Holy Liturgy Charbel suffered a stroke. He died on Christmas Eve at the age of 70. Through faith this hermit received the Word of God and through love he continued the Ministry of Incarnation. 

On the evening of his funeral, his superior wrote: "Because of what he will do after his death, I need not talk about his behavior". A few months after his death a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb. The superiors opened it to find his body still intact. Since that day a blood-like liquid flows from his body. Experts and doctors are unable to give medical explanations for the incorruptibility and flexibility. In the years 1950 and 1952 his tomb was opened and his body still had the appearance of a living one. 

The spirit of Charbel still lives in many people. His miracles include numerous healings of the body and of the spirit. Thomas Merton, the American Hermit, wrote in his journal: "Charbel lived as a hermit in Lebanonhe was a Maronite. He died. Everyone forgot about him. Fifty years later, his body was discovered incorrupt and in short time he worked over 600 miracles. He is my new companion. My road has taken a new turning. It seems to me that I have been asleep for 9 yearsand before that I was dead." 

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965 Charbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said:  "...a hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed...a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is
enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people... May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance, and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God..." 

On October 9, 1977 during the World Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul VI canonized Blessed Charbel among the ranks of the Saints. "The just will flourish like the palm tree, like the Cedar of Lebanon shall he grow." (Psalm 92:13)

Archbishop & Confessor  - AD 386 (March 18)

Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18
March, 386. In the East his feast is observed on the 18th of March, in the West
on the 18th or 20th. Little is known of his life. We gather information concerning
him from his younger contemporaries, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Rufinus, as well
as from the fifth-century historians, Socrates, Sozomen and Theodoret. Cyril
himself gives us the date of his "Catecheses" as fully seventy years after the
Emperor Probus, that is about 347, if he is exact. Constans (d. 350) was then
still alive. Mader thinks Cyril was already bishop, but it is usually held that he
was at this date only as a priest. St. Jerome relates (Chron. ad ann. 352) that
Cyril had been ordained priest by St. Maximus, his predecessor, after whose
death the episcopate was promised to Cyril by the metropolitan, Acacius of
Caesarea, and the other Arian bishops, on condition that he should repudiate the
ordination he had received from Maximus. He consented to minister as deacon
only, and was rewarded for this impiety with the see. Maximus had consecrated
Heraclius to succeed himself, but Cyril, by various frauds, degraded Heraclius to
the priesthood. So says St. Jerome; but Socrates relates that Acacius drove out
St. Maximus and substituted St. Cyril. A quarrel soon broke out between Cyril
and Acacius, apparently on a question of precedence or jurisdiction. At Nicaea
the metropolitan rights of Caesarea had been guarded, while a special dignity
had been granted to Jerusalem. Yet St. Maximus had held a synod and had
ordained bishops. This may have been as much as the cause of Acacius' enmity
to him as his attachment to the Nicene formula. On the other hand, Cyril's
correct Christology may have been the real though veiled ground of the hostility of
Acacius to him. At all events, in 357 Acacius caused Cyril to be exiled on the
charge of selling church furniture during a famine. Cyril took refuge with Silvanus,
Bishop of Taraus. He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the
Semi-Arian party was triumphant. Acacius was deposed and St. Cyril seems to
have returned to his see. But the emperor was displeased at the turn of events,
and, in 360, Cyril and other moderates were again driven out, and only returned
at the accession of Julian in 361. In 367 a decree of Valens banished all the
bishops who had been restored by Julian, and Cyril remained in exile until the
death of the persecutor in 378. In 380, St. Gregory of Nyssa came to Jerusalem
on the recommendation of a council held at Antioch in the preceding year. He
found the Faith in accord with the truth, but the city a prey to parties and corrupt
in morals. St. Cyril attended the great Council of Constantinople in 381, at which
Theodosius had ordered the Nicene faith, now a law of the empire, to be
promulgated. St. Cyril then formally accepted the homoousion; Socrates and
Sozomen call this an act of repentance. Socrates gives 385 for St. Cyril's death,
but St. Jerome tells us that St. Cyril lived eight years under Theodosius, that is,
from January 379

Bishops & Confessors - AD 869 and 885 (February 14)

These brothers, the Apostles of the Slavs, were born in Thessalonica, in 827 and 826 respectively. Though belonging to a senatorial family they renounced secular honours and became priests. They were living in a monastery on the Bosphorous, when the Khazars sent to Constantinople for a Christian teacher. Cyril was selected and was accompanied by his brother. They learned the Khazar language and converted many of the people. Soon after the Khazar mission there was a request from the Moravians for a preacher of the Gospel. German missionaries had already laboured among them, but without success. The Moravians wished a teacher who could instruct them and conduct Divine service in the Slavonic tongue. On account of their acquaintance with the language, Cyril and Methodius were chosen for their work. In preparation for it Cyril invented an alphabet and, with the help of Methodius, translated the Gospels and the necessary liturgical books into Slavonic. They went to Moravia in 863, and laboured for four and a half years. Despite their success, they were regarded by the Germans with distrust, first because they had come from Constaninople where schism was rife, and again because they held the Church services in the Slavonic language. On this account the brothers were summoned to Rome by Nicholas I, who died, however, before their arrival. His successor, Adrian II, received them kindly. Convinced of their orthodoxy, he commended their missionary activity, sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy, and ordained Cyril and Methodius bishops. Cyril, however, was not to return to Moravia. He died in Rome, 4 Feb., 869.

At the request of the Moravian princes, Rastislav and Svatopluk, and the Slav Prince Kocel of Pannonia, Adrian II formed an Archdiocese of Moravia and Pannonia, made it independent of the German Church, and appointed Methodius archbishop. In 870 King Louis and the German bishops summoned Methodius to a synod at Ratisbon. Here he was deposed and condemned to prison. After three years he was liberated at the command of Pope John VIII and reinstated as Archbishop of Moravia. He zealously endeavoured to spread the Faith among the Bohemians, and also among the Poles in Northern Moravia. Soon, however, he was summoned to Rome again in consequence of the allegations of the German priest Wiching, who impugned his orthodoxy, and objected to the use of Slavonic in the liturgy. But John VIII, after an inquiry, sanctioned the Slavonic Liturgy, decreeing, however, that in the Mass the Gospel should be read first in Latin and then in Slavonic. Wiching, in the meantime, had been nominated one of the suffragan bishops of Methodius. He continued to oppose his metropolitan, going so far as to produce spurious papal letters. The pope, however, assured Methodius that they were false. Methodius went to Constantinople about this time, and with the assistance of several priests, he completed the translation of the Holy Scriptures, with the exception of the Books of Machabees. He translated also the "Nomocanon", i.e. the Greek ecclesiastico-civil law. The enemies of Methodius did not cease to antagonize him. His health was worn out from the long struggle, and he died 6 April, 885, recommending as his successor Gorazd, a Moravian Slav who had been his disciple.

Formerly the feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius was celebrated in Bohemia and Moravia on 9 March; but Pius IX changed the date to 5 July. Leo XIII, by his Encyclical "Grande Munus" of 30 September, 1880, extended the feast to the universal Church. [New calendar: 14 February]

Doctor - AD 373? (June 9)

(Ephrem, Ephraim) Born at Nisibis [Mesopotamia], then under Roman rule, early in the fourth century; died June, 373. The name of his father is unknown, but he was a pagan and a priest of the goddess Abnil or Abizal. His mother was a native of Amid. Ephraem was instructed in the Christian mysteries by St. James, the famous Bishop of Nisibis, and was baptized at the age of eighteen (or twenty-eight). Thenceforth he became more intimate with the holy bishop, who availed himself of the services of Ephraem to renew the moral life of the citizens of Nisibis, especially during the sieges of 338, 346, and 350. One of his biographers relates that on a certain occasion he cursed from the city walls the Persian hosts, whereupon a cloud of flies and mosquitoes settled on the army of Sapor II and compelled it to withdraw. The adventurous campaign of Julian the Apostate, which for a time menaced Persia, ended, as is well known, in disaster, and his successor, Jovianus, was only too happy to rescue from annihilation some remnant of the great army which his predecessor had led across the Euphrates. To accomplish even so much the emperor had to sign a disadvantageous treaty, by the terms of which Rome lost the Eastern provinces conquered at the end of the third century; among the cities retroceded to Persia was Nisibis (363). To escape the cruel persecution that was then raging in Persia, most of the Christian population abandoned Nisibis en masse. Ephraem went with his people, and settled first at Beit-Garbaya, then at Amid, finally at Edessa, the capital of Osroene, where he spent the remaining ten years of his life, a hermit remarkable for his severe asceticism. Nevertheless he took an interest in all matters that closely concerned the population of Edessa. Several ancient writers say that he was a deacon; as such he could well have been authorized to preach in public. At this time some ten heretical sects were active in Edessa; Ephraem contended vigorously with all of them, notably with the disciples of the illustrious philosopher Bardesanes. To this period belongs nearly all his literary work; apart from some poems composed at Nisibis, the rest of his writingssermons, hymns, exegetical treatisesdate from his sojourn at Edessa. It is not improbable that he is one of the chief founders of the theological "School of the Persians", so called because its first students and original masters were Persian Christian refugees of 363. At his death St. Ephraem was borne without pomp to the cemetery "of the foreigners". The Armenian monks of the monastery of St. Sergius at Edessa claim to possess his body.

AD 320 (March 10) 

THESE holy martyrs suffered at Sebaste [Sebastea], in the Lesser Armenia, under the Emperor Licinius, in 320. They were of different countries, but enrolled in the same troop; all in the flower of their age, comely, brave, and robust, and were become considerable for their services. St. Gregory of Nyssa and Procopius say they were of the Thundering Legion, so famous under Marcus Aurelius for the miraculous rain and victory obtained by their prayers. This was the twelfth legion, and then quartered in Armenia. Lysias was duke or general of the forces, and Agricola the governor of the province. The latter having signified to the army the orders of the emperor Licinius for all to sacrifice, these forty went boldly up to him, and said they were Christians, and that no torments should make them ever abandon their holy religion. The judge first endeavoured to gain them by mild usage; as by representing to them the dishonour that would attend their refusal to do what was required, and by making them large promises of preferment and high favour with the emperor in case of compliance. Finding these methods of gentleness ineffectual, he had recourse to threats, and these the most terrifying, if they continued disobedient to the emperor's order, but all in vain. To his promises they answered that he could give them nothing equal to what he would deprive them of; and to his threats, that his power only extended over their bodies which they had learned to despise when their souls were at stake. The governor, finding them all resolute, caused them to be torn with whips, and their sides to be rent with iron hooks; after which they were loaded with chains, and committed to jail.

After some days, Lysias, their general, coming from Caesarea to Sebaste, they were re-examined, and no less generously rejected the large promises made them than they despised the torments they were threatened with. The governor, highly offended at their courage, and that liberty of speech with which they accosted him, devised an extraordinary kind of death, which, being slow and severe, he hoped would shake their constancy. The cold in Armenia is very sharp, especially in March, and towards the end of winter, when the wind is north, as it then was, it being also at that time a severe frost. Under the walls of the town stood a pond, which was frozen so hard that it would bear walking upon with safety. The judge ordered the saints to be exposed quite naked on the ice; and in order to tempt them the more powerfully to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the frozen pond, for any of this company to go to who were disposed to purchase their temporal ease and safety on that condition. The martyrs, on hearing their sentence, ran joyfully to the place, and without waiting to be stripped, undressed themselves, encouraging one another in the same manner as is usual among soldiers in military expeditions attended with hardships and dangers, saying that one bad night would purchase them a happy eternity. They also made this their joint prayer: "Lord, we are forty who arc engaged in this combat; grant that we may be forty crowned, and that not one be wanting to this sacred number." The guards in the mean time ceased not to persuade them to sacrifice, that by so doing they might be allowed to pass to the warm bath. But though it is not easy to form a just idea of the bitter pain they must have undergone, of the whole number only one had the misfortune to be overcome; who, losing courage, went off from the pond to seek the relief in readiness for such as were disposed to renounce their faith; but as the devil usually deceives his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water but he expired. This misfortune afflicted the martyrs; but they were quickly comforted by seeing his place and their number miraculously filled up. A sentinel was warming himself near the bath, having been posted there to observe if any of the martyrs were inclined to submit. While he was attending, he had a vision of blessed spirits descending from heaven on the martyrs, and distributing, as from their king, rich presents and precious garments; St. Ephrem adds crowns to all these generous soldiers, one only excepted, who was their faint-hearted companion already mentioned. The guard, being struck with the celestial vision and the apostate's desertion, was converted upon it; and by a particular motion of the Holy Ghost, threw off his clothes, and placed himself in his stead amongst the thirty-nine martyrs. Thus God heard their request, though in another manner than they imagined: "Which ought to make us adore the impenetrable secrets of his mercy and justice," says St. Ephrem, "in this instance, no less than in the reprobation of Judas and the election of St. Matthias."

In the morning the judge ordered both those that were dead with the cold, and those that were still alive, to be laid on carriages, and cast into a fire. When the rest were thrown into a waggon to be carried to the pile, the youngest of them (whom the acts call Melito) was found alive; and the executioners, hoping he would change his resolution when he came to himself, left him behind. His mother, a woman of mean condition, and a widow, but rich in faith and worthy to have a son a martyr, observing this false compassion, reproached the executioners; and when she came up to her son, whom she found quite frozen, not able to stir, and scarce breathing, he looked on her with languishing eyes, and made a little sign with his weak hand to comfort her. She exhorted him to persevere to the end, and, fortified by the Holy Ghost, took him up, and put him with her own hands into the wagon with the rest of the martyrs, not only without shedding a tear, but with a countenance full of joy, saying courageously: "Go, go, son, proceed to the end of this happy journey with thy companions, that thou mayest not be the last of them that shall present themselves before God." Nothing can be more inflamed or more pathetic than the discourse which St. Ephrem puts into her mouth, by which he expresses her contempt of life and all earthly things, and her ardent love and desire of eternal life. This holy father earnestly entreats her to conjure this whole troop of martyrs to join in imploring the divine mercy in favour of his sinful soul. Their bodies were burned, and their ashes thrown into the river; but the Christians secretly carried off or purchased part of them with money. Some of these precious relics were kept in Caesarea, and St. Basil says of them: "Like bulwarks, they are our protection against the inroads of enemies." He adds that every one implored their succour, and that they raised up those that had fallen, strengthened the weak, and invigorated the fervour of the saints. SS Basil and Emmelia, the holy parents of St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebaste, and St. Macrina, procured a great share of these relics. St. Emmelia put some of them in the church she built near Anneses, the village where they resided. The solemnity with which they were received was extraordinary, and they were honoured by miracles, as St. Gregory relates. One of these was a miraculous cure wrought on a lame soldier, the truth of which he attests from his own knowledge, both of the fact and the person who published it everywhere. He adds: "I buried the bodies of my parents by the relics of these holy martyrs, that in the resurrection they may rise with the encouragers of their faith; for I know they have great power with God, of which I have seen clear proofs and undoubted testimonies." St. Gaudentius, bishop of Brescia, writes in his sermon on these martyrs: "God gave me a share of these venerable relics, and granted me to found this church in their honor." He says, that the two nieces of St. Basil, both abbesses, gave them to him as he passed by Caesarea, in a journey to Jerusalem; which venerable treasure they had received from their uncle. Portions of their relics were also carried to Constantinople, and there honored with great veneration, as Sozomen and Procopius have recorded at large, with an account of several visions and miracles, which attended the veneration paid to them in that city.

Apostle of the Indies and Japan - AD 1552 (December 3)

Born in the Castle of Xavier near Sanguesa, in Navarre, 7 April, 1506; died on the
Island of Sancian near the coast of China, 2 December, 1552. In 1525, having
completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, Francis Xavier
went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the
Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them.
It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning
the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. He
soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered
themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez,
Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the
famous vow of Montmartre, 15 Aug., 1534. 

After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some
time, Xavier left the city with his companions 15 November, 1536, and turned his
steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the
hospitals. On 24 June, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius. The
following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some
months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St.
Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of the
Society of Jesus. The order was approved verbally 3 September, and before the
written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was
appointed , at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to
evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome 16 March, 1540, and
reached Lisbon about June. Here he remained nine months, giving many
admirable examples of apostolic zeal. 

On 7 April, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious
and dangerous voyage landed at Goa, 6 May, 1542. The first five months he
spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go
through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of
God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church
and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started
for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of
restoring Christanity which, although introduced years before, had almost
disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to
the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and
reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon. Many were the difficulties and
hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time, sometimes on account of
the cruel persecutions which some of the petty kings of the country carried on
against the neophytes, and again because the Portuguese soldiers, far from
seconding the work of the saint, retarded it by their bad example and vicious

In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He laboured there for the last
months of that year, and although he reaped an abundant spiritual harvest, he
was not able to root out certain abuses, and was conscious that many sinners
had resisted his efforts to bring them back to God. About January, 1546, Xavier
left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some
settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants
of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other lesser islands which it has been
difficult to identify. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on
the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the
first Apostle of the Philippines. But although this statement is made by some
writers of the seventeenth century, and in the Bull of canonization issued in 1623,
it is said that he preached the Gospel in Mindanao, up to the present time it has
not been proved absolutely that St. Francis Xavier ever landed in the Philippines. 

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger
(Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at
once aroused by the idea of introducing Christanity into Japan, but for the time
being the affairs of the Society demanded his presence at goa, whither he went,
taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among
the infidels, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by
St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in the country had been received
into the Society. In 1548 Xavier sent these missionaries to the principal centres
of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved
and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having
received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a spanish priest whom he had
met in the Maluccas, he started with him and Brother Juan Fernandez for Japan
towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at
Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them. 

They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, 15 Aug., 1549. The entire first
year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into
Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and
short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When
he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some
converts, but these aroused the ill will of the bonzes, who had him banished from
the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of
Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan.
Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan,
but he was unable to make any headway here because of the dissensions the
rending the country. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during
1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian
communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity. 

After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of
Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernandez, and returned to Goa,
arriving there at the beginning of 1552. Here domestic troubles awaited him.
Certain disagreements between the superior who had been left in charge of the
missions, and the rector of the college, had to be adjusted. This, however, being
arranged, Xavier turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition
there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and
though he probably had not formed a proper estimate of his extent and
greatness, he nevertheless understood how wide a field it afforded for the spread
of the light of the Gospel. With the help of friends he arranged a commission or
embassy the Sovereign of China, obtained from the Viceroy of India the
appointment of ambassador, and in April, 1552, he left Goa. At Malacca the
party encountered difficulties because the influential Portuguese disapproved of
the expedition, but Xavier knew how to overcome this opposition, and in the
autumn he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the
coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was
taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition,
he was removed to the land, where a rude hut had been built to shelter him. In
these wretched surroundings he breathed his last. 

It is truly a matter of wonder that one man in the short space of ten years (6
May, 1542 - 2 December, 1552) could have visited so many countries, traversed
so many seas, preached the Gospel to so many nations, and converted so many
infidels. The incomparable apostolic zeal which animated him, and the
stupendous miracles which God wrought through him, explain this marvel, which
has no equal elsewhere. The list of the principal miracles may be found in the
Bull of canonization. St. Francis Xavier is considered the greatest missionary
since the time of the Apostles, and the zeal he displayed, the wonderful miracles
he performed, and the great number of souls he brought to the light of true Faith,
entitle him to this distinction. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622,
although on account of the death of Gregory XV, the Bull of canonization was not
published until the following year. 

The body of the saint is still enshrined at Goa in the church which formerly
belonged to the Society. In 1614 by order of Claudius Acquaviva, General of the
Society of Jesus, the right arm was severed at the elbow and conveyed to Rome,
where the present altar was erected to receive it in the church of the Gesu. 

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