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A LADY OF INCOMPARABLE BEAUTY APPEARED AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR

A LADY OF INCOMPARABLE BEAUTY APPEARED AT THE FOOT OF THE ALTAR

OUR LADY’S FIRST MESSAGE TO THE MODERN WORLD – PARIS, 1830

“Come to the chapel, the Holy Virgin is waiting for you.” Zoe Catherine Laboure, a postulant in the Daughters of Charity, awoke to see a child about four or five years old standing at the side of her bed. He was enveloped in a golden light. She later said that she believed him to be her guardian angel.

This happened in the mother house of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The date was July 18,1830, the eve of the feast of St Vincent de Paul, founder of the community.

“BE AT EASE”

Catherine sat up, astonished and a little troubled. “How can I get up and running cross the dormitory without waking my companions?” she asked.

“Be at ease,” the child replied. “It is half past eleven and everyone is asleep. I will come with you.”

Catherine followed the child to the chapel, which, to her surprise, was lit up, “as if for Midnight Mass.” He led her to the altar rail, and she knelt down. “Here is the Holy Virgin,” he announced.

Almost at once, a sound like the rustling of silk caused her to look up. A Lady of incomparable beauty appeared at the foot of the altar. She stepped forward and sat on the chair normally reserved for the Director of the seminary. She was dressed in an ivory robe and blue mantle. A white veil fell over her shoulders.

“THE SWEETEST JOY OF MY LIFE”

Catherine rushed forward and threw herself to her knees. She rested her clasped hands on the knees of the Blessed Virgin. It was “the sweetest joy of my life,” she said later, “a delight beyond expression.”

“My child,” the Blessed Mother said, “God wishes you to undertake a mission. For it, you will have much to suffer, but you will overcome that by recalling that you do so for the glory of God…”

Much of what our Lady said was for Catherine’s ears alone and has never been revealed. The words which we do know began Mary’s message to the modern world, a message which was climaxed at Fatima and which has not yet been concluded.

“THE TIMES ARE EVIL” 

“The times are evil,” our Lady said. “Terrible things are about to happen in France. The throne will be destroyed, and the whole world will be convulsed by terrible calamities.

“But come to the foot of the altars. Here great graces will be poured out upon all who ask them with confidence and fervour. They will be bestowed upon the great and upon the small.”

Our Lady made some declarations about the community to which Catherine belonged, adding: “I love it very much.

“But grave troubles are coming. There will be great danger. Do not fear. God and Saint Vincent will protect the community. I myself shall be with you…

“DO NOT FEAR” 

“At one moment, when the danger is acute, everyone will believe all to be lost. You will recall my visit and the protection of God…

“There will be victims in other communities. There will be victims among the clergy of Paris. The Archbishop will die… The cross will be trampled upon… Blood will run in the streets… The world will be plunged into sadness…”

Catherine understood that some of the events described would take place soon. The others would take place in about forty years, or about 1870.

“I SHALL GRANT YOU MANY GRACES”

Our Lady’s last words to Catherine on this visit were: “My eyes are ever upon you. I shall grant you many graces. Special graces will be given to all who ask them, but people must pray.

When our Lady had disappeared, “like a cloud that had evaporated,” the child led Catherine back to her dormitory. The clock was striking two as she got back into bed.

THE PRODUCT OF AN OVERWROUGHT IMAGINATION? 

Catherine was not allowed to tell anyone of her experience, except her confessor, Father Aladel. The priest was inclined to dismiss the story as the product of an overwrought imagination.

A FEW DAYS LATER… 

Father Aladel was surprised a few days later when a Revolution broke out in Paris, but Catherine was not surprised. Our Lady had foretold it. Many were killed. Bands of men and boys broke into churches. Crucifixes were profaned. Convents were pillaged. Priests were ill-treated, and the Archbishop was forced to go into hiding. The mother house in the Rue du Bac shook with gunfire and was surrounded by an angry mob. It did seem that all was lost, but true to our Lady’s promise, the buildings remained unharmed.

“MANY PEOPLE DO NOT RECEIVE GRACES BECAUSE THEY DO NOT ASK FOR THEM”

Our Lady’s second visit to Catherine took place on November 27, 1830, four months after the first one. This time Mary appeared over the high altar in the convent chapel. Her head was covered with a soft white veil. She was standing on a globe. In her hands she held a smaller globe with a tiny cross at the top. She held it out as if offering it to God. Rays of light streamed down to the larger globe from some of the gems in her fingers.

Lowering her eyes, our Lady said to Catherine: “This ball you see is the world. I am praying for it and for everyone in the world. The rays are graces which I give to those who ask for them. But there are no rays from some of these stones, for many people do not receive graces because they do not ask for them.”

AN OVAL FRAME APPEARED AROUND OUR LADY

The vision changed. An oval frame appeared around our Lady. The small globe disappeared, and our Lady dropped her hands to her sides. She became brighter and lovelier as she did so. Around the oval frame appeared in gold the words: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

O MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN, PRAY FOR US WHO HAVE RECOURSE TO THEE

A voice said to Catherine: “Have a medal made according to this picture. All those who wear it when it is blessed will receive many graces, especially if they wear it suspended from their necks.”

Suddenly the entire picture seemed to turn. On the reverse Catherine saw the letter M surmounted by a cross with a crossbar beneath it. Below were two hearts. That of our Lord was encircled by a crown of thorns while that of our Lady was pierced by a sword. Enclosing the entire picture were twelve stars within a golden frame.

In December, the Blessed Virgin appeared for the third time and repeated her request for the medal.

Catherine again transmitted the request to her spiritual adviser, Father Aladel, but the priest did not know what to do. He did not wish to be in the position of disobeying an order from heaven, but he said to Catherine: “I do not have the authority to have such a medal struck. Besides, it is to say ‘O Mary conceived without sin,’ and the Immaculate Conception is not a dogma of the Church.” (In 1830, this doctrine had not yet been promulgated. That was to come twenty-four years later.)

HE CONSULTED THE ARCHBISHOP

Father Aladel investigated Catherine’s story very carefully, and he prayed for divine guidance. Then he consulted the Archbishop of Paris. The medals were struck and distributed in Paris two years after our Lady had made her request. By this time, Catherine had received the habit of the Daughters of Charity, and had taken the name Sister Catherine.

SHE CARRIED HER SECRET TO THE GRAVE

Sister Catherine was so humble that she did not tell anyone that the Blessed Mother had appeared to her. Not more than two or three persons knew to whom our Lady had given her request for the medal. Even the other Sisters in her convent did not know. Sister Catherine carried her secret to the grave.

During the War of the Commune in 1871, many of the events fortold by our Lady in the first apparition came true. Blood ran in the streets. Many priests were killed. Msgr. Duboy, Archbishop of Paris, was brutally murdered. The insurrectionists were strongly influenced by the teachings of Karl Marx…

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2019 in Words of Wisdom

 

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ST BRUNO, CONFESSOR

ST BRUNO, CONFESSOR

ST BRUNO, CONFESSOR – MEMORIAL: OCTOBER 6

Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order, was born at Cologne [in 1030]. From boyhood, he was distinguished for his gravity of manner and his desire for solitude. He was sent by his parents to Paris, where he made such progress in the studies of philosophy and theology that he earned degrees of master and doctor in both branches. Not long afterwards, on account of his extraordinary virtues, he was appointed a canon at the church at Rheims.

AFTER THE ORDER OF CARTHUSIANS HAD BEEN FOUNDED… 

After the Order of Carthusians had been founded, when he had led the life of a hermit in it for several years, he was summoned to Rome by Blessed Urban II, who had been his disciple. For a number of years, the Pope made use of his advice and learning in the many difficulties of the time, until the man of God, after having declined appointment as Archbishop of Rheims, received permission to depart. He again sought a solitude where, full of virtue and merits, he fell asleep in the Lord [in 1101].

PRAYER:

May we be aided by the intercession of St Bruno, your Confessor, we beseech you, O Lord; that we, who have grievously offended your Majesty by sin, may, by his merits and prayers, obtain forgiveness for our offences. Through our Lord…

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

 

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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

An awed silence fell over the throng that had gathered in St Peter’s for this history-making ceremony. The tall stately Pope Pius IX had just celebrated Mass at the great main altar. Now he was stepping forward to read his proclamation. Tears of joy glistened in his eyes. In a voice loud and clear but ringing with emotion, he read: “We declare, affirm and define that the doctrine which states that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved and exempted from all stain of original sin from the first instant of her conception in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all mankind, is a doctrine revealed of God and which, for this reason, all Christians are bound to believe firmly and with confidence…”

As he reached the end, his voice broke and tears ran unchecked down his cheeks.

Forty-thousand voices sang the hymn Te Deum Laudamus. The dome of Michelangelo resounded with the triumphant notes. The bells of Rome’s churches rang joyously. That night, Rome was ablaze with light.

This happened on December 8, 1854.

A DOCTRINE REVEALED OF GOD

For centuries, millions of Catholics had believed that the Mother of God had been conceived without the stain of original sin; anything else would have been unthinkable. But the Holy Ghost had reserved the solemn definition for modern times. Our Lady had told Venerable Dominic of Jesus and Mary, a Carmelite who had lived at the time of St Louis Marie de Montfort, that the promulgation was “saved for the latter days of the Church.” This was part of the divine plan, foretold by St Louis Marie, to make our Lady more known, more loved and more honoured in our time than she had ever been before. The Blessed Mother herself had paved the way for the proclamation in 1830 when, to Catherine Laboure, she had called herself “Mary conceived without sin.”

MARY CONCEIVED WITHOUT SIN

The doctrine was an especially appropriate one for the nineteenth century. The great heresy of the day – which has persisted into our own time – was man’s elevating himself to equality with God. The Immaculate Conception reminds us that only Mary, of all human creatures, was conceived without the stain of original sin. All the rest of us came into the world with this mark on our souls. As a result of this sin, we are weak and inclined towards evil. Only God’s help will keep us on the road to salvation. We are absolutely dependent on God.

As the Blessed Virgin was intensifying her campaign, so was the devil. This very city of Rome, which was outdoing itself to honour the great Mother of God, had, just six years before, been the scene of the wildest disorders. They had been directed principally at Pope Pius IX, Christ’s vicar on earth.

WE ARE ABSOLUTELY DEPENDENT ON GOD

In those days the Pope, besides being the head of the Universal Church, was a king. He ruled a country known as the Papal States, and Rome was its capital. In the city there were many “liberals” who opposed the rule of the Pontiff on the pretence that they were in favour of a democracy. Actually, they hated the Church, and they knew no better way of fighting it than by attacking its visible head.

Riot followed riot. The revolutionaries managed to get control of the civic guard, so the Pope was powerless to stop the riots. Events reached a climax in November, 1848. On the 15th, a group of conspirators stabbed to death the Pope’s Prime Minister, Count Pellegrino Rossi. The mob celebrated the murder by carrying the bloody knife triumphantly through the streets. It was even carried to the home of the widow who was alone with her daughter.

Later that night, the mob marched to the Papal Palace. Shots were fired, and some found their mark. Several people were wounded. Monsignor Palace, the Pope’s secretary, was shot dead.

On November 24, 1848, the Pope was forced to flee from Rome. The city was left in the hands of the “liberals,” the men who were “to usher in a new era for mankind, the glorious era of a redemption far different from that announced by Christ.”

ONLY GOD’S HELP WILL KEEP US ON THE ROAD TO SALVATION

It was different all right – horribly different. Under the “Roman Republic,” freedom of the press and freedom of speech were rigidly suppressed. Taxes were increased. All bank deposits, all gold, silver and jewellery were confiscated, as was all the property belonging to the Church. People were thrown into jail without trial. The Minister of Finance requisitioned all hospitals, orphan asylums and other charitable institutions. The inmates were turned into the streets.

In 1830, our Lady had struck in the heart of the enemy territory – Paris. Now, eighteen years later, the devil had struck at the city which was the capital of Christ’s Church – Rome. As things are usually judged in this world, the devil seemed to have the better of it.

MARY HAD APPEARED TO A HUMBLE LITTLE POSTULANT

Mary had appeared in the quiet of the night to a humble little postulant in a convent chapel. So far as anyone could tell at the time, she had had no effect at all on the city or the world. The enemies of religion, on the other hand, were in complete control of Rome. The Holy Eucharist was defiled in public ceremonies. But this control did not last long.

Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, had become head of the French government. He decided to help Pius IX, who was in exile at Gaeta. A French army marched against Rome, and the “republic” fell on June 30, 1849. The Pope returned to the city on April 12, 1850.

His return did not mean the end of his troubles. He was kept in power only by Louis Napoleon, who was ready to sacrifice him the moment he could gain thereby. Rome was still filled with “liberals” who were ready to repeat their revolution of 1848. King Victor Emmanuel of Piedmont and his crafty premier, Cavour, were campaigning for a united Italy with Rome as its capital. Most people were sure that eventually they would be successful. In addition to the troubles in Rome, there was scarcely a country in the world where the rights of the Church were not being infringed upon. Switzerland, Russia and Prussia were especially violent in their persecutions.

With the Church beset on all sides, there were many who freely predicted that its days were numbered. It was not possible, these people said, for any institution to withstand so many attacks coming from so many quarters at the same time.

THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST CHRIST’S CHURCH 

From a strictly material viewpoint, these people were right. But they forgot Christ’s promise that He would remain with His Church always and that the gates of hell should not prevail against her. They forgot – or did not know – that “Mary must be terrible to the devil and his crew, as an angel ranged in battle, principally in these latter times.

In the midst of all her troubles, the Church had one of her most glorious moments, when Pius IX proclaimed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Less than four years after the proclamation, Pope Pius IX was to learn with joy that our Lady had appeared at Lourdes and had put what seemed to be the seal of approval on his action by saying, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2019 in Words of Wisdom

 

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OUR LADY OF VICTORIES – PARIS, 1836

OUR LADY OF VICTORIES – PARIS, 1836

Catherine Laboure’s pastor in 1830 was Father Charles du Friche des Gennettes. Father des Gennettes’ parish included the area in which the mother house of the Daughters of Charity was located. Father probably did not know Sister Catherine because the community had its own spiritual adviser, Father Aladel. He was very familiar, however, with the story of our Lady’s appearances in the convent chapel and with the Miraculous Medal.

In 1832, Father des Gennettes was transferred to the Church of Our Lady of Victories. This church had been built in 1629 by King Louis XIII in thanksgiving for favours granted him by the Blessed Virgin. The parishioners, for a century and a half, were known for their devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

WITH THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, THE CHURCH FELL UPON EVIL DAYS

With the French Revolution, the church fell upon evil days. All sorts of outrages were performed in it by the revolutionaries. Afterwards, it was used by a schismatic sect, and after that it became a stock exchange. In 1809, it was restored to its original purpose, but there were few parishioners left.

Father des Gennettes found that scarcely anyone came to Mass or received the sacraments. Being a very apostolic man, he tried in every way he could think of to bring the people back to their faith. He met with nothing but indifference. At length, Father became discouraged. Perhaps another priest might be able to do better, he thought. He decided it was his duty to resign as a failure.

“CONSECRATE YOUR PARISH TO THE MOST HOLY AND IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY”

On Sunday, December 3,1836, Father des Gennettes began to say Mass in an almost empty church. He was seized by a frightful distraction, the conviction that he must resign. He could scarcely keep his mind on the Mass. When he reached the Canon, he cried out in distress.

At that moment he heard a calm distinct voice say very solemnly: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

After Mass, Father wondered whether he had really heard these words. He convinced himself that it had been his imagination and knelt to say his thanksgiving. Again he heard the words: “Consecrate your parish to the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary.”

HE COULD DOUBT NO LONGER

He could doubt no longer. Taking up a pen, he composed the rules for a confraternity of our Lady. The Bishop approved the rules that same week.

The following Sunday, Father told the ten people at Mass about his project. He said there would be Vespers of our Lady that evening and that he would then give the full details of the Confraternity.

When Father des Gennettes entered the church that evening, he found it full for the first time in years. More than 400 people were there. The parish continued to flourish from then on. People began to come to Our Lady of Victories from other parts of Paris, and then from all France, and soon the fame of the shrine was worldwide. Today, about 90,000 thank offerings for cures line the walls.

TODAY, ABOUT 90,000 THANK OFFERINGS FOR CURES LINE THE WALLS

In 1838, Pope Gregory XVI made the Confraternity the Archconfraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners. There are affiliated societies throughout the world.

In March 1855, an octave of thanksgiving was held at the shrine for the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At the end of the octave, the statue of the Immaculate Heart was seen to move. This happened again. Pope Pius IX took this as a sign of approval for his act, and ordered the statue to be crowned, June 1, 1856.

“I WAS FILLED WITH PEACE AND JOY”

St Therese of the Child Jesus visited the shrine on November 4, 1887. “Having arrived in Paris,”  she wrote, “Papa took us to see the sights. For me there was only one – Our Lady of Victories. What I felt in her sanctuary, I cannot say. The graces she granted me resembled those of my First Communion. I was filled with peace and joy. It was there that my Mother, the Virgin Mary, told me distinctly that it was indeed she who cured me. With what fervour did I beg her always to keep me and to bring about my dreams., to enfold me ever beneath the shadow of the cloak of her Virginity. I besought her again to keep all occasions of sin away from me.”

– From: “The Woman Shall Conquer” by Don Sharkey, Prow Books/Franciscan Marytown Press, Libertyville, IL, 1954

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2019 in Devotions, Prayers to Our Lady

 

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“HAVE COURAGE” – ST JOAN ANTIDE-THOURET

“[On]  24th August, one of the saints remembered by the Church is St Joan Antide-Thouret. She was born in France in 1755 and lived at a time of great change during the French Revolution but this did not stop St Joan from living the life and vocation that she wanted.

A time of great change during the French Revolution

At the age of sixteen, after her mother had died, St Joan looked after her father in the village of Besancon. However, in 1787 she felt called by God to enter the Sisters of Charity at Paris. There two serious illnesses interrupted her religious training and in 1794, due to the turmoil around them, the sisters had to disperse.

Due to the turmoil, the sisters had to disperse

St Joan returned to her hometown and ran a school for the village children. When political conditions improved the local Vicar General invited St Joan to open a bigger school and, after some reluctance due to her feeling inadequate, this was achieved in April 1799. Six months later St Joan added a soup kitchen and a dispensary.

In obedience to her Bishop

Some critics denounced her for not returning to her original community of sisters. She countered this by saying that she had not yet taken religious vows and was now acting in obedience to her Bishop. St Joan also ran a female asylum at Belleveaux, which housed orphans, criminals, the homeless and women with mental illness. She and others laboured there in the asylum under hopeless conditions, and opponents again criticised her for undertaking this work.

Let’s despise the world and its false gods. Let’s despise its honours. In vain would we seek our happiness in them.

However, St Joan pressed on with this work, encouraging others with her example and writings. In one letter to a fellow worker she wrote: ‘How are you? Still holding on firmly to the handles of the plough? Is the ground hard and dry? Is the corn growing well? The weeds not stifling it? If so, dig out the weeds with a hoe, without damaging the corn. Have courage. The good corn of the elect will ripen and will nourish you for eternal life. Prune the vine well. You will drink the good wine in long draughts in paradise. But to merit this happiness, let’s not tire of fighting during this exile. Let’s despise the world and its false gods. Let’s despise its honours. In vain would we seek our happiness in them. It will benefit us greatly to receive nothing from the world but ingratitude and opposition. This will detach us from it and attach us closely to God alone. You face many troubles in serving these poor people entrusted to you. I am sure that you do so from charity and the love of God.’

This will detach us from the world and attach us closely to God alone.

By 1810 St Joan’s community had spread to Switzerland, Savoy and Naples, where St Joan had gone to administer a hospital. In 1819 the Pope approved this order as the Daughters of Charity. St Joan died in Naples in 1826. She is an inspiration to those of us who wish to do the work of God whilst fighting against opposition, misunderstanding, criticism, feeling inadequate and the pettiness of others. St Joan did it and so can we.”

– From: Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris/2015

 

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BLESSED VLADIMIR GHIKA – “HE WAS STARVED TO DEATH FOR REFUSING TO BREAK TIES WITH THE VATICAN”

“A priest who died of cold and hunger in a Communist prison was beatified as a martyr on Saturday. Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest, president of the Romanian bishops’ conference, said the sanctity of Mgr Vladimir Ghika had ‘given us an important new example of a life lived for Church and faith’.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, celebrated the beatification Mass in Bucharest’s Romexpo exhibition centre.

Archbishop Robu said Mgr Ghika would represent many other ‘unknown and unrecognised Christian martyrs’ who died in Romania during four decades of Communist rule, which ended in 1989.

Mgr Ghika was born in Istanbul, where his father was Romania’s representative at the Ottoman court. He was one of six children in an Orthodox family. He studied in Paris and Toulouse, in his mother’s home country, and received a theology doctorate in 1898 at Rome’s Dominican College. He was received into the Catholic Church on April 15 1902, but was persuaded by Pope Pius X, whom he knew personally, to remain a lay-man in order to evangelise more effectively among non-Catholics.

After aiding the sick in Thessaloniki he moved to Bucharest, where he founded Romania’s first free clinic, as well as a hospital and sanatorium, before returning to France to care for the displaced and wounded during the First World War.

In 1921, he was awarded the Legion of Honour for helping restore France’s diplomatic ties with the Holy See. Two years later, he was ordained a priest in Paris.

He befriended prominent Catholics such as writers Jacques Maritain and Paul Claudel while ministering in the rough quarter of Villejuif. In the 1930s he travelled through Europe, Asia and the Americas as a representative of Pius XI. Mgr Ghika returned to Romania at the outbreak of the Second World War to organise help for refugees and bombing victims.

Having rejected advice to leave the country after the Communists seized power, he was arrested for refusing to break ties with the Vatican, and survived more than 80 violent interrogations before being sentenced to three years’ incarceration at Romania’s infamous Jilava prison, where he died, emaciated, on May 16 1954. May 16 will be celebrated as his feast day.

Romania’s prime minister, Victor Ponta, called him ‘a great European spirit who refused to compromise with totalitarianism’.”
– This article by Jonathan Luxmoore entitled “Priest who starved to death in jail is beatified” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue September 6 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time

 

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ST VITUS – GUIDED BY AN ANGEL AND SUSTAINED WITH FOOD BROUGHT BY AN EAGLE

ST VITUS, MARTYR; FEAST JUNE 15

“St Vitus appears in early lists of Christian martyrs, and probably died during the persecution of Diocletian, which reached its climax in 303.

He is a patron saint of Prague, coppersmiths and actors, and his intercession has been invoked against snake bites, lightning and sleeplessness. Chiefly, though, he has been associated with St Vitus’s Dance.

Historically this term has been used to describe all kinds of nervous disorders involving rapid, jerky, involuntary movements; it has also been applied to epilepsy. Today, St Vitus’s Dance is more austerely defined as Sydenham’s Chorea, a disease which induces grimacing and jerking in children and pregnant women, and which is often linked to rheumatic fever.

Nothing certain is known of Vitus, apart from the fact of his martyrdom. There is a legend that he expelled an evil spirit from Diocletian’s son, though it is not clear whether this is the cause or consequence of his association with neurological symptoms.

As to his origins, tradition relates that Vitus hailed from Sicily, where he was converted to Christianity while still a boy, to the great disgust and rage of his father, a senator.

Guided by an angel, and sustained with food brought by an eagle, the youth escaped to Italy with his tutor Modestus and his maid Crescentia. The miraculous cures he effected led to accusations of sorcery, while his refusal to worship pagan gods attracted the malignant attention of authority.

Flung into a cauldron of molten lead, Vitus apparently emerged as from a refreshing bath. Then a lion to which he was exposed crouched before him and licked his feet. Yet Vitus eventually perished from the tortures he suffered, as did Modestus and Crescentia.

The church of St Vitus on the Esquiline Hill in Rome dates from the eighth century. In 775 his relics found a home at St Denis (now in Paris) until translated in 836 to Corvey in Saxony. Subsequently his cult became popular throughout Germany. In the early 10th century King Wenceslas obtained one of Vitus’s arms from the Emperor Henry I, and dedicated to the saint the cathedral he was building in Prague.

During the Black Death, in the 14th century, there were outbreaks of hysterical dancing in Europe, seemingly caused by mental breakdown in the face of the irresistible incursion of mortality.

Prayers were offered to St Vitus in the hope of allaying this “dancing plague”, and he became recognised as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers to those in extremis. Their group feast, on August 8, was abolished only in 1969.

‘If St Vitus’s Day be rainy weather, it shall rain for 30 days together, ‘ ran the old saw, a forecast applied with equal unreliability to the feast of St Swithin on July 15.”
– This article, entitled “Saint of the week”, was published in “The Catholic Herald”, issue June 14 2013. For subscriptions, please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk

 

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