Saint of the Day – 17 June – Saint Ranieri Scaccero (c 1117-1161) Confessor, Pilgrim, Monk, Musician, Penitent, Ascetic, Preacher, Miracle-worker. Born in c 1117 in Pisa, Italy and died on 17 June 1161 at the Abbey of Saint Vito, Pisa, Italy of natural causes. Patronage – of Pisa, Italy. Also known as – Ranieri of Pisa, Ranieri de Aqua, Rainer, Rainerius, Rainier, Raniero, Raynerius, Regnier.
The Roman Martyrology reads today: “In Pisa, Saint Raniero, poor man and pilgrim for Christ.”
Ranieri was the son of Gandulfo Scacceri, a prosperous merchant and shipowner of Pisa and Mingarda Buzzaccherini. In his youth, he was a travelling musician. He spent a wild and sinful youth as a wandering minstrel and musician, carousing all night, sleeping by day if at all.
It was at the age of 19 that Ranieri decided to radically change his life. One evening, while performing for a merry crowd in a castle,he met a Hermit named Alberto, from Corsica “who wore a cloak of animal hair, like a goat” and had entered the Pisan Monastery of St Vitus and had become renowned for his work for the poor. This meeting led Ranieri to embrace the Faith with conviction, he burned his fiddle, and gave up the life of a minstrel. Thus he place himself, at the service of God
Desiring to visit the Holy Land, Raineri set himself up as a merchant in order to pay for his fare. The business took him to many ports and he became wealthy. His travels eventually took him to the Holy Land, where, it is said, he had a vision by which he understood that his wealth was hindering him from devoting himself to God.
At the age of 23 he decided to live in absolute poverty: he got rid of all the riches and gave them to the poor and needy. His only concern remained to imitate his teacher, Jesus Christ, as best as possible. Wearing the robe of the penitent given to all the pilgrims who went to Mount Calvary, he spent a long period with the Hermits in the Holy Land, where he performed numerous miracles.
He punished his body with long fasts, normally abstaining from food everyday of the week except Thursdays and Sundays. His austerity was so excessive, his later biographer noted, that God had to tell him to eat! The renunciation of himself and the total service to God, allowed him to overcome the numerous temptations that the evil one never ceased attacking him with during his 13-year stay in the Holy Land.
Returning to Pisa in 1154 and entered the Monastery of Saint Andrew and subsequently that of Saint Vitus. and became a renowned Preacher. Ranieri was already then, surrounded by the fame of a saint. He continued to work miracles even in his hometown. The admiration of his fellow citizens would accompany him, until the last day of his life. Ranieri died seven years after his return from the Holy Land on Friday 17 June 1161. His body was carried in a triumph through the City to the Cathedral of Pisa, its resting place.
In the eyes of the Pisans, Ranieri was a saint already in life. Once he abandoned his earthly life, one of his disciples, the Canon Benincasa, undertook to write a Life of the Saint in 1162, a text that knew a great success . In 1755 it was translated by the Carmelite Friar ,Giuseppe Maria Sanminiatelli . In 1842 it was re-published in Pisa.
In 1632 the Archbishop of Pisa, the local clergy, the Pisan Magistrate, with the announcement of the sacred Congregation of Rites, elected Ranieri as the main Patron of the City and the Diocese. In 1689 the transfer of his body was decided, which was definitively placed on the High Altar. During the night of the translation, the Pisans illuminated their houses to pay homage to the figure of their most beloved Saint. He was Canonised by Pope Alexander III.
In 1161 or 1162, a Pisan Canon, Benincasa, wrote a long and invaluable Vita of the Saint. He says Raineri resembled the Son of God through his life of strict imitatio Christi – imitation of Christ. Benincasa wrote that Ranieri demonstrated “a royal priesthood in Christ” of which Raineri and all the Baptised are a part.
Ranieri is generally portrayed as a bearded hermit in a hairshirt holding a Rosary or Crucifix; as a young pilgrim in a hairshirt carrying a banner with the Pisan Cross; as being raised up by devils; or as dying in a hairshirt.
Saint of the Day – 12 January – St Benedict Biscop OSB (c 628-690) (pronounced “bishop”) – Bishop and Abbot of Wearmouth, who introduced Stained Glass windows to England and raised the Venerable Saint Bede, Founder of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Priory (where he also founded the famous library) – he was known as a Bibliophile, Confessor, a man of great piety and learning. Born in c 628 in Northumbria, England as Benet Biscop and died on 12 January 690 of natural causes at Wearmouth, England. Patronages – English Benedictines, musicians, painters, Church libraries and librarians, Sunderland, England, St Benet Biscop Catholic Academy in Northumberland, England.
Benedict’s idea was to build a model Monastery for England, sharing his knowledge of the experience of the Church in Europe. It was the first Ecclesiastical building in Britain to be built in stone and the use of glass was a novelty for many in 7th-century England. It eventually possessed, what was a very large library for the time – several hundred volumes – and it was here, that Benedict’s student St Bede wrote his famous works. The library became world-famous and manuscripts that had been copied there became prized possessions throughout Europe, including especially the Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving manuscript of the complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate version.
Benet was born of the highest Anglo-Saxon nobility. He held office in the household of King Oswy (Oswiu) of Northumbria. But, after a journey to Rome, the first of his five such trips, when his was 25 (653) in the company of Saint Wilfrid, the saint renounced his inheritance and dedicated himself to God. He then spent his time in studying the Scriptures and prayer. Following a second visit to Rome with Oswy’s son Aldfrith in 666, he became a Monk in the Monastery of Saint-Honorat in Lerins near Cannes, France, taking the name Benedict. He remained there for two years strictly observing the rule.
His third pilgrimage to Rome in 669, coincided with the visit of Archbishop-elect Wighard of Canterbury, who died there, prior to his consecration. Saint Theodore was finally selected to replace Wighard as Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Saint Vitalian, ordered Benedict to accompany Theodore and Saint Adrian to England, as a Missionary, which he did in obedience. Theodore appointed Benedict Abbot of Sts Peter and Paul (now St Augustine’s) Monastery in Canterbury, where he remained for two years before returning to Northumbria. (He was succeeded as Abbot by Saint Adrian, whose feast day was yesterday and who held this position for 39 years.)
Thereafter, Saint Benedict travelled to and fro between Britain and Rome (beginning in 671), returning always with books and relics and bringing back with him craftsmen to build and enrich the Churches of Britain. This fourth journey was made, with the view of perfecting himself in the rules and practice of a monastic life, so he stayed a while in Rome and visited other Monasteries.
In 674, he was granted 70 hides of land by Oswy’s son, Egfrid, at the mouth of the river Wear (Wearmouth), where he built a great stone Church and Monastery dedicated to Saint Peter. He was the first to introduce glass into England, which he brought from France along with stone and other materials. His foreign masons, glaziers and carpenters taught their skill to the Anglo-Saxons. He spared no trouble or effort in seeking far and wide for all that would richly embellish his Romanesque church.
From his trip to Rome in 679, Benedict brought back Abbot John of Saint Martin’s, the precentor (Archcantor) from Saint Peter’s. This was a result of Benedict persuading Pope Saint Agatho that Abbot John would be able to instruct the English monks, so that the music and ceremonies at Wearmouth might follow exactly the Roman pattern. Upon his return to England, he held training classes in the use and practice of church music, liturgy and chants. (John also taught the English monks uncial script and wrote instructions on the Roman liturgy for them.)
But, chiefly, he brought books, for he was a passionate collector. His ambition was to establish a great library in his Wearmouth Monastery. He also imported pictures from Rome and Vienne, beautiful paintings and musical scores. Among these treasures imported from Rome were a series of paintings of Gospels scenes, of Our Lady and the Apostles and of incidents described in the Book of Revelation, to be set up in the church.
Benedict also devised his rule based on that of Saint Benedict and those of the 17 Monasteries he had visited. He doubtlessly organised the scriptorium in which was written the manuscript of the Bible which, his successor as Prior at Wearmouth, Saint Ceolfrid, took with him in 716 as a present to Pope Saint Gregory II – the very book was identified in the Biblioteca Laurentiana at Florence in 1887, the famous Codex Amiatinus. All this immeasurably enriched the early English Church.
Because his Monastery and Church at Wearmouth was so edifying, in 682 Egfrid gave him a further gift of forty hides of land, this time at Jarrow on the Tyne River. Here he established a second Monastery, six miles from St. Peter’s and dedicated it to Saint Paul (now called Jarrow) in 685, which became famous as a great centre of learning in the West and the home of Saint Bede. our Saint’s charge and spiritual son. Among its inmates were many Saxon thanes turned Monks, who ploughed and winnowed and worked at the forge, like the rest and at night, slept in the common dormitory, for rank and class had no place among them.
And because Benedict was busier than ever with all his enterprises and still governed both Abbeys, he handed over some of his authority. Benedict first took to help him at Wearmouth, his nephew, Saint Eosterwin, a noble like himself and then Saint Sigfrid. In Jarrow, he placed Saint Ceolfrid in charge. While Benedict still ruled the Abbeys as their Founder, he made these men the Abbots under his direction of the two foundations, so that the Monasteries would not be without leadership during his absences.
Benedict made his last voyage to Rome in 685, returning with even more books and sacred images and some fine silk cloaks of exceptional workmanship, which he exchanged with the King for three hides of land.
It was due to Benedict Biscop that so much material lay to hand for Bede and other scholars and that, a solid foundation was laid for the later glories of the English Church. After his death, the school at Jarrow alone, comprised 600 scholars, apart from the flow of constant visitors. It was also in large part due to him, that the Church of Northumbria turned from the old Celtic forms, to those of Rome. Out of his labours and travels came a rich and abundant harvest.
At the end of his life, Benedict suffered from a painful paralysis in his lower limbs. (It is interesting to note that Sigfrid was afflicted with the same paralysis about the same time.) Throughout his three-year confinement, he asked the Monks to come into his room to sing Psalms and he joined them when he could. His last exhortations to his Monks, before he died at age 62, were to continue his work, to preserve his great library, to follow the monastic Rule of Saint Benedict and, to elect an Abbot, based on his holiness and ability rather than his lineage. He said, he would rather the Monasteries be turned into wildernesses than to have his brother succeed him as Abbot.
Benedict’s biography was written by Saint Bede, who had been entrusted to his care at age seven and whose learning was made possible by the library Benedict collected at Jarrow. Bede, the historian, says that the civilisation and learning of the 8th century rested in the Monastery founded by Benedict.
Proof of a very early public cultus of Benedict Biscop comes from a sermon of Bede on him (Homily 17) for his feast but the cultus became more widespread only after the translation of his relics under Saint Ethelwold about 980. Saint Benedict’s relics are thought to rest at Thorney Abbey, although Glastonbury also claims some of them.
Saint of the Day – 17 June – St Hervé (c 521–c 556) Hermit, Abbot, Musician and singer, miracle-worker, blind from birth – also known as Erveo, Harvey, Herveus, Hervues, Hervé, Houarniaule, Huva – born in Guimiliau, Brittany, France or unknown location in Wales (sources vary) and died in c 556 to c 575 (sources vary) of natural causes. Patronages – the blind, bards, musician, invoked against eye problems and disease, invoked to cure sick horses. St Hervé, along with Saint Ives, is one of the most venerated of the Breton Saints and was considered a Saint during his lifetime and ever since.
Hervé was the son of a bard (a professional singer and story-teller) at the Court of one of Clovis’ successors, King Childebert 1. He would have been also the nephew of the Bourg-Blanc’s hermit Saint Urfold or, according to other sources, of Saint Rivoaré, the Patron Saint of Lanrivoaré. His father died while Hervé was still an infant.
His mother entrusted him to the care of his uncle, Urzel, a Monk, who had opened a school in Plouvein. Saint Hervé, like his uncle, would have lived in poverty and humility all his life. In time, Hervé was made superior of the school and small Monastery. He later moved the Monastery to Lanhorneau. St Hervé’s Hermitage itself, consisted of three elements – the ruins of a Chapel, a sacred fountain and a stone hut which would have been the cell of the saint, see below.
Hervé died around 556 and was celebrated for his holiness, powerful preaching and love of music. He is honoured as one of the Patron Saints of the blind.
St Hervé is said to have had a special power over animals. It is related that he had a domesticated wolf as a pet. The dog guiding him having been devoured by a wolf, the hermit ordered the wild animal to take the role of his dog. One day Hervé’s wolf attacked and killed the ox that the Monks relied on to pull the plough in the fields. Hervé preached a powerful sermon and the wolf was so contrite it asked to be allowed to serve in place of the ox. For this reason, Hervé is often depicted with a wolf wearing a yoke.
He was joined by disciples and refused any Ordination or earthly honour, accepting only to be consecrated as an Exorcist. He died in 556 and was buried at Lanhouarneau, Brittany, France. Today there is a town in honour of him.
Feast of St Andrew, Apostle of Christ, Martyr – 30 November
Saint Andrew was the brother of the Apostle Peter and like his brother was born in Bethsaida of Galilee (where the Apostle Philip was also born). While his brother would eventually overshadow him as the first among the apostles, it was Saint Andrew, a fisherman like Peter, who (according to the Gospel of John) introduced Saint Peter to Christ.
St Andrew was a fisherman who lived in Galilee during the time of Jesus. He followed John the Baptist and listened to his teachings. One day, John saw Jesus walking along the road. John said to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God.” He told his followers to go and talk to Jesus. He wanted them to know that Jesus was the One for whom they had been waiting. Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus and spent an afternoon with him. Early the next day Andrew found Simon Peter, his brother and told him, “We have found the Messiah.”
Both men gave up their work as fishermen to become apostles of Jesus. Andrew was one of the first to be called. He seemed to take delight in bringing others to Jesus.
Andrew was the one who told Jesus about the little boy who had the loaves of bread and the fish, the beginning of a meal that fed more than five thousand people.
It was Andrew and Philip whom the Greeks approached when they wanted to see Jesus. These events indicate that Andrew was a man who was easy to approach, a man you could trust.
Like the other apostles, Andrew became a missionary. He preached about Jesus in the area around the Black Sea. Tradition tells us he preached in northern Greece, Turkey and Scythia (now the southern part of Russia).
Tradition places Saint Andrew’s martyrdom on 30 November of the year 60 (during the persecution of Nero) in the Greek city of Patras. A medieval traditional also holds that, like his brother Peter, he did not regard himself as worthy of being crucified in the same manner as Christ and so he was placed on an X-shaped cross, now known (especially in heraldry and flags) as a Saint Andrew’s Cross. The Roman governor ordered him bound to the cross rather than nailed, to make the crucifixion and thus Andrew’s agony, last longer.
Because of his patronage of Constantinople, Saint Andrew’s relics were transferred there around the year 357. Tradition holds that some relics of Saint Andrew were taken to Scotland in the eighth century, to the place where the town of S. Andrews stands today. In the wake of the Sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the remaining relics were brought to the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Amalfi, Italy. In 1964, in an attempt to strengthen relations with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, Pope Paul VI returned all relics of Saint Andrew that were then in Rome to the Greek Orthodox Church.
Every year since then, the Pope has sent delegates to Constantinople for the feast of Saint Andrew (and, in November 2007, Pope Benedict himself went), just as the Ecumenical Patriarch sends representatives to Rome for the 29 June feast of Saints Peter and Paul (and, in 2008, went himself). Thus, like his brother Saint Peter, Saint Andrew is in a way a symbol of the striving for Christian unity.
St Andrew’s Feast takes pride of place in the Liturgical Calendar, for in the Roman Catholic calendar, the liturgical year begins with Advent and the First Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saint Andrew. Though Advent can begin as late as 3 December, Saint Andrew’s feast, today is traditionally listed as the first Saint’s day of the liturgical year, even when the First Sunday of Advent falls after it—an honour commensurate with Saint Andrew’s place among the apostles The tradition of praying the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena 15 times each day from the Feast of Saint Andrew until Christmas flows from this arrangement of the calendar.
The name “Andrew” is a Greek name meaning “courageous” or “manly.” St Andrew lived up to his name.
St Andrew, pray that we live up to the name “Christian”!
Saint of the Day – 30 November – St Andrew, Apostle of Christ, Martyr – Called the “First Called” – born at Bethsaida, Galilee and was Martyred by crucifixion on a saltire (x-shaped) cross in Patras Greece (around the year 62) – Patronages: fishermen, fishmongers and rope-makers, textile workers, singers, miners, pregnant women, butchers, farm workers, protection against sore throats, protection against convulsions, protection against fever, protection against whooping cough, Scotland, Barbados, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Sicily, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Patras, Burgundy, San Andrés (Tenerife), Diocese of Parañaque, Telhado, Amalfi, Luqa (Malta) and Prussia; Diocese of Victoria.
The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name – it is not Hebrew, as might have been expected but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present. Andrew comes second in the list of the Twelve, as in Matthew (10: 1-4) and in Luke (6: 13-16); or fourth, as in Mark (3: 13-18) and in the Acts (1: 13-14). In any case, he certainly enjoyed great prestige within the early Christian communities. The kinship between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call that Jesus addressed to them, are explicitly mentioned in the Gospels. We read: “As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men'” (Mt 4: 18-19; Mk 1: 16-17).
From the Fourth Gospel we know another important detail: Andrew had previously been a disciple of John the Baptist and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared in Israel’s hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord. He was truly a man of faith and hope and one day he heard John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as, “the Lamb of God” (Jn 1: 36), so he was stirred and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one whom John had called “the Lamb of God”. The Evangelist says that “they saw where he was staying and they stayed with him that day…” (Jn 1: 37-39). Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation: “One of the two who heard John speak and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus” (Jn 1: 40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic spirit.
Andrew, then, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Exactly for this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honours him with the nickname: “Protokletos”, [protoclete] which means, precisely, “the first called”.
The Gospel traditions mention Andrew’s name in particular on another three occasions that tell us something more about this man. The first is that of the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, it was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had with him five barley loaves and two fish, not much, he remarked, for the multitudes who had gathered in that place (cf. Jn 6: 8-9). In this case, it is worth highlighting Andrew’s realism. He noticed the boy, that is, he had already asked the question: “but what good is that for so many?” (ibid) and recognised the insufficiency of his minimal resources. Jesus, however, knew how to make them sufficient for the multitude of people who had come to hear Him.
The second occasion was at Jerusalem. As He left the city, a disciple drew Jesus’ attention to the sight of the massive walls that supported the Temple. The Teacher’s response was surprising: He said that of those walls not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, together with Peter, James and John, questionedHhim: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?” (Mk 13: 1-4). In answer to this question Jesus gave an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and on the end of the world, in which He asked His disciples to be wise in interpreting the signs of the times and to be constantly on their guard. From this event we can deduce that we should not be afraid to ask Jesus questions but at the same time that we must be ready to accept even the surprising and difficult teachings that He offers us.
Lastly, a third initiative of Andrew is recorded in the Gospels: the scene is still Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. For the Feast of the Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the city, probably proselytes or God-fearing men who had come up to worship the God of Israel at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks with Jesus. The Lord’s answer to their question – as so often in John’s Gospel – appears enigmatic but precisely in this way proves full of meaning. Jesus said to the two disciples and, through them, to the Greek world: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (12: 23-24). Jesus wants to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others, motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness, in the Resurrection the “dead grain of wheat” – a symbol of myself crucified – will become the bread of life for the world, it will be a light for the peoples and cultures. Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will be achieved in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which attracts to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becomes bread. In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks, the Church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of His Pasch.
Some very ancient traditions not only see Andrew, who communicated these words to the Greeks, as the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting with Jesus recalled here but consider him the Apostle to the Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world.
Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and reached Rome to exercise his universal mission, Andrew, instead, was the Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear as true brothers – a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the See of Rome and of Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.
A later tradition, as has been mentioned, tells of Andrew’s death at Patras, where he too suffered the torture of crucifixion. At that supreme moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be nailed to a cross different from the Cross of Jesus. In his case it was a diagonal or X-shaped cross, which has thus come to be known as “St Andrew’s cross”….Pope Benedict XVI – 14 June 2006
Andrew is the patron saint of several countries and cities and is the patron saint of Prussia and of the Order of the Golden Fleece. He is considered the founder and the first bishop of the Church of Byzantium and is consequently the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The flag of Scotland (and consequently the Union Flag and those of some of the former colonies of the British Empire) feature Saint Andrew’s saltire cross. The saltire is also the flag of Tenerife, the former flag of Galicia and the Russian Navy Ensign.
The feast of Andrew is observed on 30 November in both the Eastern and Western churches and is the national day of Scotland. In the traditional liturgical books of the Catholic Church, the feast of Saint Andrew is the first feast day in the Proper of Saints.
Saint of the Day – 22 November – St Cecilia (died 3rd Century) Virgin & Martyr – Patronages: Hymns, musicians, poets, City of Albi in France, Mar del Plata, Argentina, Academy of Music in Rome, chastity and purity, composers, musical instrument manufacturers, 3 Diocese, City of Acquasparta, Italy. St Cecilia, is the Patroness of Musicians because it is written that as the musicians played at her wedding she “sang in her heart to the Lord”.
With many of the early church martyrs, there are often stories and legends but not much historical information. Saint Cecilia probably lived in the third century and tradition says she died about 177 – 230 AD. Although details of her life may be unknown to us, Saint Cecilia was one of the most revered early virgin martyrs of Rome, as evidenced by her name appearing in the Roman Canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer 1). She is one of the seven women commemorated by name in the Roman Canon. There is evidence of a church named in her honour dating to the late fourth century. A feast day in honour of Saint Cecilia was celebrated as early as 545.
Cecilia was born in a wealthy Roman family and was a Christian by birth. Her family gave her in marriage to Valerius, a pagan nobleman. Cecilia promised to remain a virgin and she was successful in persuading Valerius to respect her virginity on their wedding night. Later, Valerius was converted to Catholicism along with his brother, Tiburtius.
These two brothers dedicated themselves to burying the Christian martyrs, which was illegal. They were arrested and sentenced to death for refusing to renounce their religion.
Cecilia continued the work of converting people to the Christian faith and of burying the Christian dead, even though it was against the law. Hundreds were baptised through her witness and strength of faith. She planned to have her home preserved as a church after her death. Her refusal to worship false gods and her burying of the dead lead to her arrest.
Saint Cecilia was brought to trial and sentenced to death. It took several days for her to die and it is said that she converted many people who came to care for her as she was dying. Saint Cecilia died lying on her right side with her hands crossed in prayer. The position of her fingers—three extended on her right hand and one on the left—were her final silent profession of faith in the Holy Trinity, Three Persons in one God. Saint Cecilia was buried in the Catacomb of Saint Callistus.
In the Middle Ages, Saint Cecilia became a very popular saint. There is a story that Saint Cecilia was said to have heard heavenly music inside her heart when she was forced to marry the pagan Valerian. During her wedding, Cecilia sat and sang to God in her heart. Thus, she was declared to be the patron of musicians. Musical compositions, poems, art, and festivals have grown out of this story.
A few examples of the many artistic works about Saint Cecilia:
The first record of a music festival in her honor was held at Évreux in Normandy in 1570.
Chaucer commemorates Saint Cecilia in his “Second Nun’s Tale.”
John Dryden’s poem “A Song for Saint Cecilia’s Day” was set to music by Handel in his “Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day.”
Charles Gounod composed the Saint Cecilia Mass.
Benjamin Britten composed the “Hymn to Saint Cecilia.”
Saint Cecilia reminds us of the ways that our music and art can lead us to praise God.
The Sisters of Saint Cecilia, religious sisters, shear the lambs’ wool used to make the palliums of new metropolitan archbishops. The lambs are raised by the Cistercian Trappist Fathers of the Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) Abbey in Rome. The lambs are blessed by the Pope every year on 21 January, the Feast of the martyr Saint Agnes. The pallia are given by the Pope to the new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June.
St Cecilia’s body was exhumed in the 1599 and is the first instance in the Church of a saint being incorrupt. Her remains are located at the Church of St Cecilia in the Trastevere region of Rome, where a beautiful Statue depicting the position in which her body lay as she died by Stefano Maderno (1600), one of the most famous examples of Baroque sculpture. The pavement in front of the statue encloses a marble slab with Maderno’s sworn statement that he has recorded the body as he saw it when the tomb was opened in 1599. The statue depicts the three axe strokes described in the 5th-century account of her martyrdom. It also is meant to underscore the incorruptibility of her body, which miraculously still had congealed blood after centuries,
Saint of the Day – 3 September – St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor of the Church – “Father of the Fathers” – Pope, Prefect of Rome, Monk, Abbot, Writer, Theologian, Teacher, Liturgist, Administrator, Diplomat, Political Negotiator, Apostle of Charity and Social Justice, Apostle of Pastoral Ministry, PeaceMaker. Patronages – • against gout • against plague/epidemics,• choir boys,• teachers• stone masons, stonecutters, • students, school children,• Popes, the Papacy,• musicians,• singers,• England, • West Indies,• Legazpi, Philippines, Diocese of,• Order of Knights of Saint Gregory, • Kercem, Malta,• Montone, Italy,• San Gregorio nelle Alpi, Italy.
Pope Benedict’s Catechesis on St Pope Gregory the Great
Today I would like to present the figure of one of the greatest Fathers in the history of the Church, one of four Doctors of the West, Pope St Gregory, who was Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604 and who earned the traditional title of Magnus/the Great. Gregory was truly a great Pope and a great Doctor of the Church!
He was born in Rome about 540 into a rich patrician family of the gens Anicia, who were distinguished not only for their noble blood but also for their adherence to the Christian faith and for their service to the Apostolic See. Two Popes came from this family : Felix III (483-492), the great-great grandfather of Gregory and Agapetus (535-536). The house in which Gregory grew up stood on the Clivus Scauri, surrounded by majestic buildings that attested to the greatness of ancient Rome and the spiritual strength of Christianity. The example of his parents Gordian and Sylvia, both venerated as Saints and those of his father’s sisters, Aemiliana and Tharsilla, who lived in their own home as consecrated virgins following a path of prayer and self-denial, inspired lofty Christian sentiments in him.
In the footsteps of his father, Gregory entered early into an administrative career which reached its climax in 572 when he became Prefect of the city. This office, complicated by the sorry times, allowed him to apply himself on a vast range to every type of administrative problem, drawing light for future duties from them. In particular, he retained a deep sense of order and discipline: having become Pope, he advised Bishops to take as a model for the management of ecclesial affairs the diligence and respect for the law like civil functionaries . Yet this life could not have satisfied him since shortly after, he decided to leave every civil assignment in order to withdraw to his home to begin the monastic life, transforming his family home into the monastery of St Andrew on the Coelian Hill. This period of monastic life, the life of permanent dialogue with the Lord in listening to His word, constituted a perennial nostalgia which he referred to ever anew and ever more in his homilies. In the midst of the pressure of pastoral worries, he often recalled it in his writings as a happy time of recollection in God, dedication to prayer and peaceful immersion in study. Thus, he could acquire that deep understanding of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church that later served him in his work.
But the cloistered withdrawal of Gregory did not last long. The precious experience that he gained in civil administration during a period marked by serious problems, the relationships he had had in this post with the Byzantines and the universal respect that he acquired induced Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and to send him to Constantinople as his “apocrisarius” – today one would say “Apostolic Nuncio” in order to help overcome the last traces of the Monophysite controversy and above all to obtain the Emperor’s support in the effort to check the Lombard invaders. The stay at Constantinople, where he resumed monastic life with a group of monks, was very important for Gregory, since it permitted him to acquire direct experience of the Byzantine world, as well as to approach the problem of the Lombards, who would later put his ability and energy to the test during the years of his Pontificate. After some years he was recalled to Rome by the Pope, who appointed him his secretary. They were difficult years – the continual rain, flooding due to overflowing rivers, the famine that afflicted many regions of Italy as well as Rome. Finally, even the plague broke out, which claimed numerous victims, among whom was also Pope Pelagius II. The clergy, people and senate were unanimous in choosing Gregory as his successor to the See of Peter. He tried to resist, even attempting to flee but to no avail, finally, he had to yield. The year was 590.
Recognising the will of God in what had happened, the new Pontiff immediately and enthusiastically set to work. From the beginning he showed a singularly enlightened vision of realty with which he had to deal, an extraordinary capacity for work confronting both ecclesial and civil affairs, a constant and even balance in making decisions, at times with courage, imposed on him by his office.
Abundant documentation has been preserved from his governance thanks to the Register of his Letters (approximately 800), reflecting the complex questions that arrived on his desk on a daily basis. They were questions that came from Bishops, Abbots, clergy and even from civil authorities of every order and rank. Among the problems that afflicted Italy and Rome at that time was one of special importance both in the civil and ecclesial spheres – the Lombard question. The Pope dedicated every possible energy to it in view of a truly peaceful solution. Contrary to the Byzantine Emperor who assumed that the Lombards were only uncouth individuals and predators to be defeated or exterminated, St Gregory saw this people with the eyes of a good pastor and was concerned with proclaiming the word of salvation to them, establishing fraternal relationships with them in view of a future peace founded on mutual respect and peaceful coexistence between Italians, Imperials and Lombards. He was concerned with the conversion of the young people and the new civil structure of Europe – the Visigoths of Spain, the Franks, the Saxons, the immigrants in Britain and the Lombards, were the privileged recipients of his evangelising mission. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St Augustine of Canterbury, the leader of a group of monks Gregory assigned to go to Britain to evangelise England.
The Pope – who was a true peacemaker – deeply committed himself to establish an effective peace in Rome and in Italy by undertaking intense negotiations with Agilulf, the Lombard King. This negotiation led to a period of truce that lasted for about three years (598-601), after which, in 603, it was possible to stipulate a more stable armistice. This positive result was obtained also thanks to the parallel contacts that, meanwhile, the Pope undertook with Queen Theodolinda, a Bavarian princess who, unlike the leaders of other Germanic peoples, was Catholic deeply Catholic. A series of Letters of Pope Gregory to this Queen has been preserved in which he reveals his respect and friendship for her. Theodolinda, little by little was able to guide the King to Catholicism, thus preparing the way to peace. The Pope also was careful to send her relics for the Basilica of St John the Baptist which she had had built in Monza and did not fail to send his congratulations and precious gifts for the same Cathedral of Monza on the occasion of the birth and baptism of her son, Adaloald. The series of events concerning this Queen constitutes a beautiful testimony to the importance of women in the history of the Church. Gregory constantly focused on three basic objectives: to limit the Lombard expansion in Italy, to preserve Queen Theodolinda from the influence of schismatics and to strengthen the Catholic faith and to mediate between the Lombards and the Byzantines in view of an accord that guaranteed peace in the peninsula and at the same time permitted the evangelisation of the Lombards themselves. Therefore, in the complex situation his scope was constantly twofold: to promote understanding on the diplomatic-political level and to spread the proclamation of the true faith among the peoples.
Along with his purely spiritual and pastoral action, Pope Gregory also became an active protagonist in multifaceted social activities. With the revenues from the Roman See’s substantial patrimony in Italy, especially in Sicily, he bought and distributed grain, assisted those in need, helped priests, monks and nuns who lived in poverty, paid the ransom for citizens held captive by the Lombards and purchased armistices and truces. Moreover, whether in Rome or other parts of Italy, he carefully carried out the administrative reorganisation, giving precise instructions so that the goods of the Church, useful for her sustenance and evangelising work in the world, were managed with absolute rectitude and according to the rules of justice and mercy. He demanded that the tenants on Church territory be protected from dishonest agents and, in cases of fraud, were to be quickly compensated, so that the face of the Bride of Christ was not soiled with dishonest profits..
Gregory carried out this intense activity notwithstanding his poor health, which often forced him to remain in bed for days on end. The fasts practised during the years of monastic life had caused him serious digestive problems. Furthermore, his voice was so feeble that he was often obliged to entrust the reading of his homilies to the deacon, so that the faithful present in the Roman Basilicas could hear him. On feast days he did his best to celebrate the Missarum sollemnia, that is the solemn Mas, and then he met personally with the people of God, who were very fond of him, because they saw in him the authoritative reference from whom to draw security – not by chance was the title Consul Dei quickly attributed to him. Notwithstanding the very difficult conditions in which he had to work, he gained the faithful’s trust, thanks to his holiness of life and rich humanity, achieving truly magnificent results for his time and for the future. He was a man immersed in God – his desire for God was always alive in the depths of his soul and precisely because of this he was always close to his neighbour, to the needy people of his time. Indeed, during a desperate period of havoc, he was able to create peace and give hope. This man of God shows us the true sources of peace, from which true hope comes. Thus, he becomes a guide also for us today.
Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Wednesday 28 May 2008
More about Gregory here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/saint-of-the-day-3-september-st-pope-gregory-the-great-540-604-father-doctor-of-the-church/
Prayer to Saint Gregory, Pope and Confessor for the Universal Church and for Pope Francis
O invincible defender of Holy Church’s freedom,
Saint Gregory of great renown,
by that firmness you showed
in maintaining the Church’s rights
against all her enemies,
stretch forth from heaven your mighty arm,
we beseech you, to comfort her
and defend her in the fearful battle
she must ever wage with the powers of darkness.
May you, in a special manner,
give strength in this dread conflict,
to the venerable Pontiff Francis,
who has fallen heir not only to your throne
but likewise to the fearlessness of your mighty heart.
Obtain for him the joy of beholding
his holy endeavours crowned by the triumph of the Church
and the return of the lost sheep into the right path.
Grant, finally, that all may understand,
how vain it is to strive against that faith,
which has always conquered
and is destined always to conquer –
“this is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith.”
This is the prayer that we raise to you with one accord
and we are confident, that,
after you have heard our prayers on earth,
you will one day call us to stand with you in heaven,
before the eternal High Priest,
who with the Father and the Holy Spirit
lives and reigns, world without end.
Saint of the Day – 3 September – St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) – Father & Doctor of the Church. Also known as “Father of the Fathers” (c 540 at Rome, Italy – Papal Ascension: 3 September 590 – 12 March 604 at Rome, Italy of natural causes). Pope, Prefect of Rome, Monk, Abbot, Writer, Theologian, Teacher, Liturgist. Patronages – • against gout • against plague/epidemics,• choir boys,• teachers• stone masons, stonecutters, • students, school children,• Popes, the Papacy,• musicians,• singers,• England, • West Indies,• Legazpi, Philippines, Diocese of,• Order of Knights of Saint Gregory, • Kercem, Malta,• Montone, Italy,• San Gregorio nelle Alpi, Italy. Attributes – • crozier
• dove,• pope working on sheet music,• pope writing,• tiara.
Pope St. Gregory was born in Rome, the son of a wealthy Roman Senator. His mother was St. Sylvia. He followed the career of public service that was usual for the son of an aristocratic family, becoming Prefect of the City of Rome but resigned within a year to pursue monastic life.
He founded with the help of his vast financial holdings seven monasteries, of which six were on family estates in Sicily. A seventh, which he placed under the patronage of St. Andrew and which he himself joined, was erected on the Clivus Scauri in Rome. For several years, he lived as a good and holy Benedictine monk.
Then Pope Pelagius made him one of the seven deacons of Rome. For six years, he served as permanent ambassador to the Court of Byzantium. In the year 586, he was recalled to Rome and with great joy returned to St Andrew’s Monastery. He became abbot soon afterwards and the monastery grew famous under his energetic rule. When the Pope died, Gregory was unanimously elected to take his place because of his great piety and wisdom. However, Gregory did not want that honour, so he disguised himself and hid in a cave but was found and made Pope anyway.
He was elected Pope on 3 September 590, the first monk to be elected to this office. For fourteen years he ruled the Church. Even though he was always sick, Gregory was one of the greatest popes the Church has ever had. He reformed the administration of the Church’s estates and devoted the resulting surplus to the assistance of the poor and the ransoming of prisoners. He negotiated treaties with the Lombard tribes who were ravaging northern Italy and by cultivating good relations with these and other barbarians he was able to keep the Church’s position secure in areas where Roman rule had broken down.
His works for the propagation of the faith include the sending of St Augustine of Canterbury and his monks as missionaries to England in 596, providing them with continuing advice and support and (in 601) sending reinforcements. He wrote extensively on pastoral care, spirituality and morals and designated himself “servant of the servants of God”, a title which all Popes have used since that time.
He never rested and wore himself down to almost a skeleton. Even as he lay dying, he directed the affairs of the Church and continued his spiritual writing.
He codified the rules for selecting deacons to make these offices more spiritual. Prior to this, deacons were selected on their ability to sing the liturgy and chosen if they had good voices.
Because he loved the solemn celebration of the Eucharist, St. Grergory devoted himself to compiling the Antiphonary, which contains the chants of the Church used during the liturgy (the Gregorian Chant). He also set up the Schola Cantorum, Roman’s famous training school for chorusters.
St Gregory died on March 12, 604 and was buried in St Peter’s Church. He is designated as the fourth Doctor of the Latin Church. His feast is celebrated on the date of his election as Pope.
The Eucharistic Miracle of St Pope Gregory
St Gregory the Great is perhaps especially remembered by many for the Eucharistic Miracle that occurred in 595 during the Holy Sacrifice. This famous incident was related by Paul the Deacon in his 8th century biography of the holy pope, Vita Beati Gregorii Papae.
Pope Gregory was distributing Holy Communion during a Sunday Mass and noticed amongst those in line a woman who had helped make the hosts was laughing. This disturbed him greatly and so he inquired what was the cause of her unusual behaviour. The woman replied that she could not believe how the hosts she had prepared could become the Body and Blood of Christ just by the words of consecration.
Hearing this disbelief, St. Gregory refused to give her Communion and prayed that God would enlighten her with the truth. Just after making this plea to God, the pope witnessed some consecrated Hosts (which appeared as bread) change Their appearance into actual flesh and blood. Showing this miracle to the woman, she was moved to repentance for her disbelief and knelt weeping. Today, two of these miraculous Hosts can still be venerated at Andechs Abbey in Germany (with a third miraculous Host from Pope Leo IX [11th century], thus the Feast of the Three Hosts of Andechs [Dreihostienfest]).
During the Middle Ages, the event of the Miraculous Mass of St. Gregory was gradually stylised in several ways. First the doubting woman was often replaced by a deacon, while the crowd was often comprised of the papal court of cardinals and other retinue. Another important feature was the pious representation of the Man of Sorrows rising from a sarcophagus and surrounded by the Arma Christi, or the victorious display of the various instruments of the Passion.
The artistic representation of this Eucharistic Miracle became especially prominent in Europe during the Protestant Reformation in reaction to the heretical denial of the doctrine of the Real Presence.
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