Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Lazarus, Bishop of Marseilles

detail of the painting 'The Raising of Lazarus'; by Léon Bonnat, 1857; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

In the Roman Martyrology, appears today the name of Saint Lazarus, whom our dear Lord raised from the dead. He was the brother of Martha and Mary, who from the castle in which she lived after the death of her parents, was called Magdalen. Lazarus was born in Bethany, a hamlet not far from Jerusalem, and was greatly esteemed by the. Jews, as well on account of his noble lineage, as for his considerable possessions. When Lazarus came to the knowledge of the Lord is not distinctly known, but it is believed, and not without reason, that it happened soon after Christ began to preach and to work miracles; for, his heart seems to have been open to receive the truth, and our Saviour seems to have given him marks of special favor. As he had long waited for the Messiah, and was prepared for His coming, God gave him the grace to recognize Him in Christ, by the fame which His miracles acquired and also by attending to His divine teachings. No sooner had Lazarus recognized in Christ the promised Redeemer, than he joined Him and was eager to follow Him with other disciples. It is plainly seen from the Gospel, that Christ loved him; he called him “a friend.” “Lazarus, our friend, sleeps.” The two sisters had announced the sickness of their brother to Christ in these words: “Behold he whom thou love is sick.” The cause of Christ’s special love for Lazarus, according to the Holy Fathers, is the same that made the Apostle John so dear to the Lord, namely, chastity, which Lazarus preserved undefiled. Christ often made his abode at Bethany in the house of Lazarus and Martha, and many Fathers of the Church think that Magdalen, their sister, who for a time led quite a different life from theirs, obtained by the intercession of Lazarus and Martha the grace of conversion. The most memorable event in the life of Lazarus, is his being raised from the dead, which Saint John has circumstantially related. The facts are as follows: Towards the end of Christ’s 33d year, Lazarus became very sick, and his two sisters immediately sent a messenger to Jesus, to inform Him of it. Christ, however, remained two days longer in the place where He was, and when He came to Bethany, Lazarus was already dead and buried. No sooner had Martha heard of the Lord’s arrival, than she went to meet Him, saying: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died; but now also, I know that whatever you wilt ask of God he will give it thee.” Similar words were spoken by Mary Magdalen, who, called by her sister, came to Him weeping bitterly. Christ, the Lord, seeing the tears of both sisters, and of many others who were present, wept with them; from which the Jews concluded that He must have loved Lazarus greatly; hence they said: “Behold how he loved him.” Meanwhile, Jesus went to the sepulchre of Lazarus and ordered the stone which closed the entrance to be removed. After this, raising His eyes to heaven, He said: “Father, I give thee thanks that you hast heard me. And I knew that you hear me always; but because of the people who stand about have I said it, that they may believe that you hast sent me.” Having said these words, He cried with a loud voice: “Lazarus, come forth!” Hardly had Christ pronounced these words, when Lazarus came forth from the grave, his hands and feet bound with winding sheets, and his face covered with a napkin. Christ told His disciples to loose him and let him go. All present were witnesses of this miracle, and many acknowledged the true Messiah. It is easy to conceive how humbly Lazarus and his two sisters thanked the Lord for the great benefit which He had bestowed upon them. The fame of this great miracle soon spread all over Jerusalem and the surrounding country. The Pharisees and High Priests were filled with wrath against Christ and Lazarus, as they perceived that this event would greatly increase Christ’s influence. Hence, they assembled in a council to consider how they should act. Caiaphas, the High Priest, said without hesitation: “Christ must be put to death, otherwise the people will be lost. It is more expedient,” said he, “that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” All present joined Caiaphas, and resolved to put Christ to death. Some time after the Resurrection of Christ the Jewish priests resolved to destroy every living witness of His divine mission, and, therefore, ardently desired the death of Lazarus. The question was only how they could best accomplish their plans. They did not dare to put Lazarus to death by violence, as he was a man of high consideration, and greatly esteemed by the people. They could accuse him of no crime to cover their wickedness. Therefore, all they could do was to seize an opportunity, for which they had not to wait long. As most of the Christians, after the death of Saint Stephen, had either been banished from the city, or had fled away, Lazarus, his sisters, and some other Christians had repaired to Joppa, a town on the sea-coast. No sooner were the Pharisees informed of this, than they sent some soldiers after them, who took Lazarus, his sisters, and other Christians, placed them in an old, decayed boat, and sent them adrift without sails or oars, supposing that, in a few hours, the boat and those in it would perish. To save the boat was beyond all human power; but Providence, having decreed that Lazarus should go to France, guided the boat safely to the port of Marseilles. The inhabitants of this celebrated town were heathens, but they cultivated good manners, and were lovers of the arts and sciences. Witnessing so miraculous a voyage, they were deeply touched, and they concluded that the faith which Lazarus had so miraculously brought to them must be divine. Lazarus, who had already been consecrated bishop by the Apostles, began forthwith to administer his functions with zeal, as well in Marseilles as in the surrounding country. As the Almighty had also bestowed upon him the power to work miracles, the number of the faithful increased in a short time so much, that, besides the new churches that were built, the magnificent temple of the goddess Diana was consecrated by Lazarus to the service of the Most High. For thirty years, Lazarus guarded his flock as a faithful shepherd, and had the happiness to see the number of the Christians increased to many thousands, where, when he landed, there had been no knowledge of the true God. At last he ended an exemplary life by a holy death, in the 73d year of his age. It is supposed that Lazarus was beheaded, and thus died a martyr, and that a Roman officer, sent to Marseilles, tortured the holy bishop, in consequence of his constancy in the Christian faith, and then most cruelly beheaded him. The dark dungeon is still shown in which the holy man was a long time confined by the tyrant. His holy head is kept at Marseilles; the rest of his body is at Autun.

Practical Considerations

• Martha and Magdelen testify that their brother Lazarus was beloved by Jesus. “Behold, he whom thou loves is sick.” Christ calls him friend. “Lazarus, our friend, sleeps.” The belief of many commentators of Holy Writ, as I have before mentioned, is that he deserved this by his undefiled chastity. “He that loves cleanness of heart shall have the king for his friend:” thus speaks the Holy Ghost. (Proverbs 22) Whose love or friendship do you win by sinning against chastity or by carelessness in guarding it? Truly, only that of the devil arid his legions; for, nothing is more pleasing to him than the vice of unchastity. “No food,” writes Saint Ambrose, “is more agreeable to Satan, than the soul and body of the unchaste.” Eusebius of Emesa, writing on the text of the Gospel, in which it is recorded that the Prodigal satisfied his hunger with the husks given to the swine, says: “These swine are the evil spirits; because they enjoy the mire of vice. And those feed these swine who obey their will and fulfil their desires. Unchaste pleasures are the husks with which the evil spirits are fed. Sinners wish to eat their fill of them, but they cannot; for, the more they sin, the more they desire to sin.” Whose friendship are you seeking, that of the devil, or that of the Lord? Which do you prefer?

• Saint Lazarus consecrated his life, which, by special favor, he had received a second time from Christ, entirely to the service of the Most High, and spent it in labor for His honor and the salvation of souls. God gave life to you by creating you; He has not raised you from the dead, but He has miraculously protected you in many dangers of death. Although you deserved to go to eternal destruction, the infinitely merciful God spared you and did not take you away in your sins. Would it therefore not be unpardonable ingratitude if you do not consecrate your entire life to the service of the Most High? would it not be an incomprehensible wickedness in you, to make use of it to offend Him? And what else have you done until now? Examine your conscience, and then cast yourself full of shame before the throne of the Almighty, and humbly beg Him to pardon your wickedness. Resolve to employ the rest of your life only in the service of Him who gave it and who has preserved it until now; for, the preservation of your life may be considered a daily-renewed gift of it. “Every hour, every moment,” says Saint Augustine, “I enjoy the gilts of thy mercy. I should hourly perish if you did not preserve me. I should die daily if you didst not guard my life. Thou unite me every moment anew with thee.” Make, therefore, the resolution of which I spoke above, and say with the Psalmist: “And to him my soul shall live:” it shall live for the Lord; I will give my soul, my body, all I possess to the service of the Lord. (Psalm 21) The following is a prayer used by many in sickness and in health. “O Jesus, in thee I live: O Jesus, in thee I die.” Those who can say the first part of it truthfully, “O Jesus, in thee I live,” that is, according to thy holy will, to serve only thee, may also say with full confidence: “O Jesus, in thee I die,” that is, I die in thy love, in thy grace, under thy protection. But whoever cannot say the first part truthfully, but may rather exclaim: “World, for thee I live; flesh, for thee I live, Satan, in thee I live,” must also add: “Satan, in thee I die,” I am thine, living and dead. Saint Bonaventure says justly: “Nothing dies in man but what has lived in him. If my hand or foot have not lived in me, they cannot die in me. Thus only those die in the Lord who have been true living members of Christ through faith and love; and no one dies in the Lord, who has not lived in Him.” Hence, if you desire to die in Christ, live in Christ, in the manner I have already explained to you: “And to Him my soul shall live!”

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Lazarus, Bishop of Marseilles”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 17 February 2019. <>