Revue Generale – Saint Cecilia: Her Influence on Literature and The Arts

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Cecilia, church of Saint-Alexis de Griesheim-près-Molsheim, Alsace, Bas-Rhin, France; by Ott Frères, 1914; photographed on 21 September 2016 by Ralph Hammann; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsWhile the great men who have dreamed of distinguishing their names die and are forgotten, or at least, as Juvenal said of Alexander, become the idle theme of a rhetorical recitation, those who in this world have lived and suffered for God leave behind them, through all ages, an immortal memory.

The work for which each of us has been sent into the world has been conspicuously accomplished by the saints. This makes them our rightful masters; and, while we rarely imitate them, we can at least understand that such heroism must elevate the soul, and we admire them all the more that we feel ourselves unable to follow in their steps. Nor is such a recognition a useless sentiment. From the mansion of glory whence they see all things, the saints never cease to interest themselves in the affairs of the world, and among the dogmas of the Catholic Church which our estranged brethren have rejected, the communion of saints is one of the most touching and sublime.

There is indeed between the two worlds, visible and invisible, a strange but undeniable communication. Each of us, in investigating his own soul, will find there certain phenomena which have their origin neither in ourselves nor in the outer world: sadness from no apparent cause, inexplicable sensations of internal happiness, bursts of enthusiasm or sudden inspirations which Plato attributed to superior intelligences. Many of us, recalling some miraculously escaped danger, and profoundly touched by this heavenly protection, will bear willing witness, unless checked by dread of worldly criticism, to this influence of the saints and angels on our human career. “The people,” with the good sense which so happily inspires them (at least, where the sophists have not succeeded in corrupting them) – “the people” believe in it; and when the peasant or the poor working-woman gives a name in baptism to the child just entering on the struggles of life, she believes, in her simple, lucid faith, that she is securing a patron for it. It is not in vain, they say, that a young girl is called Mary; surely she will the more readily share in the sweetness, the self-denial, the incomparable purity, of the Queen of Virgins; the name of Agnes will be a pledge of innocence; that of Theresa promises a heart of fire; that of Cecilia, a soul gentle yet strong, eager for harmony; while the name of Francis recalls heroic isolation; those of Paul and of John, indefatigable zeal and perfect charity. If it is not always thus, it is because the human soul is free to resist grace; but these occasional rebellions do not prevent a harmony between heaven and earth as mysterious as it is sure.

These thoughts have frequently passed through our mind; but one day last October, while visiting the church of Saint Cecilia in Rome, they monopolized it.

In such moments, we persuade ourselves very easily that we can express them in writing. Undoubtedly, they are not new; but, if the life of this great saint, one of the glories of Rome, is well known, it is a story which will bear repetition: really fine old melodies never lose their charm, and, if they thrill one human soul with a divine emotion, who will complain of hearing them again?

History of Saint Cecilia

In the year 250 after Christ, in the reign of Septimus Severus, at a time when the Roman Empire was still the most formidable power of the world, there lived in Rome a young girl who will be famous when the imperial glories shall be forgotten.

Beauty, the reflection of heaven in the human countenance; grace, mysterious charm whose origin is invisible; modesty, that exquisite reserve of a virgin soul; nobility, precious perfume of the past; and, above all, the power of loving, the most magnificent and the most powerful present of the Creator to the created: all these gifts were united in the daughter of Caecilius. It was an illustrious family: in the records of the Republic it counted eighteen consuls and several conquerors, nor had it degenerated under the Empire.

To-day, when the traveller, weary from a day spent in the galleries of Rome, setting forth from the city towards sunset, wanders pensively down the long Appian Way, while he contemplates with emotion the outlines of the aqueducts with their broken arches, the Sabine mountains gilded by the light, and all that celebrated landscape of the environs of Rome, majestic and melancholy as a fallen queen, he finds upon his right, rising like a great tower, the tomb of Caecilia Metella. There slept of yore the long-forgotten ancestress of her who will render immortal, for time and for eternity, the name of Caecilius.

Cecilia was eighteen. The Roman poor knew her charity. Often had they seen her in the caves of the martyrs alone, or only accompanied by a faithful servant. Her father, although he respected her religion, did not share it: he hoped, indeed, at a suitable time to marry his daughter to some distinguished husband, and to see himself, through her, live again in her beloved children. But Cecilia had raised her heart above this world, and night and day prayed that the palm of virginity she had dreamed of should not be taken from her.

He whom her parents had chosen for her seemed not unworthy of the honor. Though still a pagan, Valerian possessed at least those natural gifts which prepare the soul for faith, hope, and charity, the supernatural gifts of Christ crucified. Nevertheless, who can express the fears of the young Christian? Had not God accepted all her heart as she had offered it? Could a pagan understand this mystery, and would not this union of the soul with an invisible spouse seem a strange folly to a man still living in the world of the senses? More than one Christian soul has felt these chaste doubts. It is honorable to hesitate before making for a mortal a sacrifice for which a young girl sometimes can never console herself. Cecilia felt these terrors most acutely, but she loved God well enough to feel perfect confidence in him. So she poured forth her whole soul in prayer, and, against all hope, trusted in his aid.

So, when, towards evening, already married in the eyes of the world, she found herself alone with her husband, she said to him in that incomparable conversation whose charm has come down to us in her life:

“There is a secret, Valerian, that I wish to confide to you. I have a lover, an angel of God, who watches over me with jealous care. If you preserve inviolate my virginity, he will love you also as he loves me, and will overpower you with his favors.”

Much astonished, Valerian wished to know this angel.

“You shall see him,” said Cecilia, “when you are purified.”

“How shall I become so?”

“Go to Urban. When the poor hear my name, they will take you to his sanctuary: he will explain to you our mysteries.”

Drawn by an unknown power, the young man consented to go. We know the result of this decision – his interview with the Pope in the catacombs, his conversion, and his baptism. Still dressed in his white robe, he returned to Cecilia. He could now understand the love of the angels, and its perfect beauty. In future, he loved Cecilia as his sister in God, to whom belong the heart and mind.

In those Christian ages others loved as he did. Undoubtedly most of them carried their secret with them to the tomb; but among those whose genius has made them famous, Dante had his Beatrice; Petrarch sang of Laura: and these pure loves, unknown to the ancient pagans, and scoffed at by our modern pagans, will remain an ornament to the soul, an act of faith in its immortality, and for us who read their history a breath of heaven on earth.

No one knows what conversation took place, in those hours of rapture and prayer, between this pair, whose marriage was to be perfected in heaven; what thanksgivings they rendered to God, who in a moment transforms hearts: nor would it be easy to describe. Of all the arts, music alone might perhaps dare to attempt it, and the revelation would require the genius of Handel or Beethoven.

In his ardent zeal, Valerian, like Cecilia, understood the value of the soul.

So, when the beloved brother Tiburtius sought them, what eloquence they displayed to prove to him that his gods were only idols! Subdued by the mysterious charm of the Christian virgin, conquered by the eagerness of the convert, Tiburtius also wished to see the angel who watched over Cecilia. If for this it was necessary to be purified, purified he would be; and thus became the first conquest of his brother, who had besought God for it.

Such souls were too beautiful for pagan Rome. In the absence of Septimus Severus, Almachius, the governor, summoned Valerian and Tiburtius before his tribunal. The two young patricians avowed their faith in Christ, to the great scandal of the worldly and prosperous. Valerian went to his martyrdom as to a triumph. He went to wait for Cecilia in heaven.

Tiburtius did not forsake him. On the Appian Way, four miles from the city, they were beheaded for having dared to worship a different God from those of the Empire. Cecilia piously reclaimed their bodies, and prepared to rejoin them. Called in her turn to answer for her conduct, she disconcerted the judge. Before such purity, innocence, and heroism, entreaties, artifices, and threats failed; the daughter of Caecilius, convicted of loving the poor and a crucified God, was instantly confined in the bath-room of her own house, there to be suffocated in a hot vapor bath. But in the midst of this fiery atmosphere she remained uninjured. The stupefied jailers related how they had discovered her singing the praises of God. Such a delusion could but provoke Almachius. The executioner was summoned. With a trembling hand, he inflicted three wounds on the neck of the virgin martyr, without succeeding in severing the head. Then, terrified himself, he fled. Stretched on the flags, bathed in her blood, Cecilia lived three days. The Christians gathered round her. She was able to bid farewell to the poor, to whom she had bequeathed her property. Then, feeling her strength fail, while Urban was in the act of giving her his blessing, she drew her robe around her, and, turning her face away, gave back her soul to God.

According to her last desire, the Pope transformed the house that had witnessed her martyrdom into a church. The bath-room became a chapel; and by its arrangement bears witness to-day to the truth of the saint’s life. One can still see the mouth of the pipes which let in the vapor, covered with a grating; and on the same flags where the Roman virgin expired, the kneeling Christian can ponder in his heart the example of heroism that she has given to the world. He who has not had the good fortune to pray on the tombs of the martyrs cannot appreciate the strength one finds there, or what precepts their relics give forth. The martyrs are the incontrovertible witnesses of the value of faith, of the power of love; and it is said that their beatified spirits lend to these bones, which were their bodies, an all-powerful eloquence.

The remains of the young girl were taken down into the catacombs of Saint Callixtus, and remained there six centuries. After the invasion of the Lombards, most unhappily, all trace was lost of them till, in 822, the place where they were hidden was revealed to Pope Saint Pascal.

The long-sought coffin was placed in the basilica of Saint Cecilia, which had been repaired by the Pope’s care. It was placed under the high altar. And even in our day the custodian points out to the pilgrim a curious fresco of the thirteenth century, representing the apparition of the saint to the sleeping Pope. In 1599, Cardinal Sfondrate ordered the tomb to be opened with solemnity. To the great delight of Christian Rome, the corpse of the Roman virgin, respected by centuries, appeared, miraculously preserved.

The chaste folds of her dress were restrained by a girdle. At her feet were found the blood-stained cloths which had bound her wounds; and her arms, thrust forward, still seemed to serve as a veil. Three fingers of her right hand were open, only one of the left, as if even in dying she had wished to avow her belief in one God in three persons. Finally, so that she might not give to the world her last look, but think only of Christ, her spouse, by a supreme effort she had turned her head aside.

Thus she reposes on her bier of cypress; thus extended on the flags she had died; and thus a great artist has faithfully represented her to us. The celebrated statue of Etienne Maderno, lying on its side, full of modesty and of grace, seems the dying virgin herself; and the whiteness of the marble, which so resembles the paleness of death, adds yet more to the illusion. Seen in this honored place, in this house which was the saint’s and has become God’s, this masterpiece of Christian sculpture, admirably executed and in exquisite taste, touches the heart profoundly.

The Influence of Saint Cecilia on Literature

Such a beautiful story could not fail to be repeated. As long as the persecutions lasted, to strengthen their courage, the faithful passed from mouth to mouth these details which had been so affectionately collected. So great, indeed, was the enthusiasm for the memory of Cecilia that she obtained the great and rare honor of being mentioned in the canon of the Mass with Saints Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Anastasia. Thus for fifteen centuries, throughout the Catholic world, wherever the holy sacrifice is celebrated, her name is invoked; and, truly immortal, each hour, each moment perhaps, her memory rises from earth to heaven with incense and with prayer.

Her acts, chronicled in the fifth century, have since then been the subject of several works. We shall only mention the Greek translation of Simeon Metaphrastes, the verses of Saint Adhelme and of the Venerable Bede in England, the works of Flodoard at Rheims, and Rhoban Maur. Then, during that magnificent efflorescence of philosophy and Catholic literature, we see Victor de Beauvais relate the story of Saint Cecilia; Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Bonaventure, preaching several sermons in her honor. In the fifteenth century, the eloquent Saint Vincent Ferrer recited her praises; but the Reformation came soon after, and it is only in Italy now that they think of the glories of Saint Cecilia.

In vain her history is its own defence; in vain may it claim in its favor the imposing testimony of Christian tradition, in the East as in the West, during fourteen centuries; in vain the liturgies of the churches of Rome, of Milan, of Toledo, of Greece, and of Gaul have inserted in the office for the 22d of November fragments of the text; in vain even the discovery of her body testified anew to its veracity. Towards the middle of the seventeenth century, the Jansenist school rejected it.

The historical works on the first centuries of Christianity which during the last forty years have been undertaken in France and Germany, by tracing out the original sources with scrupulous care, and taking advantage of monuments, have dealt justly with this excessive criticism.

But error is more prone to spread than easy to uproot. Launoy, that “great demolisher of saints,” who, in attacking the most poetic beliefs of the faithful, strayed into the road to rationalism, made a school. Even now Feller’s Dictionary of Universal Biography, and, following him (for these works usually copy each other), those of Michaud and of F. Didot, have repeated, on the authority of Tillemont and of Baillet, that the authenticity of the life of Saint Cecilia is very doubtful, although the arguments cited in support of this thesis had been successfully refuted by Laderchi early in the eighteenth century, and annihilated for ever twenty years ago by R. P. Dom Guéranger, in his excellent book on Saint Cecilia.

The touching story of Saint Cecilia must also inspire poets. Without mentioning the ancient hymns to be found in the Italian, Spanish, and Gallic liturgies, several poems in her honor may be quoted. At the time of the Renaissance, Baptiste Spagnuolo made it the subject of a real epic poem, where we find, as in the Æneid, the speeches of Venus and Juno, and the conspiracies of the inhabitants of Olympus against common mortals. The god of pagan love, accompanied by his mother, comes sadly to Juno to complain of the disdain of Cecilia, who wishes to remain a virgin. Forgetting her resentment, the wife of Jupiter inspires the father of Cecilia with the idea of uniting his daughter to a pagan. Foiled in their attempt by the conversion of Valerian, the angry goddess instigated Mars to suggest to Almachius the plan of drowning in blood this Christian band, rebels against the Olympian gods. Among the nine hundred verses may be found some fine ones, but we must confess that these unfortunate pagan reminiscences, so popular in the sixteenth century, ruin the poet’s work for us.

Happily, the Roman virgin was to have her life, her death, and her glories sung in poems of purer inspiration. Angelus Tangrinus, priest of Monte Cassino, wrote on this subject a long epithalamium, which lacks neither grace of expression nor of thought.

The English poet Pope has also written an ode to Saint Cecilia. The poem is elegantly versified, but cold and unmarked by any Christian feeling. The classic author recalls the magical effect of music in all ages, nor has he forgotten the adventure of Eurydice; he speaks with complacency of the Styx and of Phlegethon, of Ixion and of Sisyphus, of Proserpine and the Elysian Fields. Finally, feeling a pang of remorse, and remembering that he had dedicated his ode to a virgin martyr, he asserts that the poets must instantly abandon Orpheus and proclaim Cecilia the queen of music; for if the musician of Thrace drew by his music a spirit from hell, Cecilia by hers raised the soul to heaven.

Very recently, Count Anatole de Ségur has published a dramatic poem, which seems to us the finest homage that poetry has yet offered to Saint Cecilia. The style pure and musical, the interest sustained and engrossing, it merits the praises which the best judges have bestowed on it; and we should willingly quote some verses of this exquisite book, did we not prefer to leave our readers the pleasure of perusing it as a whole.

The Influence of Saint Cecilia on the Fine Arts

We have seen the story of Saint Cecilia inspire eloquence and poetry, but it was destined to exercise a still greater influence on the fine arts. There are, indeed, some general rules for these intimate relations between art and holiness that it would be well to remember. Besides, we may say that the saints were themselves powerful artists. Who has sought the ideal more eagerly than these indefatigable lovers of heavenly things? But they have not contented themselves with seeking infinite beauty in an abstract form; they have endeavored, as far as it was possible to human weakness, to realize it in their lives. As the sculptor cuts into a block of marble to render it into beautiful forms, they, with obstinate labor, have sought to model their souls, to render them more pure, less unworthy of God. The contemplation of martyrdom, so habitual to the first Christians, gave them that serene dignity now become so rare. As a bride prepares herself for the bridegroom, so did these souls of virgins, of mothers, of the young and of the old, endeavor, day by day, to grow in grace in the eyes of Jesus Christ, till the blade of the executioner harvested them for heaven. The soul, grown beautiful, transfigures in its turn the body which it animates, and the living mirror of the countenance reflects strength and gentleness, peace and ardent zeal, purity and ecstatic rapture. Thus we may fairly conclude that Christianity has offered to artists, through the saints, not only the perfection of form, but a type of human beauty elevated by an ever-constant love.

But why was Saint Cecilia singled out from such an innumerable band of the beatified to become especially dear to artists? Many others, gifted with all worldly advantages, in all the radiance of youth and beauty, died, like her, virgins and martyrs, without attaining her distinction. We will examine later the motives of the musicians in taking her for their patron. As for the artists, they had no long discussion on the causes of this secret sympathy. Each one, when he dreamed of heaven, painted Cecilia, saying to himself, probably, that there was not in the world a young girl’s face which could so perfectly express the rapture of the soul listening to ineffable harmony.

It would require time to glance even hastily over the long gallery of pictures of which our saint has been the subject. We will only mention the most celebrated. It is probable that many, scattered through the many galleries of Europe, have escaped us; but we wish only to discuss those which we have appreciated with our own eyes, and, also, the limits of this article would prevent our attempting to mention all.

In order to preserve some regularity in this examination, and that it may not become an adventurous journey through all ages and countries in search of pictures of Saint Cecilia, we will separate these works into three classes, and, according to their nature and their predominant tendencies, we will class them, one by one, in the sensualistic, rationalistic, and mystical schools. Nevertheless, we must say that here, as in all other classification, the confines of each class are very apt to mingle with each other. Sometimes, indeed, in the same picture one figure will express sensuality and the others religious emotion.

But let us render judgment on the entire effect of the picture and its predominant tendency. We must repeat here that in all artistic works we note two things: first, the idea of the artist, and, in consequence, the order of psychological effect – sensual pleasures, spiritual joy, or heartfelt rapture – which the picture gives rise to in the souls of those who behold it; secondly, the execution, the dexterity, more or less perfect, with which the idea has been expressed, and, consequently, the greater or less satisfaction felt by connoisseurs, whom a special education has fitted to appreciate the technical merits or faults of a picture. These are two widely different points of view; and, to be just, one should specify from which standpoint a picture is judged, for it might easily happen that the spirit of a picture would be really beautiful and the execution very feeble; the coloring perhaps unpleasing, the perspective faulty, or even the drawing incorrect.

First, The sensual school. Among the greatest geniuses, Rubens, perhaps, falls oftenest into sensualism. It is to the senses, indeed, that he usually addresses himself; hence the vividness of his coloring, the brilliancy of the flesh, which seems palpitating with life and ready to rebound under the critic’s finger. But, indeed, except “The Descent from the Cross” and “The Elevation of the Cross,” nothing could be less religious than most of his religious pictures. In vain his “Saint Cecilia” passionately raises her eyes; her plumpness and her dress wake only worldly thoughts. Others may admire the intensity of the flesh tints, the lustre of the robes. We think such exuberant health little suited to the young Christian who watched and fasted the more entirely to give herself up to prayer. As for the pouting cherubs which frolic round her, they are not adapted for inspiring heavenly aspirations.

But let us look no longer to the sensual school for a type of beauty which it cannot give us. Let us see how Saint Cecilia has been understood by those artists who, without troubling themselves much to express Christian ideas, have, at least, endeavored to satisfy the intelligence and to appeal to the mind through the eyes.

Second, The rationalistic school. Of all the painters whom we class under the name of the rationalistic school (that is, spiritual without being Christian), Domenichino is the most celebrated, or, at least, the one who has consecrated the most important works to the glory of Saint Cecilia. His frescoes in the church of Saint Louis des Français, at Rome, are considered classics. There we see Saint Cecilia distributing, from the terrace of her house, her garments to a crowd of poor people, who, in picturesque groups, are disputing over them. Then, Almachius, on his judgment-seat, commanding, by an imperative gesture, the saint to sacrifice to the idols. But she expresses with dignity her horror; and it is in vain for the priests to offer a goat, and in vain incense smokes on a tripod before a statue of Jupiter. Here Cecilia dies, surrounded by kneeling women; some watching her, others putting the blood from her wounds into vases by the aid of sponges. In the meanwhile, the Pope, Urban, gives her his blessing, and an angel brings her, from heaven, a crown and a palm. In yet another fresco, an angel presents crowns to Cecilia and Valerian. And last, on the ceiling is painted the apotheosis of the saint supported in the arms of angels, and borne to heaven.

But Domenichino’s picture in the great gallery of the Louvre is more generally known than the frescoes of Saint Louis. Here Saint Cecilia is standing, and while she sings the glories of God, accompanying herself on a violoncello, an angel offers her a music-book. But she does not heed it, and raises to heaven eyes that seem just melting in tears. Undoubtedly the head is truly dignified and inspired, but we must regret that the religious sentiment is not more manifest in this fine picture, for without the nimbus round the head one might take the saint for a sibyl.

Guido, with his usual grace, has represented Cecilia dying, lying on her side, as in Maderno’s statue. She has, however, her arms crossed upon her breast, and the head is not turned aside; two women staunch her bleeding wounds with cloths, and in the background an angel holds a palm, which he hastens to give her.

To Annibal Carracci is usually attributed the Saint Cecilia which is to be found in the Museum of the Capitol at Rome. At all events, one easily recognizes, by a certain shade of naturalism, a work of the Bologna school. As before, the saint is singing and accompanying herself on an organ; but here, we see beside her the Blessed Virgin holding the infant Jesus in her arms, and a Dominican priest – expressive faces, apparently enraptured with the celestial concert.

The majority of French artists, above all in the reign of Louis XIV, belong to the rationalistic school. Their composition is clever, their drawing correct, the style dignified, sometimes almost theatrical. They are indeed almost always natural, but with the exception of some of Lesueur’s, one rarely perceives in their works the inspiration of a superhuman emotion. There are in the galleries of French art in the Louvre two pictures which do not contradict these observations. Jacques Stella, who lived during the first half of the seventeenth century, has left us a Saint Cecilia. She is standing playing on an organ, her eyes modestly lowered, while two angels are singing at her side. She wears a wreath of roses in her hair; but, more charming than inspired, resembles the portrait of a young girl of the age of Louis XIII with a taste for music.

Mignard’s picture is, however, more celebrated. Of finished execution, perfect in detail, so that even the glimpse of landscape seen through the pillars of the portico is treated with great care, it inspires artists with admiration also by the beauty of its coloring. The saint, richly dressed, and wearing a large turban, which gives her a very oriental look, is seated playing on the harp. No wonder that this picture pleased the king, or that he desired it to adorn his collection. Unfortunately, all this magnificence fails to move us. We see the Persian sibyl executing a prelude to her oracles, but nothing reminds us of Rome and the early martyrs, and neither in the piteous figures nor in those up-raised eyes can we trace any Christian feeling.

Third, the mystical school. Beyond the region of the senses and of that which usually bounds the human spirit, opens the supernatural and divine world. One cannot enter here without a pure heart, and to enjoy its beauty we must by prayer and humility, those two wings of the soul, rise above ourselves and transitory things. Thus the mystical school of art, disdained by hypercritical connoisseurs, requires a sort of moral preparation, and might write above its door, as a salutary warning, “Let none enter here save him who loves God entirely.” It is here that we must finally seek the type of Saint Cecilia in all its supernatural beauty: a human face illuminated by ecstasy.

We shall only mention, for the satisfaction of antiquaries, the Saint Cecilia of Cimabue at the entrance to the magnificent Uffizi Gallery at Florence. This also is a type of the Byzantine virgin, not however without a certain majesty in its stiffness. Far more celestial is the impression left on us by the Saint Cecilia of blessed Fra Angelico da Fiesole, in that wonderful picture of the “Incoronazione della Vergine,” which so worthily commences the great gallery of the Louvre. Cecilia is in the foreground, close to Saint Magdalen, recognizable by her long golden hair. Entirely absorbed in the contemplation of Christ, and indifferent to the world, she turns away, so that one sees only the long blue mantle and the crown of roses, emblems of virginity, which encircles her head. Nevertheless, the lost profile which we can only glance at is not without grace, and suggests a countenance radiant with love and purity.

To the mystical school also may be attributed five little pictures by Pinturicchio in the gallery at Berlin, which were much admired by Dom Guéranger. Undoubtedly, Pinturicchio has none of Cimabue’s stiffness; we willingly acknowledge his ease and natural grace; but how far he is from the angelic touch of Beato, or the perfection of Raphael!

Perhaps Bologna contains the largest array of fine pictures. In the chapel of Saint Cecilia, behind Saint Giacomo Maggiore, ten admirable frescoes represent the entire history of Saint Cecilia. By the hand of Francesco Francia himself, we have her marriage with Valerian, and her funeral; six other scenes were painted by his pupils, G. Francia, Chiodarolo, and Aspertini. The two representing Pope Urban instructing Tiburtius, and the virgin distributing her property to the poor, are considered Lorenzo Casta’s masterpieces. But it is to the Museum one must turn to admire the Saint Cecilia of Raphael, one of the most beautiful of pictures, and certainly the most splendid homage offered by art to the Roman virgin. It was to be seen in Paris from 1798 till 1815, when it was taken back to Bologna; and it is well worth a voyage across the Alps. Letting fall the organ she still retains in her hands, Saint Cecilia stands, seeming to listen in ecstasy to the concert of angels, contemplating this transporting choir, which the artist has revealed in the yawning skies. At her side stand Saint John, Saint Paul, Saint Magdalen, and Saint Augustine; at her feet lie the broken instruments of earthly music. Apparently Raphael wished to recapitulate on this sublime page the highest precepts of philosophy. Here is typified by the instruments of pleasure the world of the senses, whose bonds we must break and free ourselves from. But if it is well to know something of this material world, the realm of the human intellect, it is necessary sometimes to know, like Cecilia, how to raise one’s self still higher and prepare to listen to the ineffable music of the soul. Do we accuse ourselves of being sinners? Here is Magdalen with her vase of ointment, and behind her Augustine. They may well inspire us with hope, they also have experienced the temptations of the senses and the proud rebellions of the will, but there they stand to prove that humility and penitence may conquer these. Do you say that, obliged to lead an active life, you daily find yourself overwhelmed by a thousand cares? Behold Saint Paul, the apostle of nations, who also experienced pain, labor, shipwrecks, and dangers of all kinds; nevertheless, leaning on his sword, he meditates. Finally, are you philosophers or theologians? Behold Saint John, the master of you all. Radiant, he contemplates the enraptured saint, and seems to say, “Forget yourselves for a space; turn from the sound of human words; like Cecilia, listen to the celestial harmonies of the Word. Look at this young girl. She has known how to find love, peace, and happiness.”

According to M. Passavant, it was also the history of Saint Cecilia, and not the martyrdom of Saint Felicitas, as is usually believed, which formed the subject of Raphael’s fresco, formerly to be admired in the chapel “De la Magliano” at Trastavere. In 1830, an unknown vandal of a proprietor bethought himself of cutting a huge gash through the centre in order to place a “pew, where he could hear Mass without mingling with his servants!” Thus mutilated, the fresco was transferred to canvas in 1835, and has probably been bought by some more enlightened connoisseur; but the most enthusiastic appreciation cannot now repair such outrages.

Among the moderns, we shall only mention, in Germany, the Saint Cecilia of Molitor, whose attitude reminds us much of Raphael’s. Certainly it has not the same nobility of style, but we find there the charming grace of the Düsseldorf school. In France, we may mention with praise the Saint Cecilia of Paul Delaroche. Seated on an antique chair, dressed in a robe falling in long folds, the virgin with one hand restrains her mantle, bordered with a fringe of gold, with the other she touches a little organ presented to her by two kneeling angels, under the semblance of pure-faced boys. This sweet picture, full of poetry and grace, is a happy contrast to some others, and makes us the more regret the painter of this Christian martyr, so beautiful and chaste – night brooding on the face of the waters.

But of one art Saint Cecilia is especially the patron, and that is music. Why the Roman virgin was chosen from so many others, would be very difficult to explain with any precision. The mystic sense of the tradition which makes Cecilia the queen of harmony is now lost, and on this point we are reduced to conjectures. Let us hope, however, that the conjectures we shall advance may seem probable after a little reflection.

Undoubtedly Cecilia, the daughter of a noble family, enjoying all worldly advantages and instructed to please, was taught music. Without doubt, also, she consecrated to God a talent acquired for worldly ends; and in the meetings of the faithful in the catacombs she must have taken part in the psalms and canticles. But the most weighty argument in favor of this glorious patronage which the Christian ages have ascribed to our saint, is the sentence from her life incorporated in the Roman Litany: “Cantantibus organis, Caecilia Domino decantabat: Fiat cor meum immaculatum ut non confundar.”

In January, 1732, a Jansenist critic, otherwise entirely unknown, remarked, in the Mercury of France, “that the selection of Saint Cecilia as the patron of music was not a good choice.” Indeed, he says, a little farther on, “we can easily see that this saint was very insensible to the charms of music; for on her wedding day, while they played on several instruments, she remained absorbed in prayer.” Poor man! he could not get beyond the outer husks of things, and the material side of art. He did not know that elevated natures naturally respond to human music by prayer, that heavenly music. And undoubtedly, he had never heard those sublime melodies which a loving soul sings to itself, and of which the most beautiful concerts of this world are but a feeble echo.

But the Christian people had a better inspiration. They understood that music, and, above all, religious music – the most beautiful of all, whose highest aim is to free us from the senses and lift us out of ourselves, in order to raise us to God – might well be protected by this young girl, whose soul had become like a lyre, from which the faintest breath will wake harmonious vibrations, and who, virgin and martyr – while for three days she lay on the bloody flags, seemed in a long song of love to render back her spirit.

In Rome and Italy, musical societies early placed themselves under the patronage of Saint Cecilia. We find one in France, founded in 1571, at Evreux, “by the choristers of the cathedral church, and other pious inhabitants of this city, for the purpose of learning music.” Henry III gave letters patent to the “Society of Madame Saint Cecilia,” established at Paris, in the church of the “Grands Augustins,” by zealous artists and amateurs of music. These societies disappeared with many others in the revolutionary troubles, but their charitable intentions have been revived. Every year, on the 22d of November, the Association of Musical Artists gives in the great church of Saint Eustache at Paris a musical mass, whose proceeds are destined to relieve their sick and poor members. Undoubtedly one might often wish more religious music. These pretended masses are far too theatrical to seem much inspired when compared to the oratorios which Handel and Beethoven have dedicated to Saint Cecilia. Nor is it there that one could find pious meditation. Nevertheless, we may still rejoice that at a time when materialism has corrupted so many hearts, these solemnities still attract crowds. Indeed, one may say of music as Tertullian said of the soul, that it is naturally Christian. To draw the soul from all that occupies it, weighs on it, and destroys it, to sustain it by prolonged melody, inspiring dreams of infinity, is also to elevate it above itself, and gently prepare it for the broken utterances of prayer.

We know, then, that Saint Cecilia is powerful enough in heaven to turn an idler into yet another Christian. Never in vain was she approached while on earth, or her memory celebrated since she has reigned in heaven. She has held her court of littérateurs, poets, painters, and musicians, men with impassioned hearts, which she has gently drawn toward heaven. For each she has obtained some special grace. Let others come; for the treasures she distributes are never exhausted.

In the early Christians who read her history, she inspired love of purity and a martyr’s strength; to the artists who have striven to represent her, she has revealed a type of beauty unknown on earth. For the most humble of her servants, she has smiles which heal the soul wonderfully. Who has inspired more masterpieces? who has been more loved than this virgin? who is more alive than she, who has been dead for sixteen centuries? But, martyr to love, she died for Christ. Is this really dying?

– text taken from the article “Saint Cecilia: Her Influence on Literature and The Arts”, author unknown though it is credited to the Revue Generale; the article appeared in the July 1871 edition of The Catholic World magazine

Catholic World – Memoir of Father John de Brébeuf, S.J.

Saint John de BrébeufAmong the foremost and most distinguished of the Catholic missionaries of America stands the name of Father John de Brébeuf, the founder of the Huron Mission. Normandy has the honor of giving him birth, and Canada was the field of his splendid and heroic labors; yet the mission of which he was the great promoter was the prelude to, and was intimately connected with, subsequent missions in our own country; and at the time of his glorious death, his heaven-directed gaze was eagerly and zealously turned towards the country of our own fierce Iroquois, the inhabitants of Northern New York, amongst whom he ardently longed to plant the cross of the Christian missions. His labors and those of his companions opened the northwestern portions of our country, and the great Valley of the Mississippi, to Christianity and civilization, and the discoveries and explorations which followed were partly the fruits of his and their exalted ministry and enlightened enterprise; for, as Bancroft says, “the history of their labors is connected with the origin of every celebrated town in the annals of French America; not a cape was turned, not a river entered, but a Jesuit led the way.” His fame and achievements belong to all America, indeed, more truly, to all Christendom. Saint, hero, and martyr as he was, his merits are a part of the heritage of the universal church; and while his relics are venerated on earth, and even the enemies of our religion accord to him the most exalted praise, Catholics may, with the eye of faith, behold him in that glorious and noble band of martyrs in heaven, decked in resplendent garments of red, dyed in their own blood, passing and repassing eternally, in adoration and thanksgiving, before the throne of him who was the Prince of Martyrs.

“It hath not perished from the earth, that spirit brave and high,
That nerved the martyr saints of old with dauntless love to die.
In the far West, where, in his pride, the stoic Indian dies;
Where Afric’s dark-skinned children dwell, ‘neath burning tropic skies;
‘Mid Northern snows, and wheresoe’er yet Christian feet have trod,
Brave men have suffered unto death, as witnesses for God.”

While historians outside of the Catholic Church have marvelled at such extraordinary virtues and unparalleled achievements as have been displayed, not alone by a Xavier, but by the missionaries of our own land, and have extolled them as an honor to human nature, Catholics may be excused for regarding them as miracles of the faith, triumphs of the church, and martyrs of religion. It seems strange that the general historians of the church have bestowed so little notice upon the planting and propagation of the faith in America. The history of these events presents to our admiration characters the most noble, deeds the most heroic, virtues the most saintly, lives the most admirable, and deaths the most glorious. While the church of America, in our day, counts her children by millions, what more inspiring lesson could she place before their eyes than the history of her early days, when her priests and missionaries were confessors and martyrs? Of these was the subject of the present memoir.

John de Brébeuf was born in the diocese of Bayeux, in Normandy, March 25, 1593, of a noble family, said to be the same that gave origin to the illustrious and truly Catholic house of the English Arundels. He resolved to dedicate himself to the service of God in the holy ministry, and, with this view, entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus, at Rouen, October 5, 1617. Having completed his noviceship, he entered upon his theological studies. He received subdeacon’s orders at Lisseux, and those of deacon at Bayeux, in September, 1621; was ordained a priest during the Lent of 1622, and offered up the holy sacrifice of the Mass for the first time on Lady-day of the same year. He was, though of the youngest, one of the most zealous and devoted priests of his order, and, from the time that he consecrated himself to religion, was given to daily austerities and rigorous self-mortifications.

Catching the spirit of his divine Master, Father Brébeuf conceived an ardent thirst for the salvation of souls, and the foreign missions became the object of his most fervent desire. This chosen field was soon opened to his intrepid and heroic labors. When Father Le Caron, the Recollect missionary in Canada, asked for the assistance of the Jesuits in his arduous undertaking of conquering to Christ the savage tribes of North America, Fathers John de Brébeuf, Charles Lallemant, and Evremond Massé, themselves all eager for the task, were selected by their superiors for the mission. These apostolic men sailed from Dieppe, April 26, 1625, and reached Quebec after a prosperous voyage. The reception they at first met was enough to have appalled any hearts less resolute and inspired from above than were the hearts of Father Brébeuf and his companions. The Recollects, a branch of the Franciscan Order, who, through Father Le Caron, had invited them over, had received at their convent on the river Saint Charles no tidings of their arrival; Champlain, ever friendly to the missionaries of the faith, was absent; Caen, the Calvinist, then at the head of the fur-trading monopoly of New France, refused them shelter in the fort; and the private traders at Quebec closed their doors against them. To perish in the wilderness, or to return to France from the inhospitable shores of the New World, was the only alternative before them. At this juncture the good Recollects, hearing of their arrival and destitution, hastened from their convent in their boat, and received the outcast sons of Loyola with every demonstration of joy and hospitality, and carried them to the convent. It is unaccountable how Parkman, in his Pioneers of France in the New World, in the face of these facts, related by himself in common with historians generally, should charge against the Recollects that they “entertained a lurking jealousy of these formidable fellow-laborers,” as he calls the Jesuits; who, on the contrary, were the chosen companions of the Recollects, were invited to share their labors, and with whom they prosecuted with “one heart and one mind” the glorious work of the missions. The sons of Saint Francis and Saint Ignatius united at once in administering to the spiritual necessities of the French at Quebec, and the latter, by their heroic labors and sacrifices, soon overcame the prejudice of their enemies.

From his transient home at Quebec, Father Brébeuf watched for an opportunity of advancing to the field of his mission among the Indians. The first opportunity that presented itself was the proposed descent of Father Viel to Three Rivers, in order to make a retreat, and attend to some necessary business of the mission. Father Brébeuf, accompanied by the Recollect Joseph de la Roche Dallion, lost no time in repairing to the trading post to meet the father, return with him and the expected annual flotilla of trading canoes from the Huron country, and commence his coveted work among the Wyandots. But he arrived only to hear that Father Viel had gained the crown of martyrdom, together with a little Christian boy, whom their Indian conductor, as his canoe shot across the last dangerous rapids in the river Des Prairies, behind Montreal, seized and threw into the foaming torrent together, by which they were swept immediately into the seething gulf below, never to rise again. Neither the death of Father Viel, nor his own ignorance of the Huron language, appalled the brave heart of Father Brébeuf, who, when the flotilla came down, begged to be taken back as a passenger to the Huron country; but the refusal of the Indians to receive him compelled him to return to Quebec. On the twentieth of July, 1625, he went among the Montagnais, with whom he wintered, and, for five months, suffered all the rigors of the climate, in a mere bark-cabin, in which he had to endure both smoke and filth, the inevitable penalties of accepting savage hospitality. Besides this, his encampment was shifted with the ever-varying chase, and it was only his zeal that enabled him, amid incessant changes and distractions, to learn much of the Indian language, for the acquisition of the various dialects of which, as well as for his aptitude in accommodating himself to Indian life and manners, he was singularly gifted. On the twenty-seventh of March following, he returned to Quebec, and resumed, in union with the Recollects, the care of the French settlers. The Jesuits and Recollects, moving together in perfect unison, went alternately from Quebec to the Recollect convent and Jesuit residence, on a small river called Saint Charles, not far from the city.

The colony of the Jesuit fathers was soon increased by the arrival of Fathers Noirot and De la Nouë, with twenty laborers, and they were thus enabled to build a residence for themselves—the mother house and headquarters of these valiant soldiers of the cross in their long and eventful struggle with paganism and superstition among the Indians. Father Brébeuf and his companions now devoted their labors to the French at Quebec, then numbering only forty-three, hearing confessions, preaching, and studying the Indian languages. They also bestowed considerable attention on the cultivation of the soil. But these labors were but preparatory for others more arduous, but more attractive to them.

In 1626, the Huron mission was again attempted by Father Brébeuf. He, together with Father Joseph de la Roche Dallion and the Jesuit Anne de Nouë, was sent to Three Rivers, to attempt a passage to the Huron country. When the Indian flotilla arrived at Three Rivers, the Hurons were ready to receive Father de la Roche on board, but being unaccustomed to the Jesuit habit, and objecting, or pretending to object, to the portly frame of Father Brébeuf, they refused a passage to him and his companion, Father Nouë. At last, some presents secured a place in the flotilla for the two Jesuits. The missionaries, after a painful voyage, arrived at Saint Gabriel, or La Rochelle, in the Huron country, and took up the mission which the Recollects Le Caron and Viel had so nobly pioneered.

The Hurons, whose proper name was Wendat, or Wyandot, were a powerful tribe, numbering at least thirty thousand souls, living in eighteen villages scattered over a small strip of land on a peninsula in the southern extremity of the Georgian Bay. Other tribes, kindred to them, stretched through New York and into the continent as far south as the Carolinas. Their towns were well built and strongly defended, and they were good tillers of the soil, active traders, and brave warriors. They were, however, behind their neighbors in their domestic life and in their styles of dress, which for both sexes were exceedingly immodest. Their objects of worship were one supreme deity, called the Master of Life, to whom they offered human sacrifices, and an infinite number of inferior deities, or rather fiends, inhabiting rivers, cataracts, or other natural objects, riding on the storms, or living in some animal or plant, and whom they propitiated with tobacco. Father Brébeuf had acquired sufficient knowledge of their language to make himself understood by the natives, and he was greatly assisted by the instructions and manuscripts of Fathers Le Caron and Viel. Father Nouë, being unable to acquire the language, by reason of his great age and defective memory, returned to Quebec in 1627, and was followed the next year by Father de la Roche, who had made a brave but unsuccessful effort to plant the cross among the Attiarandaronk, or Neutrals. The undaunted Brébeuf was thus in 1629 left alone among the Hurons. He soon won their confidence and respect, and was adopted into the tribe by the name of Echon. Though few conversions rewarded his labors among them during his three years’ residence, still he was amply compensated by his success in gaining their hearts, acquiring their language, and thoroughly understanding their character and manners. So completely had he gained the good-will of the Hurons, that, when he was about to return in 1629 to Quebec, whither his superior had recalled him, in consequence of the distress prevailing in the colony, the Indians crowded around him to prevent him from entering the canoes, and addressed him in this touching language; “What! Echon, dost thou leave us? Thou hast been here now three years, to learn our language, to teach us to know thy God, to adore and serve him, having come but for that end, as thou hast shown; and now, when thou knowest our language more perfectly than any other Frenchman, thou leavest us. If we do not know the God thou adorest, we shall call him to witness that it is not our fault, but thine, to leave us so.” Deeply as he felt this appeal, the Jesuit could know no other voice when his superior spoke; and having given every encouragement to those who were well disposed toward the faith, and explained why he should go when his superior required it, he embarked on the flotilla of twelve canoes, and reached Quebec on the seventeenth of July, 1629. Three days after his arrival at Quebec, that port was captured by the English under the traitor Kirk, who bore the deepest hatred toward the Jesuits, whose residence he would have fired upon could he have brought his vessel near enough for his cannon to bear upon it. He pillaged it, however, compelling the fathers to abandon it and fly for safety to Tadoussac. But Father Brébeuf and his companions were, together with Champlain, detained as prisoners. Amongst the followers of Kirk was one Michel, a bitter and relentless Huguenot, who was by his temperament and infirmities prone to violence, and who vented his rage especially against the Jesuits. He and the no less bigoted Kirk found in Father Brébeuf an intrepid defender of his order and of his companions against their foul calumnies, while at the same time his noble character showed how well it was trained to the practice of Christian humility and charity.

On the occasion here particularly alluded to, Kirk was conversing with the fathers, who were then his prisoners, and, with a malignant expression, said:

“Gentlemen, your business in Canada was to enjoy what belonged to M. de Caen, whom you dispossessed.”

“Pardon me, sir,” answered Father Brébeuf, “we came purely for the glory of God, and exposed ourselves to every kind of danger to convert the Indians.”

Here Michel broke in: “Ay, ay, convert the Indians! You mean, convert the beaver!”

Father Brébeuf, conscious of his own and his companion’s innocence, and deeming the occasion one which required at his hands a full and unqualified denial, solemnly and deliberately answered:

“That is false!”

The infuriated Michel, raising his fist at his prisoner in a threatening manner, exclaimed:

“But for the respect I owe the general, I would strike you for giving me the lie.”

Father Brébeuf, who possessed a powerful frame and commanding figure, stood unmoved and unruffled. But he did not rely upon these qualities of the man, though he knew no fear, but illustrated by his example on this as on every other occasion the virtues of a Christian and a minister of peace. With a humility and charity that showed how well the strong and naturally impulsive man had subdued his passions, he endeavored to appease the anger of his assailant by an apology, which, while it was justly calculated to remove all cause of offence, was accompanied with a solemn vindication of himself and companions from the unjust imputation just cast upon them. He said:

“You must excuse me. I did not mean to give you the lie. I should be very sorry to do so. The words I used are those we use in the schools when a doubtful question is advanced, and they mean no offence. Therefore, I ask you to pardon me.”

“Bon Dieu,” said Champlain, “you swear well for a reformer!”

“I knew it,” replied Michel; “I should be content if I had struck that Jesuit who gave me the lie before my general.”

The unfortunate Michel continued in this way unceasingly to rave over the pretended insult, which no apologies could obliterate. He died shortly afterward in one of his paroxysms of fury, and was interred under the rocks of Tadoussac. It was not permitted to him to execute his threatened vengeance on the Jesuit, whom he was the first to insult, and whom he never forgave, though himself forgiven.

Father Brébeuf, together with the truly great and Catholic Champlain, the governor of Quebec, and with the other missionaries, were carried prisoners to England, whence they all made their way to France.

Sad at this interruption of their work of love among the benighted sons of the Western wilds, the missionaries did not despair, but only awaited the restoration of Canada to France in order to resume their labors. In the volume of his travels published by Champlain in 1632, is embraced the treatise on the Huron language which Father Brébeuf had prepared during his three years’ residence with that tribe, and which, in our own times, has been republished in the Transactions of the American Antiquarian Society, as a most precious contribution to learning.

The English government disavowed the conduct of Kirk, and Canada was restored to France during the year 1632. As the conversion of the native tribes was ever one of the leading features in the policy of Catholic statesmen in the colonization of this continent, it was determined to renew the missions which we have seen interrupted. In selecting missionaries for this task, the choice fell not upon the Jesuits, nor the Recollects, as might have been expected, but upon the Capuchins; and it was only when these good fathers represented to Cardinal Richelieu that the Jesuits had already been laboring with fidelity and success in that vineyard, and requested that the missions might be again confided to them, that Fathers Paul Lejeune and Anne de Nouë, with a lay brother, were sent out in 1632. They arrived at Tadoussac on the twelfth of July. It soon became Father Brébeuf’s great privilege and happiness to follow them. On the twenty-second of May, 1633, to the great joy of Quebec, Champlain returned to resume his sway in Canada, and Father Brébeuf accompanied him together with Fathers Massé, Daniel, and Devost. Though Father Brébeuf was not inactive about Quebec, still his heart longed for the Huron homes and council-fires, and still more for Huron souls. Shortly afterward, he had the consolation of beholding the faithful Louis Amantacha, a Christian Huron, arriving at Quebec, followed by the usual Indian flotilla of canoes. A council was held, sixty chiefs sat in a circle round the council-fire, and the noble Champlain, the intrepid Brébeuf, and the zealous Lallemant, stood in their midst. A treaty of friendship was concluded between the French and the Hurons, and, in confiding the missionaries to his new allies, Champlain thus addressed the latter: “These we consider as fathers, these are dearer to us than life. Think not that they have left France under pressure of want; no, they were there in high esteem: they come not to gather up your furs, but to open to you the doors of eternal life. If you love the French, as you say you love them, then love and honor these our fathers.” This address was responded to by two of the chiefs, who were followed by Father Brébeuf in his broken Huron, “the assembly jerking in unison, from the bottom of their throats, repeated ejaculations of applause.” The members of the council then crowded round him, each claiming the privilege of carrying him in his canoe. And the Indians from the different towns began now to contend among themselves for the honor of possessing Father Brébeuf for their respective settlements. The contest was soon decided in favor of Rochelle, the most populous of the Huron villages. On the eighth of August, the effects of Father Brébeuf and of his companions, Fathers Daniel and Devost, were already on board the canoes, when another more serious difficulty arose: an Indian murderer had been arrested by order of Champlain, in consequence of which an enraged Algonquin chief declared that no Frenchman should enter the flotilla. The Hurons were ready and anxious to convey the fathers, but they feared the consequences of a rupture with the Algonquins. The fathers were thus constrained, to the common sorrow of themselves and their Hurons, to behold the flotilla depart without them. But the last scene in this separation was yet more touching. The faithful and pious Louis Amantacha, overwhelmed with sorrow at the loss of the fathers, lingered in their company to the last moment, humbly made his confession, and, for the last time for him, this Christian warrior received the holy communion from the hands of Father Brébeuf. Then, having rejoined his companions, the flotilla quickly glided from the view of those who would have laid down their lives to save the souls of those benighted and thoughtless voyagers.

Father Brébeuf and his companions returned to labor for a time longer among the French and Indians in and about Quebec, where their labors were full of zeal and not without success. It was here that Father Brébeuf baptized Sasousmat, the first adult upon whom he conferred that sacrament. While in health, Sasousmat had requested that he might be sent to France for instruction in the faith, but he was now overtaken by a dreadful illness, which deprived him of reason. Father Brébeuf visited him while in this state, and, returning from his couch to the altar, he offered up for his benefit the holy sacrifice of the Mass in honor of Saint Joseph, the glorious patron of the country; his prayer of sacrifice was heard in heaven, and Sasousmat was restored to his mind. Father Brébeuf then instructed him, and the joyful neophyte ardently and touchingly entreated the father to baptize him. But the cautious and conscientious priest deferred the sacrament, to the astonishment of the Indians, whose habit was to refuse nothing to the sick. One of Sasousmat’s Indian friends said to the father, with great impatience: “Thou hast no sense; pour a little water on him, and it is done.” “No,” replied the priest of God, “I would involve myself in ruin were I to baptize, without necessity, an infidel and unbeliever not fully instructed.” The patient was afterwards removed to the residence of Notre Dame des Anges, where he continued to receive the instructions of the father, and where he grew desperately ill, and was finally in an hour of danger baptized. At the moment of his decease, a resplendent meteoric light illumined the death-room, and shone far around about the country. There was afterwards another adult, named Nassé, a steadfast friend of the missionaries, who fell dangerously ill, and was nursed by Father Brébeuf. He too made earnest entreaties to be baptized, but the father subjected the convert to long delays and probations, and finally only bestowed the sacrament when death was imminent. Instances are related in which baptism was refused to adults, even in extremis, where the requisite dispositions were wanting. Such examples, of which there are not a few recorded in the Jesuit Relations, besides exhibiting the zeal and self-sacrificing labors of the Catholic missionaries for the salvation of souls, furnish us with a complete refutation of the wanton calumny that those early missionary priests were in the habit of bestowing the sacrament upon entire multitudes of savages without previous instruction or probation—a calumny now fully refuted by the Relations and letters of the fathers themselves, who, while they penned the humble story of their labors, to be transmitted to their superiors in Europe, knew not that the same would serve as evidence for their own vindication.

With the return of spring, the time again drew near for the appearance of the usual flotilla of Indian canoes at the trading post of Three Rivers. On the 1st of July, Fathers Brébeuf and Daniel repaired to Three Rivers, to procure a passage in the flotilla for the Huron country, and Father Devost joined them in a few days. But the canoes were slow in coming in; the Hurons had sustained a terrific defeat, losing two hundred braves, and the gallant Christian warrior Louis Amantacha was among the slain. No sooner, however, had a few canoes arrived, than Father Brébeuf pressed forward to secure a passage; but the hostile Algonquin and the cautious Huron discovered innumerable obstacles in the way of his going with them, and it seemed that he was again to be disappointed in his hopes of reaching his beloved mission. At length, by the influence of the French commanders, which was supported as usual by presents, it was arranged that a passage should be given to one missionary and two men, and even then Father Brébeuf was left out. He thus describes his difficulties: “Never did I see voyage so hampered and traversed by the common enemy of man. It was by a stroke of heaven that we advanced, and an effect of the power of the glorious Saint Joseph, in whose honor God inspired me to promise twenty masses, in the despair of all things.” At the moment that this vow was made, a Huron, who had agreed to carry one of the Frenchmen in his canoe, was suddenly inspired to take Father Brébeuf in his stead. Thus a passage was secured. But such were the hurry, confusion, and want of accommodation, that the missionaries were compelled to leave behind them all their effects, except such as were necessary for saying Mass. Too glad to be admitted into this vineyard which they had so long sought, they cheerfully made every sacrifice. With light and joyous hearts and ready hands, they plied the oar from morning till night; they recited the sacred office by the evening fire; they nursed all who fell sick on the voyage with so much charity and tenderness as to melt the hearts of those savage sons of the wilderness; at fifty different points, where the passage was dangerous or obstructed, they volunteered to carry the packages, and even the canoes, on their shoulders around the portages; and at one place Father Brébeuf barely escaped a watery grave at a rapid where his canoe was hurried over the impetuous current. At length, after much suffering, they reached the shores of the Huron country on the 5th of August, 1634.

The following description of this remarkable journey of the fathers is from the eloquent and graphic, but not always impartial, pages of Parkman’s Jesuits in North America:

“They reckoned the distance at nine hundred miles; but distance was the least repellant feature of this most arduous journey. Barefoot, lest their shoes should injure the frail vessel, each crouched in his canoe, toiling with unpractised hands to propel it. Before him, week after week, he saw the same lank, unkempt hair, the same tawny shoulders and long, naked arms, ceaselessly plying the paddle. The canoes were soon separated, and for more than a month the Frenchmen rarely or never met. Brébeuf spoke a little Huron, and could converse with his escort; but Daniel and Devost were doomed to a silence unbroken save by the unintelligible complaints and menaces of the Indians, of whom many were sick with the epidemic, and all were terrified, desponding, and sullen. Their only food was a pittance of Indian corn, crushed between two stones and mixed with water. The toil was extreme. Brébeuf counted thirty-five portages, where the canoes were lifted from the water and carried on the shoulders of the voyagers around rapids and cataracts. More than fifty times, besides, they were forced to wade in the raging current, pushing up their empty barks, or dragging them with ropes. Brébeuf tried to do his part, but the boulders and sharp rocks wounded his naked feet, and compelled him to desist. He and his companions bore their share of the baggage across the portages, sometimes a distance of several miles. Four trips, at the least, were required to convey the whole. The way was through the dense forest, encumbered with rocks and logs, tangled with roots and underbrush, damp with perpetual shade, and redolent of decayed leaves and mouldering wood. The Indians themselves were often spent with fatigue. Brébeuf, a man of iron frame and a nature unconquerably resolute, doubted if his strength would sustain him to the journey’s end. He complains that he had no moment to read his breviary, except by the moonlight or the fire when stretched out to sleep on a bare rock by some savage cataract of the Ottawa, or in a damp nook of the adjacent forest.

“Descending French River and following the lonely shores of the great Georgian Bay, the canoe which carried Brébeuf at length neared its destination, thirty days after leaving Three Rivers. Before him, stretched in savage slumber, lay the forest shore of the Hurons. Did his spirit sink as he approached his dreary home, oppressed with a dark foreboding of what the future should bring forth? There is some reason to think so. Yet it was but the shadow of a moment; for his masculine heart had lost the sense of fear, and his intrepid nature was fired with a zeal before which doubts and uncertainties fled like the mists of the morning. Not the grim enthusiasm of negation, tearing up the weeds of rooted falsehood, or with bold hand felling to the earth the baneful growth of overshadowing abuses; his was the ancient faith uncurtailed, redeemed from the decay of centuries, kindled with a new life, and stimulated to a preternatural growth and fruitfulness.”

But Father Brébeuf’s trials did not end here, for the ungrateful Indians, who lived twenty miles below Father Brébeuf’s destination, forgetting all his kindness and sacrifices and despising his entreaties, abandoned him on this desolate shore. In this distress, he fell upon his knees and thanked God for all his favors, and especially for bringing him again into the country of the Hurons. Beseeching Providence to guide his steps, and saluting the guardian angel of the land with a dedication of himself to the conversion of those tribes, he took only such articles as he could in no event dispense with, and, concealing the rest, started forth in that vast wilderness, not knowing whither his steps might carry him. Providence guided those steps: he discovered the site of the former village, Toanché, in which he had resided three years, and even the blackened ruins of his cabin, in which, for the same time, he had offered up the Holy Sacrifice; but the village was destroyed and the encampment shifted to another place. Striking upon a trail, he advanced full of hope, and soon he suddenly stood in the midst of his Huron friends, in their new village of Ihonatiria. A shout of welcome from a hundred voices—”Echon! Echon!”—greeted the joyous messenger of salvation. He immediately threw himself upon the hospitality of the generous chief, Awandoay, from whom he obtained men to go for his packages; he retraced his weary steps with them, and it was one o’clock in the morning before all was safely lodged in the village of Ihonatiria. The other fathers, after suffering similar ill-treatment from the Indians of the flotilla in whose canoes they came, finally found their way also, one by one, to Ihonatiria, in great distress.

For some time they partook of the liberal hospitality of Awandoay; but, Father Brébeuf having decided to make Ihonatiria the mission headquarters, they now constructed a residence for themselves, thirty-six by twenty-one feet, in which the centre was their hall, parlor, and business-room, leading, on the one side, to the chapel, and, on the other, to what was at the same time kitchen, refectory, and dormitory. This rude hut—indeed, everything about the missionaries—awakened the amazement of these simple sons of the forest. They came in crowds from all parts of the Huron country to see the wonderful things possessed by the fathers, the fame of which had spread through the land. There was the mill for grinding corn, which they viewed with admiration, and which they delighted to turn without ceasing. There were a prism and magnet, whose qualities struck them with surprise and pleasure. There was a magnifying-glass which, to their amazement, made a flea as large as a monster; and a multiplying lens which possessed the mysterious power of creating instantly eleven beads out of one. But the clock, which hung on the wall of the missionary cabin, was to these untutored savages the greatest miracle of all. The assembled warriors, with their wives and children, would sit in silence on the ground, waiting an entire hour for the clock to strike the time of the day. They listened to it ticking every second and marking every minute of the twenty-four hours; they thought it was a thing of life; inquired when, how, and upon what it fed. They called it sometimes the “Day Chief” and sometimes the “Captain,” and expressed their awe of so mysterious and supernatural a being by the constant cry of “Ondaki! Ondaki!!” “What does the Captain say now?” was the repeated question. The fathers were obliged to establish certain regulations for visitors, whose presence would have left them no time for rest or devotion during the twenty-four hours, while, at the same time, they availed themselves of these curiosities for attracting the Indians to the mission cross before their door and to the first simple lessons in religion. They thus interpreted the strokes of the clock: “When he strikes twelve times, he says, ‘Hang on the kettle,’ and when he strikes four times, he says, ‘Get up and go home.'” The Indians rigidly obeyed these commands of the little “Day Chief.” The crowd was densest at the stroke of twelve, when the kettle was hung and the fathers’ sagamite passed around; and at the stroke of four, all arose at once and departed, leaving their good entertainers to say their office and rosary, study and make notes on the Huron language, write letters to their superiors, and consult over the plans for conducting the mission. The fathers also gave some lessons to their Huron friends on the subject of self-defence and military engineering. The Hurons, living in constant dread of the Iroquois, were glad to learn a more perfect way of constructing their palisade forts, which they had been accustomed to make round, but which the Frenchmen now taught them to make rectangular, with small flanking towers at the corners for the arquebusmen. And, in case of actual attack, the aid of the four Frenchmen, armed with arquebuses, who had come with the missionaries from Three Rivers, was promised, to enable them to defend their wives, children, and homes from the unsparing attacks of their relentless enemies.

The Indian children were the especial objects of the solicitude of these untiring missionaries. They assembled these frequently at their house, on which occasions Father Brébeuf, the more effectually to inspire respect, appeared in surplice and baretta. The Pater Noster was chanted in Huron rhyme, into which it had been translated by Father Daniel; and the Ave and Credo and Ten Commandments were recited. The children were examined in their past lessons, and instructed in new ones, and then dismissed joyously with presents of beads and dried fruits. Soon the village resounded with the rhymes of the Pater Noster, and the little catechumens vied with each other at home in making the sign of the cross and reciting the commandments.

To the adults the fathers earnestly announced Christ crucified, and endeavored to turn their admiration from the clock and other curiosities of the mission house, which, as they said, were but creatures, to the Creator, to heaven, and to the faith. The first-fruits of the mission were soon gathered; several infants, in danger of death, were baptized, and several adults were also admitted into the Christian church through the same regenerating waters.

But the enemies of religion and of truth were jealously watching these successes, and soon the fathers encountered the same opposition that always besets the introduction of Christianity into heathen nations; that is, the jealousy and hatred of the native priests, or officials entrusted with the matters of religion or the superstitious rites of the country. These, among our American tribes, were the medicine men. These wicked sorcerers accused Father Brébeuf and his companions of causing the drought, of blighting the crops, of introducing the plague, in fine, of every evil that afflicted the country or any of the people. The missionaries began to be insulted, the cross before their residence was turned into a target, and curses and imprecations greeted them on every side. But the prayers of the fathers, and especially a novena of masses in honor of Saint Joseph, were soon followed by copious rains, and the medicine-men were confounded, while the fathers were received with honor and esteem. The old and young were instructed in the faith, catechetical classes were opened, and all ages and conditions took pleasure in contending for the pictures, medals, and other little rewards which were bestowed upon the studious. On Sundays, the Indians were assembled at Mass; but, in imitation of the custom which prevailed in the early church, Father Brébeuf dismissed them at the offertory, after reciting for them the prayers they had learned. In the afternoon, catechetical instructions were given, and all were examined on what they had learned during the week. In August, 1635, Fathers Pijart and Mercier, then recently arrived from France, came into the Huron country to join the little missionary band, who were, even after this increase of their force, kept constantly laboring.

In April, 1636, the missionaries attended the “feast of the dead,” a great solemnity of the Indians, when the bones of their dead are taken down from their aerial tombs, and, being wrapped in the richest furs, and surrounded with various implements, are deposited in the common mound, amid the songs, games, and dancing of the living. Father Brébeuf, the courageous champion of the faith, seized upon this occasion to announce the saving word of truth in the very midst of the ancient and most cherished rites of a heathen superstition. He declared that such ceremonies were utterly vain and fruitless for souls which, like the souls of all in that mound, were lost for ever; that souls on death went either to a realm of bliss or a world of woe; that the living alone could choose, and, if they preferred the former, he and the other fathers were there to show the way. This speech was accompanied with a present to the assembled chiefs, a means most effectual in gaining the good-will of the Indians. The latter offered no opposition to the baptism of their infants, and expressed themselves as if well disposed towards the faith preached by the fathers. In December, the mission among the Hurons was formally consecrated to the Immaculate Conception. Baptism was administered to nearly thirty of the tribe, amongst whom was one, a little girl, of singular interest, named Mary Conception. This little child was remarkable for her love of prayer and her fondness for the missionaries and whatever pertained to religion; she ran as gaily to catechism as the other children to their play, and took a singular pleasure in walking beside the missionary as he was reciting his office, making the sign of the cross and praying louder whenever he turned in his walk. In 1635, fourteen baptisms were reported by the fathers, and in July, 1636, eighty-six, amongst whom was the chief, who was sincerely converted to the faith. Father Brébeuf made many excursions to distant villages and families. In October, he visited the family of Louis de Sainte Foi, who, having been taken to France by the fathers, was baptized at Rouen, but was now grown cold in his religion. This visit, in which Father Brébeuf was accompanied by Father Pijart, rekindled the ardor of the chief, and was the occasion of announcing the commandments of God to all his family. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, appealing as it does to the best natural feelings of the human heart, as well as to the highest and purest motives of religion, was easily received, especially among the Indian mothers, to whom she was proposed for imitation by Father Brébeuf. He composed for them, and in their own language, beautiful prayers of invocation to the Mother of God. So great was his proficiency in the Huron language, that he was able to attach to his relation of this year a treatise on the language and another on the customs of the Hurons, the former of which has been published in English.

It was about this time that a delegation of Algonquin braves came to solicit the alliance of the Hurons against the Iroquois. Failing to secure their point with the Hurons, the Algonquins next turned to the missionaries and endeavored to detach them from the Hurons, and offered, as an inducement to Father Brébeuf, to make him one of their great chiefs. Father Brébeuf, with a smile, replied, that he had left home and fortune to gain souls, not to become rich or to gain honors in war, and dismissed the negotiators as usual with a present.

The removal of the headquarters of the mission from Ihonatiria to Ossossané had been several times mooted; one day, as Father Brébeuf was travelling to visit a sick Christian, he was met by the chief of Ossossané, who so forcibly urged the change that Father Brébeuf was induced to promise them a compliance with what had been in fact his previous design. A promise was readily made on the other side that the villagers of Ossossané would the following year erect the necessary accommodations for the fathers. When the people of Ihonatiria heard this, their chief, at daybreak, from the top of his cabin summoned all his people out to rebuild the cabin of the black gown. Old and young now went forth to obey the summons, and soon the work was completed. When the next season for the feast of the dead came round, a great change was observable in its celebration, a proof of the influence of Christian sentiments with the people. The accustomed magnificence was dispensed with, and those who died Christians were not reburied, even in a separate portion of the common tomb. The ceremony consisted in nothing more than a touching manifestation of the affection of the living for their deceased friends, and the missionaries were too prudent to interfere. In order to show how earnest our missionaries were for the conversion of these tribes, it is worth recording that they established a Huron seminary at Quebec, and during this year Fathers Daniel and Devost departed from Huronia for Quebec, with several young Hurons destined for students in this institution. It was also during this year that Fathers Garnier, Chastelain, and Jogues arrived from France, and entered this promising vineyard.

Shortly after these arrivals, a contagious fever broke out in the Huron country, and several of the missionaries were seized with the malady. It would be impossible, within the space allotted to this memoir, to detail all their sufferings and privations. The hardy Brébeuf and the others that were not taken down, became the faithful and constant nurses of their sick companions, and, when these were restored, the entire missionary band dedicated themselves to the nursing and spiritual succor of the afflicted people. Here, again, the fathers met with the usual obstacles and annoyances from the native sorcerers. The medicine-men, in whom the Indians had implicit confidence, especially in sickness, resorted to their usual tricks, and the villages resounded with horrid superstitious orgies. Many refused to let the fathers baptize their dying infants. Others, however, having seen the utter failure of their sorcerers to effect a single cure, and having observed how the Christian baptism was frequently followed by a restoration of the body also to health, had recourse to the missionaries. But in such cases their visits of mercy were obstructed by the insults, the threats, and ill-usage of the excited rabble. But, as Bancroft remarks, “the Jesuit never receded a foot.” He pressed forward with love and courage, frequently forcing his way to the couch of the dying, and encountering threatened death to save a single soul. In order to propitiate the mercy of Heaven for this afflicted people, Father Brébeuf assembled a council of the chiefs of several villages, and succeeded so far as to induce them, in behalf of themselves and their people, to promise solemnly, in the presence of God, that they would renounce their superstitions, embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, conform their marriages to the Christian standard, and build chapels for the service of the one true God. With the solemnity of this scene, however, passed away also their good resolutions. The Indian, ever inconsistent, except in his attachment to his idols and his hunting-grounds, was soon again seen raving at the frenzied words and incantations of the sorcerer Tonnerananont, who professed himself to be a devil incarnate. The plague continued to rage; not even the frosts of winter arrested its destructive powers. Night and day Father Brébeuf and his companions were travelling and laboring for those miserable and inconstant savages. They went about over the country administering remedies for the maladies of the body as well as those of the soul. Besides relieving many by bleeding and other simple remedies, their heroic labors were rewarded with other fruits far sweeter to them, the baptism of two hundred and fifty expiring infants and adults. The bold and fearless advances and the devoted services of the Jesuit fathers during this season of disease and death may well have called forth from Sparks the remark that “humanity can claim no higher honor than that such examples have existed.” In the spring the pestilence abated, and the usual and regular duties and labors of the mission were resumed. His superior knowledge of the language devolved upon Father Brébeuf the greater burthen of instructing and catechising the natives. In May, he called a council of the chiefs of Ossossané, and reminded them of their promise to build a cabin for the fathers. The appeal was responded to, and, on the fifth of June, Father Pijart offered up the Mass of the Holy Trinity at Ossossané, in “our own House of the Immaculate Conception.” On Trinity Sunday, another happiness was enjoyed by Father Brébeuf, in the baptism of the first adult at Ihonatiria. This was Tsiwendaentaha, a chief who had manifested great perseverance in his wish to become a Christian; he had repeatedly requested and entreated to be baptized, and had renounced all connection with the medicine-men for three years, and, what was remarkable among the natives, had only once during that time manifested any disposition towards a relapse. After prolonged probation and careful instruction, Father Brébeuf baptized him on Trinity Sunday, conferring upon him the Christian name of Peter. The ceremony was surrounded with as much magnificence as the infant church in that wilderness could bring, and in the presence of immense crowds of Hurons. The corner-stone of the new church was laid on the same occasion.

These consolations of the mission were soon succeeded by direful calamities. Sickness still lingered in the country. Having failed by their superstitious rites to ameliorate the condition of the people, the medicine-men now accused the fathers of being the cause of the pestilence, and even of having a design of destroying the country. A general outburst of indignation now assailed the holy men. Everything connected with them or their religion now became objects of suspicion—the pictures in the chapel, their mission flag flying from the top of a tree, the Mass in the morning, the evening litany, the walk of the missionaries by day, and especially the clock, were successively condemned as demons, and signals of pestilence and death. It was even rumored that the fathers concealed in their cabin a dead body, which they brought from France, and which was now supposed to be the origin of the infection. Goaded by their fears, and incited by their sorcerers, the Indians rushed into the missionary residence to seize the mysterious corpse. As superior, the principal weight of these persecutions fell upon Father Brébeuf, who endeavored in vain to dispel such vain fears. The fathers were insulted and threatened with death in their own house. A general council of chiefs and warriors was held, in which they were universally accused of causing all the evils of the country. The courageous Brébeuf stood in their midst to refute their calumnies and expose their follies. Nothing could appease them. They offered to spare Father Brébeuf’s life if he would deliver up the fatal cloth in which he had wrapt the pestilence. He indignantly refused to countenance their superstitions by compliance, but told them to search his cabin and burn every cloth if they thought proper. He told them, however, that since they had pressed him so far, he would give them his opinion as to the origin of their misfortunes, which he then went on to trace to natural causes and their own foolish method of treating the sick, and spoke to them of the power of God and his justice in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked. Father Brébeuf concluded his remarks amidst shouts and insults, but without losing his characteristic courage and calmness. Despite his unanswerable appeal, the assembly thirsted for the blood of at least one of the missionaries as an experiment, and at any moment one of those devoted men might have fallen dead under the hatchet of some enraged savage. Repeated councils were held, and the death of the strangers was resolved upon. The residence was burned, the stake prepared, and Father Brébeuf led forth. Having prepared himself for death, he now, in imitation of the Huron custom, gave the usual feast, in order to show that he did not shrink from giving his life in testimony of the faith he had preached to them. Just before the moment of his execution arrived, Father Brébeuf was summoned to a council, where, amid insult and interruption, he delivered another speech in advocacy of the faith, instead of explaining the plague, and, by one of those sudden changes of temper not unusual in Indian assemblies, he was acquitted and set free. As he passed from the wigwam of the council, he saw one of his greatest persecutors fall dead at his feet, under a stroke from the murderous tomahawk: supposing that, in the dim light of a far-spent day, the murderer had mistaken his victim, the future martyr asked: “Was not that blow meant for me?” “No,” replied the warrior; “pass on: he was a sorcerer, thou art not.” His companions were anxiously awaiting the result; and when he walked into their midst, they received him as the dead restored to life. They all united in returning thanks to God for the safety of the superior of the mission, and especially for the announcement which that apostolic man made to them, that they might yet hope to remain in that country, and labor for the salvation of their persecutors.

The firm and uncompromising character of Father Brébeuf is strikingly illustrated in contrast with the fickleness of the Indians, the difference between faith and superstition, by another circumstance which occurred during the prevalence of the pestilence. The Hurons, after repeated recourse to their medicine-men, whose vile practices they now saw to be barren of results, resolved to have recourse to the fathers, whom they invited to attend a council. “What must we do that your God may take pity on us?” they asked of the Christian priests. Father Brébeuf immediately answered: “Believe in him; keep his commandments; abjure your faith in dreams; take but one wife, and be true to her; give up your superstitious feasts; renounce your assemblies of debauchery; eat no human flesh; never give feasts to demons; and make a vow that, if God will deliver you from this pest, you will build a chapel to offer him thanksgiving and praise.”

In the midst of their sufferings and the persecutions they sustained, these heroic missionaries ceased not a single moment their labors of mercy and salvation. Themselves outcast and friendless, they visited and nursed the sick; repulsed, they pressed forward to the bedside of the dying; reviled for their religion, they still announced its saving truths; threatened with death, they bestowed the bread of life eternal upon others, even while the deadly tomahawk glistened over their heads. Such was the life the early Catholic missionaries led upon our borders; such, too, were the labors and sacrifices which preluded others, equally sublime and heroic, within the territory of our own republic.

Among the converts of Father Brébeuf at Ossossané was Joseph Chiwattenwha, a nephew on the maternal side to the head chief of the Hurons. From the time that he listened to Father Brébeuf’s sermon at the “feast of the dead,” he had been an earnest and regular catechumen. He rejected the prevailing superstitions of his race, and was remarkable for the purity of his morals, his freedom from the common Indian vice of gambling, and for his rare conjugal fidelity. Notwithstanding his virtues, and his repeated requests to be baptized, Father Brébeuf delayed the sacrament, to make sure of his thorough conversion, and, finally, only conferred it upon him in a moment of danger. The chief recovered from his illness, and, calling all his friends together at a grand banquet, he addressed them zealously in favor of the faith he had embraced. His faith and zeal were rewarded by the manifest protection of Heaven over himself and his family during the prevalence of the fever.

Well acquainted as was Father Brébeuf, from long study and intelligent observation, with the character and customs of the Hurons, he knew thoroughly how to propitiate their favor and regain their respect. His manly and courageous bearing during the prevalence of the fever, and his undaunted coolness and fearlessness of death in the midst of the late persecution, had won for him the admiration of all the nobler spirits in the tribe. In December, 1637, he gave a grand banquet, to which were invited the chiefs and warriors of the country. He there addressed his assembled guests on the necessity of embracing the true faith. In January of the next year, the head chief of the Hurons, or Aondecho, as he was called, returned the compliment by giving a similar banquet, to which Father Brébeuf was invited; when he came to the banquet, the chief presented him to the assembly, not as a guest, but as the host of the occasion, addressing them thus:

“Not I, but Echon, assembled you; the object of the deliberation I know not; but be it what it may, it must, I am convinced, be of great moment Let all then hearken attentively.” The ever-ready and zealous missionary then addressed the assembly on the same subject—the true faith. He followed this up with another banquet in February, where his address was followed by the evident but silent conviction of his hearers. At its close, the Aondecho arose, and exhorted his warriors and subjects to yield themselves to the counsels of the fathers. The deep guttural expression of approval, ho! ho! ho! resounded on all sides, and the grateful missionaries made their joyful thanksgiving by chanting the hymn of the Holy Ghost. Then, with one acclaim, the chiefs and warriors adopted Father Brébeuf into their tribe, and created him one of the chiefs of the land—a dignity which invested him with the power of summoning assemblies of the people in his own cabin.

In the spring of 1638, the fever began to disappear from the country. Now, too, the first Christian marriage was solemnized. The wife of Joseph Chiwattenwha had been baptized in March, and the two were united together in holy matrimony by Father Brébeuf on Saint Joseph’s Day. Peter Tsiwendaentaha united with them in approaching the holy communion.

The public duties of the mission occupied the entire time of Father Brébeuf. The abandonment of Ihonitiria, in consequence of the recent scourge, caused Fathers le Mercier, Ragueneau, Garnier, Jogues, Pijart, and Chatelain to remove that mission to Teananstayaé, the residence of Louis de Sainte Foi. But they felt great fears about that place, since its chief had shortly before instigated the warriors to canvass the murder of the missionaries at Ossossané. But Father Brébeuf, with characteristic courage and zeal, went to the village, and as a chief of the nation summoned a council of the chiefs and warriors. The mission was formally announced on the spot, and we shall soon see the fathers offering up the Holy Mass at Teananstayaé. The year before, an Iroquois prisoner had received baptism there from the hands of Father Brébeuf; and now nearly a hundred prisoners, condemned to death, were instructed and baptized by the missionaries on the eve of their execution. About this time an entire tribe, the Wenrohronons, abandoned by their allies, the Neutrals, came and threw themselves upon the hospitality of the Hurons. They were wasting away from the effects of the recent plague, and the fathers at Ossossané rushed to their relief. They nursed their sick, instructed and baptized their dying, many of whom expired with the waters of baptism fresh upon their brows. The Hurons themselves were moved in favor of a religion capable of producing such heroic examples; and on the 11th of November, Saint Martin’s Day, one entire family, and the heads of two others, were baptized in health. On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, others were converted and baptized, numbering in all thirty; so that at Christmas there was assembled, around that rude but holy altar in the wilderness, a sincere and fervent little congregation of Christians, adoring and offering their gifts to the infant Saviour.

The missionaries were now distributed in sets of four, consisting of three of the earlier and one of the recently arrived fathers, at the various points through the country where missions were located. Many new missions were opened, and the flying visits to villages whose missions had been broken up by the persecution were renewed. Among the new missions now opened was the one already alluded to at Teananstayaé, or Saint Joseph’s, whose commencement on New Year’s Day was cheered with fifty baptisms. The indefatigable Brébeuf was its founder, and with him were associated Father Jogues, whose Indian name was Ondesson, and Father Ragueneau. The most perfect system, both as regards the internal regulation of the affairs of the mission-house and its inmates, and the external labors of the fathers, was introduced by Father Brébeuf, which enabled them to perform an almost incredible amount of missionary labor. Among the natives, an aged chief named Ondehorrea, who was now a Christian, was of great assistance to them in their labors. He had once repulsed the fathers from his bed of illness, and, having called in the sorcerers, he then rejected them, and recalled the fathers, who were at once at his side. He was soon sufficiently instructed to be baptized, and at the moment that the saving waters touched his forehead, he arose suddenly in perfect health, to the amazement of all. He ever afterwards showed his sincerity as a Christian, and his gratitude to the fathers, by remaining their constant friend and faithful assistant.

A curious affair now arose, which will convey to us some idea of the trials with which those devoted missionaries had to contend. A woman living in a little village near Ossossané, as she was passing along one night, saw the moon fall upon her head, and immediately change into a beautiful female, holding a child in her arms. The apparition declared herself to be the sovereign of that country and all the nations dwelling therein, and required that her sovereign power should be acknowledged by each nation’s making a present or offering. The apparition designated the offering which each nation should bring, not omitting the French, who were required to present blue blankets. The woman was taken ill, and demanded that the order of the divinity should be complied with for her recovery. A council was accordingly held at Ossossané, to which the missionaries were invited. They attended, and were bold enough to oppose so wicked a homage to a false deity. But all was in vain, for the whole country was in a ferment of excitement. The most abominable orgies known to savage life were celebrated in honor of this new goddess, and men were hurrying in all directions to procure the required presents. Soon all the offerings were collected together, except the blue blankets of the French, and the missionaries were called upon to do homage in the manner required of them. They resolutely refused compliance with such a requisition, and, as may be well imagined, they immediately became the objects of general indignation. Amid threats and imprecations, and the glare of the uplifted tomahawk, those courageous priests refused to let a blanket go from their cabin, except upon condition of the immediate cessation of all that was going on, and the dismissal of the woman. These terms were rejected, the orgies were continued, and peril surrounded the fathers at every step; still they could not be induced to yield the points. Fortunately for the missionaries, however, the apparition paid the woman another visit, and released the French from the unholy tribute.

In September, 1639, new missionaries arrived. Unfortunately, an Indian in one of the canoes of their flotilla was infected with the small-pox, and that disease was thus introduced into the country. The malady began to spread with fearful rapidity, and, as usual, the origin of this evil, as of all others, was attributed to the missionaries. Persecution was at once renewed, the cross was violently dragged down from their houses, their cabins were invaded, their crucifixes torn from their persons, one of them was cruelly beaten, and all were threatened with death. So great was their peril at one time that they calmly prepared themselves for martyrdom. They were finally ordered peremptorily from the town. In the midst of these persecutions, the heart of Father Brébeuf was consoled with a vision: the Blessed Virgin, as the Mother of Sorrows, came to console her son and to confirm his courage; she appeared to him with her heart transfixed with swords. At once his resolution was taken; he remained at his post of danger and of care, and continued his missionary labors.

In consequence of these repeated persecutions, and the constant exposure of the fathers to the renewal of them by the malice of the medicine-men, it was determined to erect a missionary residence apart from the villages and their vicious population, which might prove a safe retreat for the fathers in time of trouble, and a convenient place for instructing the catechumens and others well disposed to receive the faith. During the years that Father Brébeuf was at Ossossané, displaying the most heroic zeal and disinterested charity, he had met with the blackest ingratitude from the persons whom he had fed by depriving himself of nourishment, and on one occasion he was ignominiously beaten in public. The other fathers had suffered similar indignities and maltreatment. While glorying, like the saints, in these sufferings for the sake of God and his church, he yet saw the necessity, for the sake of the mission, of a separate residence. It was this necessity that originated Saint Mary’s on the river Wye.

In the various missions whose establishments we have mentioned, there had been baptized up to the summer of 1640 about one thousand persons: of these two hundred and sixty were infants, and though some of them were restored to health, by means apparently miraculous, most of them went in baptismal purity to swell the ranks of the church triumphant in heaven. It was about this time that Father Brébeuf ceased to be superior of the mission, and was succeeded by Father Jerome Lalemant. The Jesuit, ever true to his institute, passed from command to obedience with the gladness and alacrity known only to the humble soldiers of the cross. His career as superior, arduous and glorious, was also abundant in fruit to the church. He was indeed the father of the Huron mission. Our eloquent Bancroft, in speaking of his and his companions’ labors to introduce Christianity among the aborigines of our continent, says that Saint Joseph’s chapel, wherein, “in the gaze of thronging crowds, vespers and matins began to be chanted, and the sacred bread was consecrated by solemn Mass, amazed the hereditary guardians of the council-fires of the Huron tribes. Beautiful testimony of the equality of the human race! the sacred wafer, emblem of the divinity in man, all that the church offered to the princes and nobles of the European world, was shared with the humblest of the savage neophytes. The hunter, as he returned from his wild roamings, was taught to hope for eternal rest; the braves, as they came from war, were warned of the wrath that kindles against sinners a never-dying fire, fiercer far than the fires of the Mohawks; and the idlers of the Indian villages were told the exciting tale of the Saviour’s death for their redemption.”

Father Brébeuf, already the founder of so many missions, now starts out with unabated ardor to open others. Accompanied by Father Chaumonot, he advanced into the country of the Neutrals, naming the first town he entered “All Saints.” He pushed onward to the Niagara, to the residence of Tsoharissen, the chief whom all the Neuter towns obeyed. Hither the calumnies of some hostile Hurons had preceded him, and represented Echon as the most terrible of sorcerers. The two missionaries were repulsed on all sides, and in their retreat from place to place were pursued by the arrows of their enemies. Still they persevered, and they succeeded in visiting eighteen towns, preached the Gospel in ten of them, and announced for the first time the words of truth to at least three thousand souls. During these labors, the keen eye of Brébeuf saw the importance to New France of an occupation of the Niagara by missions and trading posts; the travels of the missionaries would be greatly shortened, the warlike Iroquois restrained, the Hurons saved from a war of extermination, and the whole interior continent opened to European civilization and the faith of Christ. The plan of Father Brébeuf received little attention at court: a neglect which decided the fate of empires. We cannot determine precisely how far Father Brébeuf advanced into the country; only one town received the missionaries, which they called Saint Michael’s. They, however, approached as far into the Iroquois country as was possible; still Bancroft says it is uncertain that he ever stood upon the territory of our republic.

But the hostile Hurons, not contented with the furious persecution they had raised against the fathers in their own country, pursued them into their new mission. Two Huron deputies soon arrived, and proclaimed a tempting reward for such as would deliver the country from those devoted men. While the council was engaged in debating the question of his expulsion or death, Father Brébeuf was making his examen of conscience in the cabin where he lodged, and suddenly he beheld a fearful spectre: the figure held three darts, which were successively hurled against him and his companion, but were averted by an unseen hand. Presaging evil from the vision, the two fathers made their confessions to each other, and, thus prepared to die, they went to rest. They afterward learned from their post, who returned to the cabin late at night, that the session of the council was long and stormy; three times the young braves had insisted on butchering them on the spot, but were restrained by the sachems. But now, such was the state of the feeling aroused against them, that they could not advance a step in safety. Turned from every shelter, and encountering death at every step, they wandered as outcasts over the country. Believing that their longer continuance was only calculated to increase the savage hatred of the people against them, and retard the introduction of the faith, the fathers retreated to the Neuter town which they had named All Saints. Here they wintered and spent the time in instructing the people. In the spring, they advanced as far as Teotongniatou, or Saint Williams, where a charitable woman gave them a shelter. While thus lingering, Father Brébeuf arranged his Huron dictionary to the Neuter dialect, in which he had made considerable progress in four months. No sooner had the ameliorating influences of spring rendered travelling just possible, even to such travellers as those who had been accustomed for years to brave every hardship, than Father Brébeuf and his companions started on one of the most extraordinary journeys on record. Already spent with fatigues and privations, and pursued by danger, Father Brébeuf had to remain six days in the woods, sleeping on the snow, and without a covering or shed over his head. The cold was so intense that the trees themselves did split with a noise like the crack of a rifle. A special Providence protected him, for he exhibited no evidence that he had been cold or exposed. Loaded with the provisions which he was compelled to carry, as there were no relays on the way, he travelled two days across a lake of ice; and while thus struggling onward, his heart and eyes lifted up to heaven, he fell upon the ice. His portly frame gave such violence to his fall that he was unable to rise from the ice. After a long time he was lifted up by one of his companions, and then found that his extremities were palsied, and he could not lift his feet from the ground. Besides, his collar-bone was broken. He bore the last in silence, as it was not apparent. This fact was only discovered two years later by the surgeon who attended him at Quebec. In vain his companions begged the privilege of drawing him the remaining thirty-six miles of the journey in a sled, and at other times to assist him on the way; he declined all their generous offers, and labored onward, scarcely able to drag one foot after the other. It was thus he crossed the level country, and when he came to the mountains, he crept up on his hands and feet, and allowed himself to slide down on the opposite side, retarding his too rapid descent with his bruised and aching hands. Thus he completed his journey, which for love of suffering, patience, and humility compares with some of the most heroic achievements recorded of the saints. His companions went forward on other labors, but Father Brébeuf, while waiting for the next flotilla bound for Quebec, determined to take what he styled his “repose”—a repose busily spent in making important arrangements for the missions, which his superior knowledge of everything relating to them enabled him alone to effect.

On the passage to Three Rivers, Father Brébeuf was accompanied by Sondatsaa, an exemplary catechumen, and a party chiefly Christians or catechumens. They arrived at Three Rivers after a narrow escape from the murderous blades of the Mohawks, who were lying in wait for them. Finding it impossible for Fathers Ragueneau and Menard to reach their missions in Huronia without a strong guard, Father Brébeuf proceeded with Father Ragueneau and Sondatsaa to Sillery, in order to obtain succor for them. Here, moved by the entreaties of all, and especially of Sondatsaa himself, and having completed his instruction, Father Brébeuf consented to baptize that zealous convert. The ceremony was performed at Sillery, on the 27th of June, with great pomp, and in the presence of a concourse of Indians. The Chevalier de Montmagny was godfather to the convert, who received the Christian name of Charles. He now returned, a Christian, to his own country, bearing in his little flotilla the two fathers destined for the Huron mission. While Father Brébeuf was dwelling at Sillery, the next flotilla of Hurons that came bore its usual freight of calumnies against Echon. They now accused him of being colleagued with the Iroquois for the destruction of the Hurons. This renewal of calumny checked, for a time, his success; but he continued his preparations and arrangements for the Neuter mission and his endeavors to convert his persecutors to the faith. He endeavored to persuade some of these Hurons to remain and winter with him, in order to receive instructions. Two of them, who were left behind in the chase, were induced to remain, and Father Brébeuf, after the usual instruction and probation, had the consolation of receiving these into the one fold of the One Shepherd. He also succeeded in gaining a number of other Huron converts. Father Nimont, struck with the happy results of his labors, resolved to detain him another winter at Sillery. It was during this summer that Father Jogues came to Sillery for supplies. Here these future martyrs met in the prosecution of their noble labors; but soon the unconquerable Brébeuf saw his saintly companion set forth on his perilous mission over the country infested by the Iroquois, to carry relief to the Huron missionaries. Himself was soon to follow.

In the spring of 1643, Father Brébeuf proceeded to Three Rivers, where he was cheered by tidings of Father Jogues. That holy missionary, in returning from Sillery to bring succor to his companions in Huronia, had fallen a captive into the hands of the fierce Iroquois, and his fate was the object of intense anxiety. Father Brébeuf now learned that he was still living. The bold and generous Brébeuf arranged with a Huron, who was going out, to wait for letters to Father Jogues at Fort Richelieu; the father, bearing the letters, penetrated as far as the fort, but the courage of the Huron messenger failed; he had passed and was afraid to return, and the Jesuit was compelled to retrace his steps without succeeding in conveying a word of comfort and encouragement to his captive brother. In the spring of 1644, Father Bressani also, in endeavoring to reach Huronia, fell into the hands of the Iroquois. But the Huron missionaries must be succored at every hazard, and Father Brébeuf was now chosen for this perilous enterprise. Setting out in the summer, with an escort of twenty soldiers given to him by the governor, he reached the Huron missions in safety on the 7th of September. The Huron mission had ever been the dearest object of Father Brébeuf’s heart. Restored now to his chosen vineyard, he devoted himself to the task of converting those tribes with a zeal and an energy worthy of his former glorious career. Year after year he continued his heroic labors; and, though our pen cannot follow him, step by step, through the trials, sacrifices, and exertions which his seraphic love inspired him to encounter, they were recorded in minutest detail by angelic pens in heaven. Success crowned the efforts of Father Brébeuf and his companions. Persecution ceased, and the whole country was becoming conquered to the faith. In August, 1646, Father Gabriel Lalemant, full of zeal and courage, was joined with Father Brébeuf in the mission of Saint Ignatius, which embraced the town of Saint Louis and some smaller villages. By this time, the horrid superstitions of the country had given way to the pure and holy rites of Catholic worship, and the cross, so lately despised, feared, and hated, had now become the object of love and veneration. Father Bressani writes: “The faith had now made the conquest of the entire country.” “We might say they were now ripe for heaven; that naught was needed but the reaping-hook of death to lay the harvest up in the safe garner-house of paradise.” “Religion seemed at last the peaceful mistress of the land.”

Allusion has several times been made to the visions from on high which were mercifully sent to warn Father Brébeuf of danger impending, or to sustain him under the extraordinary afflictions, persecutions, and sufferings which at times seemed to exceed even his remarkable powers of endurance. Some of these have already been described. To the Protestant and non-Catholic mind, these miraculous communications to the saints are but the imaginings of morbid and diseased intellects. Parkman, in his Jesuits in North America, relates the following visions of Father Brébeuf only to classify them as psychological phenomena: “It is,” he says, “scarcely necessary to add that signs and voices from another world, visitations from hell and visions from heaven, were incidents of no rare occurrence in the lives of these ardent apostles. To Brébeuf, whose deep nature, like a furnace white-hot, glowed with the still intensity of his enthusiasm, they were especially frequent. Demons, in troops, appeared before him, sometimes in the guise of men, sometimes as bears, wolves, or wild-cats. He called on God, and the apparitions vanished. Death, like a skeleton, sometimes menaced him; and once, as he faced it with an unquailing eye, it fell powerless at his feet. A demon, in the form of a woman, assailed him with the temptation which beset Saint Benedict among the rocks of Subiaco; but Brébeuf signed the cross, and the infernal siren melted into air. He saw the vision of a vast and gorgeous palace, and a miraculous voice assured him that such was to be the reward of those who dwelt in savage hovels for the cause of God. Angels appeared to him, and more than once Saint Joseph and the Virgin were visibly present before his sight. Once, when he was among the Neutral nation, in the winter of 1640, he beheld the ominous apparition of a great cross slowly approaching from the quarter where lay the country of the Iroquois. He told the vision to his companions.

“‘What was it like? how large was it?’ they eagerly demanded.

“‘Large enough,’ replied the priest, ‘to crucify us all.’

“To explain such phenomena is the province of psychology and not of history. Their occurrence is no matter of surprise, and it would be superfluous to doubt that they were recounted in good faith and with a full belief in their reality. In these enthusiasts we find striking examples of one of the morbid forces of human nature; yet, in candor, let us do honor to what was genuine in them—that principle of self-abnegation which is the life of true religion, and which is vital no less to the highest forms of heroism.”

Bancroft, alluding to the same subject, and to the life, austerities, and self-sacrifice of Father Brébeuf, says: “The missionaries themselves possessed the weaknesses and the virtues of their order. For fifteen years enduring the infinite labors and perils of the Huron mission, and exhibiting, as it was said, ‘an absolute pattern of every religious virtue,’ Jean de Brébeuf, respecting even the nod of his distant superiors, bowed his mind and his judgment to obedience. Besides the assiduous fatigues of his office, each day, and sometimes twice in the day, he applied to himself the lash; beneath a bristling hair-shirt he wore an iron girdle, armed on all sides with projecting points; his fasts were frequent; almost always his pious vigils continued deep into the night. In vain did Asmodeus assume for him the forms of earthly beauty; his eye rested benignantly on visions of divine things. Once, imparadised in a trance, he beheld the Mother of him whose cross he bore, surrounded by a crowd of virgins, in the beatitudes of heaven. Once, as he himself has recorded, while engaged in penance, he saw Christ unfold his arms to embrace him with the utmost love, promising oblivion of his sins. Once, late at night, while praying in the silence, he had a vision of an infinite number of crosses, and, with mighty heart, he strove, again and again, to grasp them all. Often he saw the shapes of foul fiends, now appearing as madmen, now as raging beasts; and often he beheld the image of death, a bloodless form, by the side of the stake, struggling with bonds, and at last falling, as a harmless spectre, at his feet. Having vowed to seek out suffering for the greater glory of God, he renewed that vow every day, at the moment of tasting the sacred wafer; and as his cupidity for martyrdom grew into a passion, he exclaimed, ‘What shall I render to thee, Jesus my Lord, for all thy benefits? I will accept thy cup, and invoke thy name: and in sight of the Eternal Father and the Holy Spirit, of the most holy Mother of Christ and Saint Joseph, before angels, apostles, and martyrs, before Saint Ignatius and Francis Xavier, he made a vow never to decline an opportunity of martyrdom, and never to receive the death-blow but with joy.”

In the eye of Catholic faith, these visions and special revelations are but the fruits and blessings of a revealed and supernatural religion. While they do not fall to the lot of us ordinary Christians, nor are they necessary helps in the little we accomplish for God and his church, it is difficult to conceive how the saints and martyrs could have performed their sublime actions, or met their cruel and unjust deaths for God’s sake with a smile—sacrifices so far above and even repugnant to our nature—without the aid of these supernatural supports. The dedication of himself to martyrdom, and the heroic courage and joy with which he met his appalling fate, could only be achieved in the bosom of a church believing in miracles, and presenting to her children the crown of martyrdom as the highest reward attainable by man. The visions of Father Brébeuf, like other miracles, depend wholly upon the evidence and circumstances by which they are supported to entitle them to belief. It was not his habit to disclose them; it was only when commanded by his superiors that he committed them to writing. They thus rest upon his solemn written words, and upon their perfect agreement in many instances with contemporaneous facts transpiring beyond his sight and knowledge. To suppose him to have been deluded would be to contradict every quality of mind and character so universally attributed to him by all Protestant historians.

Father Brébeuf’s aspirations for the crown of martyrdom were prophetic of his appointed and glorious end. But to him all historians have attributed the most practical views in relation to the Indian missions, and the coolest and wisest manner of dealing with them. There was no mere sentimentality in his nature. He addressed his powerful energies and resources to the actual conversion of the Indians to Christianity, and we have seen how great were the results he achieved. But now, alas! a dark cloud was seen gathering over the happy Christian republic of the Hurons. Already, during the winter of 1649, the fierce Iroquois hordes, numbering upwards of one thousand, had secretly passed over a space of six hundred miles of Huron forests, and on the sixteenth of March they appeared suddenly before the town of Saint Ignatius, while the chiefs and warriors were absent on the chase, and the old men, women, and children were buried in sleep. Strongly as the place was fortified, this overwhelming force carried it by storm, and murdered its unsuspecting inhabitants. Three only escaped, half-naked, from the slaughter, and gave the alarm to the village of Saint Louis, where the fathers were then laboring. Here preparations were at once made to offer a gallant but unequal resistance. The women and children were sent over forty miles of ice and snow to seek a shelter in the cabins of the Petuns. The chiefs exhorted the fathers also to fly, since they could not go to the war. But Father Brébeuf, with all the heroism of his great soul, answered that there was something more necessary than fire and steel in such a crisis; it was to have recourse to God and the sacraments, which none could administer but they—that he and his companion, the gentle Lalemant, would abandon them only in death. The two fathers, says Father Bressani, “now hurried from place to place, exhorting all to prayer, administering the sacraments of penance and baptism to the sick and the catechumens, in a word, confirming all in our holy faith. The enemy in fact remained at the first fork only long enough to provide for the safe keeping of the prisoners and the safety of those left as a garrison to guard them. After this they marched, or rather rushed, directly upon Saint Louis. Here none were now left but the old and sick, the missionaries, and about a hundred braves to defend the place. They held out for some time, and even repulsed the enemy at the first assault, with the loss of about thirty killed, but the number of the assailants being incomparably greater, they overcame all resistance, and, cutting down with their axes the palisades which defended the besieged, were soon in possession of the town. Then putting all to fire and steel, they consumed in their very town, in their very cabins, all the old, sick, and infirm who had been unable to save themselves by flight.”

What contrasts the events of history present! While this relentless slaughter was at its height, and the worst passions of the fiercest of heathens were let loose, the scene of blood, fire, and death was relieved by the presence of Christian heroes the most gentle, merciful, and self-sacrificing. They stood in the breach to the last stroke of the enemy, encouraging the dying Christians to fortitude and hope, the wounded to patience, and the prisoners to courage and perseverance in the faith. The palisades of Saint Louis finally were cut away. The infuriate Iroquois swept in, and the whole surviving garrison, warriors and priests, were all made prisoners together. The savages rejoiced especially at the capture of such a prisoner as Father Brébeuf, whom they immediately showed signs of torturing, when a generous Oneida chief, more magnanimous than the rest, purchased him from his captors for a large price in wampum. It seemed as though he was about to be deprived of his coveted crown; but no! the victors retracted their bargain, and Father Brébeuf was again seized by his enemies. He and Father Lalemant were stripped, bound fast, and cruelly beaten, and their nails were torn out. But lest some change in the tide of war should deprive them of their prisoners, the latter were all sent, closely bound and tightly secured, to Saint Ignatius. Here, as they entered the town, they were beaten and bruised by the rabble with sticks and clubs. The large and conspicuous frame of Father Brébeuf attracted a double share of blows on his already bruised and lacerated head and body. In the midst of these cruelties, he was forgetful of himself, and anxious only that his Christian Hurons, who were now his fellow-prisoners, should be encouraged and consoled in their extreme danger. From the stake to which he had been tied, beholding them assembled for the torture, he lost sight completely of his own greater calamities and sufferings, and thus he addressed them: “My children, let us lift up our eyes to heaven in the worst of our torments; let us remember that God beholdeth all we suffer, and will soon be our reward exceeding great. Let us die in this faith, and hope from his goodness the accomplishment of his promises. I pity you more than myself, but support manfully the little torment that yet remains. It will end with our lives; the glory which follows will have no end.” How great must have been his consolation when he heard their heroic answer, a convincing proof that Indians may be truly converted to Christianity, and possess the constancy to die in the faith. “‘Tis well, Echon,” they cried, “our souls will be in heaven, while our bodies suffer on earth; entreat God to show us mercy; we shall invoke him to our latest breath.” Enraged at his exhortations and unflinching zeal, even in death, some Hurons adopted by the Iroquois rushed upon him and burned his flesh with a fire which they kindled near him, they cut off his hands, and while Father Lalemant’s flesh was cut and punctured with awls and other sharp instruments, and hot irons placed under his armpits, they led him forth to torture and death before the eyes of Father Brébeuf, in order to add to the agonies of the latter. As Father Brébeuf continued to speak and to exhort his Christians, and to threaten the vengeance of heaven upon their persecutors, they cut off his lower lip and nose, and thrust a red-hot iron down his throat. Even after this, when he saw his superior, the gentle Lalemant, led out to death, he called out to him with a broken voice in the words of Saint Paul, “We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” Throwing himself at Father Brébeuf’s feet, Father Lalemant was ruthlessly torn away, and in a few moments he was enveloped in flames at the stake, and his gentle soul preceded that of the intrepid Brébeuf to heaven. Turning next upon Father Brébeuf, they threw a collar of red-hot axes around his neck, which seethed and burned their way into his flesh; he stood, in the midst of such agonies, erect and motionless, apparently insensible to pain, intent only on vindicating the faith he had so long and faithfully announced. His tormentors were awed by his constancy, which seemed to them a proof that he was more than man. But they again taxed their ingenuity for new tortures. An apostate Huron, who had been a convert of Father Brébeuf in the Huron mission, and had since been adopted by the Iroquois, was the first to signalize the zeal of the renegade. He proposed to pour hot water on the head of Father Brébeuf, in return for the quantities of cold water he had poured on the heads of others in baptism. The suggestion was received with fiendish joy, and soon the kettle was swung. While the water was boiling, they added fresh cruelties to their victim’s sufferings. They crushed his mouth and jaw with huge stones, thrust heated iron and stones into his wounds, and with his own eyes he beheld them devour the slices of flesh which they cut from his legs and arms. Let us not cut short the appalling story; for surely, what a martyr bore a Christian may have courage to Three.’and bringing the scalding water from the caldron, they poured it over his bruised head and lacerated body amidst shouts and imprecations, and, as they did so, the high-priests of the occasion mockingly said to him: “We baptize you that you may be happy in heaven; for nobody can be saved without a good baptism.” By this time Father Brébeuf’s mouth and tongue could no longer articulate, but even yet by his erect posture, the struggling and brave expression of his almost expiring eye, and even by his half-formed words, he encouraged the Christian captives to perseverance, and endeavored to deter the savages from torturing them by threats of heaven’s vengeance. Again cutting slices from his body and devouring them before his eyes, they told him that his flesh was good. Some of the renegade Hurons, more fiendish than even the Iroquois, again mocked him by saying: “You told us that the more one suffers on earth, the happier he is in heaven. We wish to make you happy; we torment you, because we love you; and you ought to thank us for it.” They next scalped him, and even after this they poured the boiling water over his head, repeating the torture three times; they cut off his feet, and splitting open his stalworth and generous chest, they crowded around and drank with exultation the warm blood of the expiring hero. His eye, firm and expressive to the last, was now dimmed in death, and at last a chief tore out his noble and brave heart, cut it into a thousand pieces, and distributed it to the savage cannibals that crowded around to receive a share of so exalted and unconquerable a victim. Thus perished of earth, while crowned of heaven, the illustrious Brébeuf, “the founder of the Huron mission—its truest hero, its greatest martyr.”

The Iroquois, now glutted with carnage, and apprehensive of the approach of a superior force, retired to their own country. The fathers from Saint Mary’s came to Saint Ignatius to bestow the last honors upon the earthly remains of their martyred companions. It was with difficulty they discovered their burned and mangled bodies among the mass of slain the victorious Iroquois had left. Their precious remains were solemnly and sorrowfully carried to Saint Mary’s, and affectionately and religiously interred. A portion of Father Brébeuf’s relics were subsequently carried to Quebec. A silver bust, containing the head of the martyr, was presented by his family to the Canadian mission, and is still reverently preserved by the convent of hospital nuns in that city. So great was his reputation for sanctity that it became a familiar and pious practice in Canada to invoke his intercession. There are well-attested cases recorded of the wonderful intervention of heaven in favor of those who invoked his aid as a saint in heaven.

Among the many virtues which adorned the life and character of Father Brébeuf may be particularly mentioned his ardent love of holy poverty and suffering, his purity of soul, his singleness of purpose, his profound obedience and humility, his zeal and courage, his love of prayer and penitential austerities, and his generous longing for the salvation of souls. “The character of Brébeuf,” says Bancroft, “was firm beyond every trial: his virtue had been nursed in the familiar sight of death. Disciplined by twenty years’ service in the wilderness work, he wept bitterly for the sufferings of his converts, but for himself he exulted in the prospect of martyrdom.” “Thus,” writes Mr. J. G. Shea in his History of the Catholic Missions, “about four o’clock in the afternoon, after three hours of frightful torture, expired John de Brébeuf, the real founder of the [Huron] mission, a man such as the Catholic Church alone can produce; as a missionary, unequalled for his zeal, ability, untiring exertion, and steady perseverance; as a servant of God, one whose virtues the Rota would pronounce heroic; patient in toil, hardship, suffering, and privation; a man of prayer, of deep and tender piety, of inflamed love of God, in whom and for whom he did and suffered all; as a martyr, one of the most glorious in our annals for the variety and atrocity of his torments.” “He came of a noble race,” says Parkman, “the same, it is said, from which sprang the English Earls of Arundel; but never had the mailed barons of his line confronted a fate so appalling with so prodigious a constancy. To the last he refused to flinch, and his death was the astonishment of his murderers.”

Praise has become exhausted on such a subject. Would that we might hope for some national good from the sublime lesson he has taught us! The red men are our brothers. The most precious blood of a God-man was poured out for them as for us; and God’s martyrs have joyfully given their noble lives for their salvation. Might not a Christian nation, in its power and goodness, yea, in its justice, save at least the poor remnant of them from further slaughter; and say to the ever-ready and zealous missionaries of the Catholic Church: “Go, christianize and save our brothers; we will not slay them more; there is land enough for us and for them; we confide them to your heroic charity. We will protect you and them in the peace and good-will of the Gospel. Go, save our brothers”?

– text taken from the article “Memoir of Father John de Brébeuf, S.J.”, author not listed, that appeared in the July and August 1871 editions of The Catholic World magazine

Venerable Giorgio la Pira

Venerable Giorgio la PiraAlso known as

  • The Holy Mayor


Giorgio joined the Lay Dominicans in his early 20’s, and their spirituality informed everthing in his life. Lawyer. University professor. Assisted with writing the Italian constitution after World War II. Lived in a cell in the San Marco monastery in Florence, Italy until chronic bronchitis forced him to move somewhere less cold and damp. A member of the Christian Democrats political party. Mayor of Florence from 1951 to 1965. He saw his mission in the office to bring “bread and grace” to the people of his city, helping supply their material and spiritual needs during the rebuilding following World War II. He made several official trips behind the Iron Curtain to Russia, China and Vietnam during the Cold War to promote peace and human rights; before making these trips, he would ask cloistered nuns to pray for him and his work while he was there. In Italy he worked for support for the poor and workers rights, which led to his willingness to meet with Communist leaders; this led to much criticism at the time and since. La Pira was well-respected by religious leaders outside Catholicism; in 1960 he began a friendship with Athenagoras I, the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, who famously asked the mayor to take a gift of candy to Pope John XXIII; the act helped open dialog between the two. When the died, Pope Paul VI honored the Holy Mayor during an Angelus address. When Pope John Paul II announced the “Jubilee of Governors” in 2000, he chose the date of La Pira’s death for his celebration, and a quote from La Pira became the motto for the event.




MLA Citation

  • “Venerable Giorgio la Pira“. CatholicSaints.Info. 5 August 2018. Web. 15 August 2018. <>

Catholic World – The Symbolism of the Church

bronze processional cross at the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, Orleans, Massachusetts, artist unknown; photographed on 27 August 2015 by Karemin1094; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThe Catholic Church has no forms – that is, meaningless ceremonies used to impress and awe the multitude; but she has symbols – that is, “signs by which things are distinguished one from another.” According to the original meaning of the word, these symbols, the aggregate of which has come to be an outward and universal profession of faith, have each one a deep significance, sometimes even a double sense, and are, in fact, a silent compendium of the history as well as the doctrines of Catholic Christianity. But it cannot be too much insisted upon that their worth is entirely relative, depending solely on their authorized interpretation, and losing all their value if disconnected from it. Thus we can recognize no symbols, but mere forms, in the ritual of Anglicanism, Lutheranism, etc. Not only is their value relative, but their use is almost optional in the church – we mean as regards the use made of them by the individual soul. The church has “many mansions,” and sympathizes with the severe taste of the Northern races, as well as with the superabundant love of the gorgeous in observance, of the Southern and Eastern nations. Sprung from an Eastern people, her ritual is as manifold and dignified as that of her Hebrew precursor; but, deputed as she is to the universal world, and having built her later development upon the broad basis of the Gothic and Scandinavian natures, her exterior admits of the austere simplicity so dear to the last-mentioned races.

Still the principle of outward forms being a fitting expression of inward belief is so obvious and so wedded to the requirements of human nature, that it would need a second deluge to destroy it. When “forms” (so-called) were dethroned by the Reformation, they crept in again in real earnest among the reformers themselves. The phraseology of Cromwell and his Roundheads, the speech and garments of the Quakers, the splits among the Baptists and Anabaptists upon the “form” of administering what they did not even believe to be a sacrament, were so many involuntary acts of homage to the time-honored principle of symbolism. Of the good effect produced on all sorts of minds by the outward expression of the doctrine of Christ, we will quote two examples, taken from very opposite sources. In a note to the preface of Moehler’s Symbolik, we read: “There is at Bingen, on the Rhine, a beautiful little Catholic church dedicated to Saint Roch, to which Goethe once gave an altarpiece. ‘Whenever I enter this church,’ he used to say, ‘I always wish I were a Catholic priest.’ In the great poet’s autobiography we also find an interesting description of the extraordinary love for the Catholic ritual and liturgy that had captivated his heart in boyhood.”

The other example is from the writer’s own experience among the agricultural poor of England. A poor and infirm woman, having come for the first time to a Catholic chapel, said afterwards that, often as she had read in the Bible the history of Our Lord’s Passion, she had never understood it so well as she did by once looking at the crucifix over the altar. This was the beginning of her conversion.

Of the great religious revival in Germany and the labors of Count Stolberg (the period which answers in time, as also in result, to the Tractarian or Oxford movement in England) the preface to Moehler’s Symbolik also says: “As the avenues that led to the Egyptian temples were bordered on either side by representations of the mystical sphinx, so it was through a mystical art, poetry and philosophy, that many minds were then conducted to the sanctuary of the true church.” Mrs. Jameson bears witness to a similar process within her own consciousness concerning the saints of the monastic orders. “We have in the monastic pictures a series of biographies of the most instructive kind…. After having studied the written lives of Saint Benedict, Saint Bernard, Saint Francis, Saint Clare, and Saint Dominic, to enable me to understand the pictures which relate to them, I found it was the pictures which enabled me better to understand their lives and character.” The same thought is expressed by a learned English antiquarian, speaking of the symbolical paintings of the Catacombs: “Moreover, because they [the artists] desire that the mind of those who see these paintings should not retain the outward semblance of the scene, but be carried forward to its hidden and mystical meaning, they always depart more or less from its literal truth, e.g., we never find seven or twelve baskets (the miracle of the multiplication of loaves), but eight; nor six water-pots of stone (marriage of Cana), but seven. It was the symbol of a religious idea they aimed at, not the representation of a real history.” In a word, symbolism is as old as creation, and there never was a time when men did not make for themselves a language of signs. Heathendom was only a corruption of signs into realities; Judaism was a religion of signs carefully interpreted in view of the later and fuller revelation. Our faith is the realization, in part, of the Hebrew types; but since we are still clogged with mortality, and therefore still under an imperfect law, it follows that through symbols we must still be taught. An unsymbolical religion would be unscriptural, for Christ himself tells us he has come to “fulfil, not to destroy the law.” And this is not incompatible with the command to “worship God in spirit and in truth”; for without the spirit, of what use would be the form? It would be as valueless as words from the lips of a maniac, words which have no weight because the mind does not direct them. But who would contend that because the random words of a madman are meaningless, all speech is so? Even so, though mere forms would be idolatrous, forms hallowed by doctrinal and scriptural meaning are holy and venerable.

Having premised thus much, we will attempt some description of a few of those symbols most anciently used by the church, and of the significance of certain acts and ceremonies which usually are but superficially examined by our opponents, and, perhaps, not fully appreciated by Catholics themselves.

The Catacombs, where the ecclesiastical life of the church was first brought into shape, furnish the most interesting material on the subject of Christian symbolism. The times required great caution – here was one motive for secret and hieroglyphic instruction; the first converts were Jews, Orientals deeply imbued with the love of imagery and poetry – here was a second reason for the rapid development of symbolism; our Lord himself had deigned to use figures and parables in his teaching – here was also a model and a permission for the copious use of signs. Almost the earliest, and certainly the most interesting, Christian symbol was the fish. The Greek word for fish contained five letters, ?????, each of which was the initial of the following words: Jesus, Christ, Son (of) God, Saviour. Dr. Northcote says of it: “It became a profession of faith, as it were, both of the two natures, the unity of person and the redemptorial office of our Lord.” Besides this ingenious meaning, the fish signified “the human soul in the first or natural creation, the same soul as regenerate or created anew, and Christ himself as uniting the two creations of nature and grace. In the first or natural creation, life began in the waters and from the waters, of which the fish is the inhabitant. In the spiritual or new creation, all life begins from the waters of baptism.” The fish also bears a reference to the story of Tobias, where the application of its entrails “defeats devils and restores sight.” In three or four instances the fish is depicted bearing a ship on its back, and this combination naturally suggests to us Christ upholding his church. The epitaph of Saint Abercius, Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia at the end of the second century, has the following allusion to the symbolic fish: “Faith led me on the road, and set before me for food from the one fountain the great and spotless fish which the pure Virgin embraced; and this fish she (Faith) gave to friends to eat everywhere, having good wine, giving wine mixed with water, and bread. May he who understands these things pray for me.” In a fresco in the crypt of Santa Lucina is seen a fish carrying on its back a basket of bread, the latter being of an ashen color, like that offered by the Jews to their priests on festival days, and in the midst of the bread appears something red, partly effaced, but resembling a cup of red wine. This, of course, was intended for the Holy Eucharist, as we shall see further on. In the work of Aringhi on the Catacombs, we find it mentioned that a sarcophagus was found of the date of the very earliest centuries, whereon the story of the paralytic is represented (a very favorite simile in the Catacomb list of subjects). The bed of the subject of the cure is shaped like a fish. The baptismal font first received the name of “piscina,” and the Christians often called each other “pisciculi,” little fishes, as we learn from Perret. He also tells us too that this emblem reminded the early Christians of the very scenes of the Gospel connected with Christ’s miracles, the apostles’ calling, and the establishment of the church; Christ walking on the waters; preaching from a bark; allaying the tempest; causing a miraculous draught of fishes to be taken; finding the coin of the tribute in the mouth of a fish – all this was suggested by the simple figure of a fish. Saint Jerome says that “the fish that was taken in whose mouth was the coin of the tribute was Christ, the second Adam, at the cost of whose blood the first Adam and Peter, that is, all sinners, were redeemed.” Origen speaks of our Lord as “he who is figuratively called the fish.” This symbol leads naturally to that obvious one of the loaves, which typifies the Holy Eucharist. Abundant proof of this is found in the writings of the fathers. The types of this sacrifice and sacrament are unmistakable. In the cemetery of Saint Callixtus is a painting representing the mystical supper (not the historical one) of the Eucharist. “The seven disciples seated at the table represent all the disciples of Christ. The number seven signifies universality. The two fishes on the table remind us of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fishes. The seven baskets are filled with whole loaves, not fragments, and the addition of an eighth hints that we are not to think of the literal history, … but of that ulterior and spiritual sense to which they all (the three occurrences represented in this one fresco) point, and in which they all unite, that is, the doctrine of the Blessed Eucharist.” A lamb carrying a milk-pail on its back is sometimes used as an eucharistic emblem. The Acts of Saint Perpetua give us her dream, or rather vision, in which the Good Shepherd gave her the curds to drink, after he had milked his flocks. She received it with her arms crossed on her breast, while all the assistants said “Amen”! These words and posture were those used during the administration of the Blessed Sacrament. Milk is perpetually used in Scripture to denote the good things of God; and in early times, according to Tertullian and Saint Jerome, milk and honey were given with this meaning to newly baptized infants or adults. The practice was continued, on Holy Saturday at least, as late as the ninth and tenth centuries. This symbol of the milk-pail is, however, rarer than any other, and is by no means on the same level as that of the fish, the lamb, and the loaves.

The Good Shepherd is a pictorial symbol that has never fallen into disuse, and that of Orpheus with his lute or pipe is analogous to it. The adaptation of the heathen myth of Orpheus training wild beasts by the sweet sounds of his lyre to the hidden meaning of Christ curbing men’s passions by his doctrine, is vouched for by Saint Clement of Alexandria. In a painting of the Good Shepherd in the cemetery of Saint Saturninus, a goat appears in place of the lost sheep. “This,” says Dr. Northcote, “was intended as a protest against the hateful severity of the Novatians and other heretics who refused reconciliation to penitent sinners.” In some of these representations, we see several sheep at the feet of Jesus, in attitudes pregnant with meaning; some “listening attentively, not quite understanding as yet, but meditating and seeking to understand; others turning their tails – it is an unwelcome subject, and they will have nothing to do with it”; or, again, “one of the two sheep is drinking in all that he hears with simplicity and affection; the other is eating grass – he has something else to do; he is occupied with the cares, pleasures, and riches of this world.”

Dr. Northcote says that as the sheep represent the flock of Christ in life, so the dove is more especially the symbol of the soul after death. It is primarily a type of the Holy Ghost, as the Scriptures suggest and the writings of the fathers assert. They call the Holy Spirit figuratively “a dove without gall,” the expression which is found repeated on some of the sepulchres of children, as indicative of their innocence. Later on, we find the soul of Saint Scholastica appearing to her brother, Saint Benedict, under this form. A dove pecking at grapes denotes the soul’s enjoyment of the fruits of eternal happiness. Tertullian calls the dove “a herald of peace from the beginning,” and, when painted with an olive-branch in its mouth, it is to be taken in this sense. It is a symbol that we use in our own times. Noah’s ark, a type of the church often seen in the Catacombs, is connected with the dove. Perret tells us of a picture, noticed by Bottari in his Sculture e Pitture, of Noah in the ark, and the ark again within a ship. The form of the ark, according to Hebrew calculations, was a long square, but it is generally represented in the Early Christian paintings as a cube, a figure suggestive of greater stability. This system of departure from the literalness of history is too universal not to be intentional. For instance, none of these representations of the ark are without a dove, but in some a woman appears instead of Noah. Tertullian in his work on baptism says that this symbol meant the general doctrine of “the faithful, having obtained remission of their sins through baptism, receive from the Holy Spirit [the dove] the gift of divine peace [the olive-branch], and are saved in the mystical ark of the church from the destruction of the world.”

The resurrection of Lazarus, and Moses striking the rock, are both types of the resurrection and eternal life, and are often seen in juxtaposition. In one of these paintings, Lazarus is like a little child, and is clothed in bands that more resemble swaddling-clothes than a winding-sheet. Our Lord also is quite boyish. The apostles likewise are often represented as young men, so is Moses in many instances. This is thought by Perret to be symbolical of the immutability of heavenly glory. Among other types often found in the Catacombs are the anchor with a cross-shaped handle, the symbol of hope from time immemorial; the palm, a sign of victory; and the ship, the invariable type of the church of Christ. The Scriptures themselves suggest this latter idea, as they also do that of the rock, petrus. This subject is fully treated in some frescoes of the cemetery of Saint Callixtus. The rock (Christ) pours down streams of living waters, which two apostles join their hands to catch and collect for the benefit of the world. In other compositions, the rock does not pour forth water spontaneously (this was a reference to the day of Pentecost), but emits it at the touch of the rod held by Moses (the type of Peter); and in other paintings, two men appear carrying away from it baskets of bread, which are then touched with a rod by a figure supposed to be Christ. This would denote the sacramental change from bread to the flesh of Christ. Thus one type is always presupposing another or merging itself into another. In a fresco of several subjects, all referring to the Holy Eucharist, found in an ancient Christian cemetery at Alexandria, there is written over the heads of several persons assembled at a feast these words: “Eating the benedictions of the Lord.”

Now, the Greek word here used is the same that Saint Paul uses (1 Corinthians 10:16) to denote the communion of the body and blood of Christ, and, furthermore, is the identical word by which Saint Cyril of Alexandria denotes the consecrated elements.

Daniel in the lions’ den and the three children in the fiery furnace are constantly represented in the Catacombs as types of the persecutions of the church and the fortitude under them. The phœnix or palm-bird occurs as a symbol of immortality, and was graven on the tomb of Maximus by order of Saint Cecilia. The peacock also signified immortality, and came to be so used from being the bird of Juno, or the supposed emblem of the apotheosis of the Roman empresses. In one fresco in the cemetery of Saint Sixtus, we find SS. Peter and Paul represented as standing on either side of a crowned tower, doubtless a symbol of strength, figurative of the church. Perret also tells us that God the Father, “himself invisible, while his power is manifested by his works,” is typified “with singular aptitude by a hand coming forth from the clouds.” This is in a picture of Moses striking the rock.

A very beautiful representation of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, of later date however than the Catacombs, but not so late as to have lost their informing spirit, occurs in a mosaic that formerly decorated the apse of the basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The Lamb stands at the foot of a jewelled cross, on a rock, with four streams, one running from each of its feet, and a fifth from the foot of a chalice into which the blood of the Lamb spurts down from its wounded breast. An evident allusion to the five wounds of the Lord is here combined with the type of the Holy Eucharist (for the cup suggests the latter). The cross, as such, is rarely found in the Catacombs, but the Acts of the Martyrs mention a soldier, Saint Orestes, who, while playing at throwing the disc, let fall from his garments a small cross (which, discovering his religion, procured him the glory of martyrdom), so that we may suppose that this sign of Christianity was sometimes secretly worn about the person during the early centuries. Saint Augustine, Saint Hilary, Saint Jerome, Saint Chrysostom, and our own countryman, Venerable Bede, agree in the cross being “the sign of the Son of Man” of which Jesus himself speaks in the Gospel. Tertullian quotes the vision of Ezechiel (9:4), and interprets thus the sign Tau: “Now, the Greek letter Tau and our own T is the very form of the cross, which he predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem.” Dr. Northcote tells us that the number 300, “being expressed in Greek by the letter Tau, came itself, even in apostolical times, to be regarded as the equivalent of the cross.” We know how Saint Paul speaks of the cross, as meaning the whole Christian faith. The sign of the cross, however, was contained in or appended to the monogram Chi and Rho. This was sometimes written P, while in some ancient manuscripts the Tau itself was written +, forming an exact Greek cross. Sometimes to this monogram (worn to this day as a badge by the Passionist Friars) was added the letter ?, the initial of ????t??, the Greek for conqueror. This is something similar to the inscription translated “In hoc signo vinces,” seen by Constantine in his vision outside the gates of Rome. It was in this shape that the inscription was afterwards put on the “Labarum” or banner of the cross, and also on many coins struck during the reign of Constantine.

Not to prolong the subject of the Catacombs too indefinitely, let us end with these words of Dr. Northcote: “Nothing was likely to be more familiar to the early Christians than the symbolical and prophetical meaning of the Gospels and the Old Testament, so that the sight of these paintings on the walls of the subterranean chapels was probably as a continual homily set before them…. Indeed, it is scarcely too much to say that some of these artistic compositions might be made to take the place of a well-ordered dogmatic discourse.”

When the immediate fear of persecution was removed, the church gradually added to her alphabet of symbols. The cross became more general, at first ornamented and wreathed, jewelled and gilt, as it was by order of Constantine, then by an easy transition becoming a simple crucifix, with the image of the Redeemer plainly wrought upon it. Constantine forbade the cross to be any longer used as an instrument of torture or punishment; while the finding of the true cross and the honor paid to it soon familiarized the people with its exclusively divine associations. From Mrs. Jameson’s researches we gather that the “fashion of decorating the cross with five jewels, generally rubies, typified the five sacred wounds.” We also learn from her the origin of the nimbus, or glory, so generally used after the fifth century as an attribute of holiness. At first it was borrowed from pagan sources, the “luminous nebula” of Homer – that, is the divine essence standing “a shade in its own brightness” – being, as she informs us, the first trace of it to be found in antiquity. Rays or plates of brass were sometimes fixed to the heads of imperial busts and statues in Rome, and later on it is seen round the heads of Christian emperors (Justinian in particular) who were not canonized. It strikes one as curious that Mrs. Jameson should have omitted all mention of Moses and the horns or rays of light that adorned his countenance as he came down from Mount Sinai. In the transfiguration, our Lord’s face “did shine as the sun,” and the angel that sat over against the sepulchre on the morning of the resurrection had a “countenance as lightning.” After the fifth century the nimbus became universal, and was adopted as a symbol of holiness. A cruciform glory was the distinctive emblem of God, and also a triangular one, which typifies the Trinity, and was often used later round the head of figures representing God the Father, and entirely surrounding the Holy Spirit, who was painted as a dove.

It would be quite impossible to go through the cycle of all the symbols now in use. They have varied very little since the days of Constantine, but they cover so vast a field that it would take a lifetime to study each one in detail.

The chief service of the church, the Mass, naturally strikes us first. Nearly every ceremony is connected with it, and is only complete when preceded or followed by it. Churches (often symbolical in their form and arrangement), vestments with their many hidden meanings, lights, incense, holy water, music, processions, group themselves as mere accessories round the sacrificial act which gives them their importance. The word Mass is supposed by some to be derived from the Hebrew Missach, a voluntary offering, but the most widely received opinion is that it comes from Missa or Missio, the dismissal of the catechumens before the most solemn part, the consecration. The word itself is of very ancient use, as appears from the letters of Saint Ambrose, Saint Leo, and Saint Gregory. The Gloria Patri, which is often used in the liturgy as well as constantly in the hours of the divine office, was introduced in 325 as a protest against the Arian heresy which contended that the Son was not equal to the Father. The custom of standing during the gospel signifies our readiness to defend its truths and practice its precepts. We sign our foreheads, lips, and breast in token of our resolve not to be ashamed of the cross of Christ, to profess it always in words, and to keep it for ever in our hearts. At the “Incarnatus est” in the Credo we kneel in reverence to the mystery of the God made man, and at the “Domine non sum dignus” we strike our breasts in token of penance and humiliation, as we have before done at the Confiteor. This has always been the conventional sign of sorrow, as we read of the publican in the gospels.

Of the use of lights, Saint Jerome says in his letter against the heretic Vigilantius: “Throughout all the churches of the East, when the gospel is to be recited, they bring forth lights, though it be at noonday, not certainly to drive away darkness but to manifest some sign of joy, that under the type of corporal light may be indicated that light of which we read in the Psalms – ‘Thy word is as a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.'” Everywhere in the Old and New Testaments, light is the type of knowledge; in the parable of the virgins, it is also the symbol of fidelity. In Rome, torches were carried at weddings as a sign of honor. Saint Chrysoston says that lights are carried before the dead to show that they are champions and conquerors. What more natural than that these usages should have been transferred to the Christian churches? “Within the sanctuary and in front of the altar,” says the anonymous author of the Explanation of the Sacrifice and Liturgy of the Mass, “a lamp is kept day and night, to warn us that Jesus Christ, the light of the world, is present on our altars, … and that our lives should, by their holiness, shine like a luminary.” Candles are used in several mystical senses by the church during the ceremonies of Holy Week, as chiefly the Paschal candle. This is fraught with many meanings. Unlighted, it is an emblem of Christ in the tomb, while the five grains of incense put into it in the shape of a cross typify both the five wounds of our Blessed Lord and the spices with which his dead body was buried. Contrary to the usual custom, which requires a priest to bless any holy thing, the Paschal candle is blessed by the deacon, to denote that Christ was buried by his disciples (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus), not by his apostles. When lighted, the candle prefigures Christ arisen. The Pavia Missal makes it signify, while unlighted, the pillar in the cloud which guided the Israelites by day through the desert, and, after being lighted, the fiery column that directed them at night. The columnar shape of the candlestick in many Italian churches is thought to refer to this part of the interpretation. The triple candle, which is lighted with new fire on Holy Saturday, signifies the Trinity, and in connection with this we are reminded of a curious ceremony in the Greek ritual, which consists in the benediction given by a bishop whenever he says Mass. He holds in each hand a candle – one triple, denoting the Trinity; and the other double, and symbolizing the union of two natures in Jesus Christ. The manual of Holy Week tells us that the fifteen candles on the triangular candlestick, used during the office of Tenebræ, represent the “disciples whose fervor cooled at the approach of danger, and who dispersed here and there, wavering in faith, forgetful of their promises, and all seeking safety in flight, abandoning their Master. The candle that remains lit and is finally concealed behind the altar is a figure of Jesus Christ. He came to enlighten the world; but ungrateful, perverse men made every effort to obscure and extinguish his glory. When they fancied they had succeeded, he rose from death to an immortal life, more glorious than the former.”

The whole of the ceremonies of Holy Week are nothing but a literal “showing forth of the death of the Lord until he come” – a yearly rehearsal, as it were, of the great drama of human life and destiny, of the rejection of the elder and the adoption of the younger branch of the family of men – that is, the choice of the Gentiles after the trial of the Jews. Incense, the recognized emblem of prayer, and spoken of as such in the well-known passages of the Apocalypse, also reminds us of the perfumes used in the East as a sign of honor towards kings and princes, and of the gift of the Magi to the infant Saviour. Dr. Rock says that “a venerable antiquity informs us that the incense burning round the altar, whence, as from a fountain of delicious fragrance, it emits a perfume through the house of God, has ever been regarded as a type of the good odor of Jesus Christ which should exhale from the soul of every true believer.” The frequent use of holy water is above all typical of purity, the great preparation of the soul for any holy action.

Salt is a preservative against corruption, and also reminds us of the miracle of Eliseus, when, to make the drought cease, he asked for a vessel with water and salt. The apostles are called the “salt of the earth,” and salt is recognized as the emblem of wisdom. Oil, used in many functions, is typical of sweetness and mildness, in consideration of its natural powers of healing, and from time immemorial anointing has been considered a consecration to God. Oil was also used in the old Hebrew sacrifices, together with cakes as well as salt. The “Agnus Dei” perhaps requires a fuller explanation than the former symbols. It is a waxen cake stamped with the figure of a lamb. The Pope blesses a certain quantity of these cakes every seventh year of his reign. “The origin of this rite seems to have been the very ancient custom of breaking up the Paschal candle of the preceding year and distributing the fragments among the faithful. Alcuin, a disciple of the Venerable Bede, describes the blessing in these words: ‘In the Roman Church, early on the morning of Holy Saturday, the archdeacon comes into the church and pours wax in a clean vessel, and mixes it with oil; then blesses the wax, and molds it in the form of lambs; … the lambs which the Romans make represent to us the spotless Lamb made for us; for Christ should be brought to our memories frequently by all sorts of things.'” The Asperges, or sprinkling with holy water before Mass, reminds us of the sprinkling of the blood of the Paschal lamb on the door-posts of the Israelites – a ceremony which was to be performed with a bunch of hyssop. It also refers to the Psalm Miserere, in which we pray to be “sprinkled with hyssop, and we shall be cleansed” – a prayer which forms part of the prescribed orisons to be repeated during the Asperges.

Of the symbolical meaning of the sacred vestments, and their colors, we will only speak briefly. The most obvious apology for them is their use as prescribed in the Old Testament, where they are made the subject of the most minute directions. Many things came to us through the Temple traditions, the Gregorian chant, for instance, which closely resembles that still used in the orthodox synagogues of our own day. It is not improbable that something of Hebrew traditions entered into the custom, early adopted by the Christians, of wearing specified and holy garments during the celebration of Mass. But the church, ever mindful of her mission of teaching, could not let such vestments be mere ornaments, however fitting and seemly. The author of the Explanation of the Mass says that “ceremonies are a kind of illustration of our sacred mysteries; they represent them to the eye, to a certain extent, as a look or a discourse do to the ear or mind, especially to the uneducated, who are always the greater number.” The vestments are a very prominent part of the externals of the Mass; their color announces at one glance whether a virgin or a martyr is being commemorated, whether we are to join in prayer for some unknown brother deceased in Christ, or to lament in a penitential spirit the sins of mankind and our own. Green, very seldom used, is the normal color for Sundays, denoting hope and joy in the promise of the new spring. There are two meanings attached to the different component parts of the holy vesture. The “amice” which covers the head (in ancient times entirely) represents the “helmet of salvation,” divine hope; the “alb,” innocence of life, because it clothes the celebrant from head to foot in spotless white; the “girdle,” with which the loins are girt, purity and chastity (also referring to the text of Saint Luke, “Let your loins be girt”), and possibly bearing some allusion likewise to the journey of life, and the command anciently given to the Jews at the first Pasch, “You shall gird your reins”; the “maniple,” which is put on the left arm, patience under the burdens of this mortal life; the “stole,” which is worn on the neck and shoulders, the yoke of Christ; and the “chasuble,” which, as uppermost, covers all the rest, charity – according to the saying of Saint Peter, that “charity covereth a multitude of sins.” The author of The Following of Christ, speaking of the duties and dignity of the priesthood, thus beautifully interprets the ecclesiastical apparel: “A priest clad in his sacred vestments is Christ’s vicegerent, to pray God for himself and for all the people in a suppliant and humble manner. He has before him and behind him the sign of the cross of the Lord, that he may always remember the passion of Christ. He bears the cross before him in his vestment, that he may diligently behold the footsteps of Christ, and fervently endeavor to follow them. He is marked with the cross behind, that he may mildly suffer, for God’s sake, whatsoever adversities shall befall him from others. He wears the cross before him that he may bewail his own sins, and behind him that through compassion he may lament the sins of others, and know that he is placed, as it were, a mediator between God and the sinner.”

Besides this mystical signification, the vestments also have a representative meaning. The amice is intended to recall the rag with which the Jews bandaged our Saviour’s eyes; the alb, the white garment in which Herod, in derision, clothed him; the girdle, maniple, and stole, the cords with which he was bound; the chasuble, the purple garment with which the soldiers covered him when they hailed him as a mock king, and as a complement, the cross on the chasuble represents that which Christ bore on his wounded shoulders on his way to Calvary. The priest’s tonsure, worn very conspicuously by most of the religious orders, is a type of the crown of thorns.

The ceremonies of marriage are interesting from their symbolical meaning, but are so familiar that it is useless to dwell on them. In the Greek Church, a glass of wine is partaken of by the bride and bridegroom, as a type of the community of possession which is henceforth to exist between them. The use of the ring is not confined to earthly nuptials; it is worn, as we know, by bishops as a sign of union with their sees, and also by many orders of nuns, as a pledge of their mystical bridal with their heavenly Spouse. The rites of initiation and profession in some of the religious orders of women are full of symbolism. In the taking of the white veil among the Dominicanesses at Rome, the novice is asked to choose between a crown of thorns and a wreath of roses placed before her on the altar. The hair is shorn, as a sign of detachment from the vanities of this world. At the profession the nun prostrates herself, and is entirely covered with a funereal pall, while the choir chants in solemn cadence the psalm for the dead – De Profundis. This awful expression of her utter renunciation of the world has a most mysterious effect on any one who is happy enough to witness it. The grating and curtains that, in some orders, screen the religious from view, even during their friends’ visits to the “parlor,” are only a visible sign of the entire separation between them and all, even the most innocent, earthly ties. And speaking of religious orders, we are reminded of the peculiar ceremonies which, with some of them, enhance the solemnity of the divine office. Of these, a biographer of Saint Dominic says, with true mediæval instinct, that it was no wonder that Dominic should have tried to imitate, in the many bowings and prostrations of the white-robed monks, the pageantry of angelic adoration which he had so often seen in visions – the folding of the many myriad wings, and the casting down of golden crowns before the throne of the Lamb. And yet, while we are thinking of this beautiful interpretation, there comes another thought – that of churches as bare as the monastery itself, and of a ritual so simple that it would satisfy the veriest Covenanter. The Trappists especially, the Cistercians and Franciscans also, are forbidden any display in ceremonial, and any costliness in material, with regard to the worship of God. Poverty is to reign even in their churches; and thus we have an asylum provided for those minds whose ascetic turn inclines them to ignore everything but the most spiritual and internal expression of faith. Thus, in old times, Saint Paul of the Desert abode among caves and wild beasts, and Saint Simeon Stylites passed his life on the summit of an isolated column. Prayer without the slightest incentive to it, meditation without any outward suggestions to strengthen it – such was their life. They never heard glorious chants nor saw processions of clerics clad in golden robes; no ritual, no symbol even, was there to help them on; and yet they were saints. There are such minds still now; the church has a place for them – a place among her rarest and choicest children, for, after all, “they have chosen the good part, and it shall not be taken from them.”

But for the majority symbolism is language, ceremonial is reading. And because others who do not understand this language rail at it, should we forget or give it up? Rather should we explain it to them; for who does not know how much pleasure may one day be derived from a tongue that to-day seems barbarous? Who can read Goethe till he has mastered the grammar of one of the richest languages in the world? or who can enjoy Dante till he has learnt to read him familiarly in the liquid original? Even so with Catholics; others must learn the Catholic alphabet before they pronounce upon the magnificent poems contained in our ceremonial. See this picture of the crucifixion – for in this one subject all our religion is enfolded. It is a mediæval painting. The arms of our Saviour are spread wide, almost on a level with his head; Mary, John, and Magdalen stand beneath; the penitent thief is beside him on his own cross. Two angels in flowing robes hold jewelled chalices under his pierced hands to collect the drops of blood, and other angels are seen in the clouds above, with musical instruments in their hands. This is no literal representation of the scene on Mount Calvary, no realistic picture of the thunder cloud, the brutal soldiery, the opened graves, such as we see by the dozen nowadays. It is not so much a picture of the crucifixion as of the redemption. It occupies itself merely with the mystical sense of the great sacrifice; the figures beneath the cross are not portraits, in attitudes of human desolation, but representatives of the church of the faithful on earth; the good thief is put there for the aggregate of repentant sinners; the angels in the clouds rather celebrate the redemption of the world than lament the death of God; and the instruments they play are – we may well suppose it – meant to typify the consecration of art to religious purposes; the cup-bearing angels, catching the drops of blood as they fall, are types of the adoration paid to the saving blood of Jesus through all generations, and of the untold preciousness of this great treasure; in the chalices, also, we see a distinct allusion to the sacrifice of the Mass; finally, the widely extended arms mean – at least, they came to mean it not long after – the universal nature of the redemption; and therefore the Jansenists, when they taught that Christ died only for those who are actually saved, painted their crucifixes with the arms uplifted high above the head.

So our Catholic symbolism is an open book, a text for the highest art, and a guide to the humblest mind. It has chapters for all – for poverty, nudity, and coarseness are as symbolical as magnificence and oriental grace. The despoiled altars of Good Friday are as eloquent as the procession of Palms or the Easter exuberance of decoration; the crib and the straw of Christmas are not less fraught with meaning than the decked tabernacles of Corpus Christi.

In a Benedictine abbey you will hear soul-stirring strains of the most solemn harmony; in a Carmelite convent you will listen to a chorus of nuns who are forbidden to use more than three notes with which to vary their singing of the divine office; in a Trappist retreat you will watch for the slightest sound, and hear nothing save the muffled fall of clods of earth as a monk digs his own grave, or the salutation, “Brother, we must all die,” as another monk passes him on his way to a similar occupation. Let those who do not understand our symbolical language pause and learn it; and no doubt, learning to read it as we do, they will soon come to read it with us in the brotherhood of the faith.

– text taken from the article “The Symbolism of the Church”, author not listed, in the August 1872 edition of The Catholic World magazine

Faith the Life of Art, by Cesare Cantu

bronze processional cross at the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, Orleans, Massachusetts, artist unknown; photographed on 27 August 2015 by Karemin1094; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThere is in man the memory of a perfection with which he was sent forth from the hands of his Creator; and, sick of the tameness, coarseness, and unseemliness which surround him, he feels a craving to fashion himself after a picture of his imagination conformable to the idea he possesses of the beautiful – a type which combines the first and last excellence of being; which it is his to enjoy, since he has a conception of it, and to which he ought to be able to arrive, since he aspires towards it. Thus from remembrance and the feeling of a hereafter is born poetry; is born art: the realization of the ideal under sensible forms, wherein intellectual beauty takes precedence over the physical beauty of nature. Both speak a language which lifts us up to the absolute beauty – God; of whom creation is an image and symbol. And, moreover, religion discloses an ideal world which is not contained under external phenomena.

Man in his fallen state built a wretched hut or scooped out a cave, wherein to shelter his wife and little ones; but, when he wished to give worship to the Deity, he erected an altar and decked it with festoons: he roofed it in, and strengthened it with beams, which he hastened to adorn, forming cupola, shaft, and capital. History bears witness that the fine arts were born in the temple, not in the hut of Vitruvius; that they owe their origin to the aspiration of a faith, not to the mere fulfilment of a want.

The temple wherein is offered the perpetual sacrifice of the victim of expiation is a visible profession of faith. The most grand and characteristic expression of the architecture is displayed in the imitation which man fabricates of that temple of the universe which was built by the hands of God. And as its solidity typifies the duration which every one attributes to true religion, so it outlives the hands which raised it up. How much of what antiquity has bequeathed us consists of temples, such as the pile of Salsetta, the pagodas of Coromandel and Ellora, the Propylæi, the colossi of granite and porphyry, the obelisks and pyramids of Egypt – for sepulchres are religious – and the shrines which were discovered in the millennial forests of America. This great Rome, the capital of the universe, was a city of fanes and altars, when Horace reproached it, as a cause of its decay, with having neglected the worship of the gods. The more fully the idea of a religion is capable of adapting to itself the forms of the organic world, the more artistic will that religion become. The symbol, which is an outward and material exposition of an idea, and the mystic representation of the divine essence, by means of external objects to which it is linked by ties that are arbitrary and remote analogies, ill accords with the beauty which is the representation of a specific idea to which it corresponds.

Among the Hindoos, the Egyptians, and the Hebrews, the beauty of form gave place to the requirements of the emblem. Thus art stood still, being forced to reproduce fixed types; its object was not to copy nature, but to inscribe ideas. The three-eyed Siva, the four-headed Brama, the elephant-headed Ganesa, the hundred-armed giants and hundred-breasted goddesses, can scarcely be called beautiful. In the religion of the Greeks, where the life of the deity was confused with the natural, and found its perfection in man, art holds the first place. The symbol vanished before the beautiful ideal, which was wrought after a rational measurement. They cut down those colossi of other peoples to the due proportions, and shaped their monstrous divinities into a human likeness. Extricating themselves from hieroglyphics, the choice of expression and attitude was left to the inspired imagination.

Corruption, ever widening since sin first broke the harmony between the intellect, the will, and the power of action, created a heaven of false gods, differing in form and in worship, and filled the earth with their temples. This variety favored art, and to it we owe those wonders of the Parthenon, the temple of Theseus, Pallas Athene, Olympian Zeus, the Didimeon. And though antiquity has handed down to us very few paintings, the greatest part of the statues which enrich the museums are those of the gods. Surely Phidias much have believed in “Zeus thundering in heaven” when he wrought that statue before which Greece was struck with wonder. Hence with reason did Emericus David say that archæology might be defined as the recognition of religion in its connection with art.

Though the form grew more refined, the idea hidden beneath it grew more and more corrupt, until it became a worship of force, animate and animating, which had turned its back upon the Author of being, and wasted that spiritual breath which is the soul of the statue. Art materialized, like science, like life itself, called down the mercy of an unknown God to appease offended justice.

In the fullness of time, humanity was lifted up from its lowliness by God taking it to himself. Faith grew clear; hope, strong; charity lived again. Christendom became civilized even by means of its worship, when art and poetry united in rousing it to faith and enthusiasm. No longer, as in a religion that allured the senses, did art debase itself by flattering the passions and fanning the instincts; its aim now was to curb and purify them; not to multiply the enjoyments of the fortunate, but to comfort the unhappy; to lift up to heaven eyes weighed down by suffering, or dazzled by wealth, or wavering with doubt; to point out that sublime eternity which hides itself under seeming dissolution or waning beauty; to turn mind and action to that after-life wherein alone the present finds its significance.

This regeneration of art began in the Catacombs, where the persecuted children of Christ expressed, somewhat rudely perhaps, their dogmas and their hopes; the exploits of the martyrs, whose agony of shame and death they prepared themselves to imitate. There the vermilion with which they painted the throne of God triumphant signified “new conquests, and glory won after still greater trials.”

When from darkness it was able to step forth into the light of day, art, restored to the temple of its birth, set the feeling which produced above the mere beauty of the production. It lost in harmony, but gained in expression, in lifting up human nature even to the type of moral perfection, to the supreme ideal – God made man.

Then from every side, whatsoever had life came in answer to the call to play its part in the grand drama of Christianity. And art, aiming not merely at the beautiful, but at the true and the good, united with the whole of civilization in expressing that aspiration after perfection whose desire is never-failing but ever unfulfilled.

In the earliest artistic records which have reached us from the Catacombs, such as mosaics, miniature paintings, and certain pieces of sculpture, the idea is set above the form. There is a celestial purity in them, as though, producing the beautiful instinctively, they cared not to portray an enticing elegance of the members, the force and posture of outward life, but rather the expression of the soul, holiness of thought and deed, and

“That sweet light
Pointing the road which leads to heaven’s height.”

Hence certain images of the saints and of Mary, rude in shape and coloring, have won the veneration of the people, and inspired that calm content which comes from God and lifts to God.

A bolder fancy produced the edifices, constructed at first on the style of the basilicas, and then modified into that order of architecture which from its planes or arches was called Roman or Lombard, and finally Gothic.

He who can only admire the Greek and the Roman styles finds in the Gothic merely ignorance of caprice; with its shafts tapering aloft in slender grace, or short and heavy, or in clusters; its capitals where the crude cabbage-leaf creeps in side by side with the graceful acanthus; its members incoherent, and made out of proportion; a crowd of small obelisks and tabernacles, buttresses and enormous water-spouts; bracketed statues and windows of a dizzy height, sometimes parted into two, sometimes curved into a rose or twisted into a trefoil; and its figures of uneducated fancy, an eyesore to the lover of classic harmony.

But in its variety reigns a system far above the order of the Greeks; derived in part from the basilicas, in part from mystic allegory. Its ornaments are the productions of our climate, the strawberry, the parsley, the fig, the oak-tree; as the Arab uses his palm, the Chinese his inverted coral. Its forms are symbolic. The number three regulates even those portions of the structure which are secondary. On the plan of a cross rises the triangulation of the edifice; and a hundred obelisks, lifted up equally to heaven, express the concordant homage of love and of faith. In its dedication everything was allegoric of the origin of true worship; of the mystic destiny of the church; of the fact that it is not a building of stones but a living edifice, whose corner-stone is Christ, whose members are the faithful, whose space is filled by God, like the universe of which it is an image.

In this association of the real with the symbolic world, of the fitness of parts in themselves foreign with the united expression of Christianity, the middle ages produced what those of Leo X, of Louis XIV, of Napoleon, could not produce: they created a novelty. Architecture was sacred as in its opening, and those wonders of a beauty most sublime and spiritual were not wrought at the decrees of princes, but at the inspiration of faith and charity.

The Gothic made its first grand essay in the holy time of Saint Francis of Assisi, and this became the chosen order of the Franciscans, as the Basilican was of the Benedictines, and the mixed architecture of a later date of the Jesuits. Saint Francis and his children, with that greatness which inheres in simplicity, accompanied by an ascetic spirit, came to imitate nature and true men rather than to copy types or antique art. But in those days, the whole of society was animated by faith, and built upon the dogma of the expiation. The laical body was in harmony with the ecclesiastical; prayer mingled with warlike exploits; the home was at peace with the church; the banner bore the same device as the altar. The plastic art, side by side with poetry, penetrated every turn of life. Religion was the universal and, as it were, only inspirer of the artist. Theophilus dedicated his “Lombard Tract” to holy pictures, missals, vases, the window-panes of the church, and, step by step, he elevated the mind of the artist to the God from whom art emanates. The artistic confraternity proposed in their constitutions the purity and independence of art. That of the Siennese painters, of 1355, said: “By the grace of God, we are to rude men, who know not letters, manifestors of the miraculous things worked by the virtue and in the virtue of the holy faith, and our faith is founded principally in adoring and believing one God in the Trinity, and in God infinite power and infinite wisdom, and infinite love and mercy.” In a like sense says Bufalmacca: “We aim at naught else than to make saints by our frescoes and pictures, and by so doing, in spite of the devils, to make men more devout and better.” Philarete designed a city on the conception of the “Nisi Dominus Ædificaverit,” wherein the church founded on the cross should be superior to the palace of the prince, rich with pictures, religious, symbolic, allegorical, and historic. There was a portico devoted to sacred history; close by were memorial monuments of heroic Christians, namely, the churches of Saint Francis, Saint Dominic, Saint Augustine, Saint Benedict. There was a gymnasium wherein to educate the youth, chiefly with prayer, fasting, and the holy sacraments. Without the fortifications, the city had an advanced guard, to wit, holy hermits, who should watch it with the mightiest of arms – prayer. And Brunelleschi said of Santa Maria del Fiore: “Recollecting that this temple is sacred to God and the Virgin, I trust that in erecting it in memory of them it will not cease to infuse knowledge where there is need of it, and to aid by power and wisdom and wit whoever shall accomplish such work.” In like manner, Giovanni Villani inscribed his Chronicles “to the reverence of God and of Blessed Saint John, in commendation of our city of Florence.” How often has the painter given us his own portrait on his knees, or with some verse recommended himself to God and the saints! Beneath a picture in the Venetian gallery we read:

“Gentile Bellino, with filial love of the most holy cross, painted this.”

And beneath another picture of Gian Bellino:

“Sure Gate of Heaven, lead my mind, guide my life:
All the works which I perform are committed to thy care.”

We may perceive a like inspiration in Giotto, Mino da Fiesole, Benedetto da Majano, Boninsegna da Siena, Simon Memmi, L’Orgagna, the Pisani, Franco Bolognese, and other spiritual artists, who attained a perfection to which the moderns in vain aspire. On the tomb of Blessed Angelico was written:

“Let me not be honored because I was a second Apelles,
But because I distributed all my gains among thy poor, O Christ!”

I leave it to others to decide with what justice that period styled itself the Renaissance when men passed from originality to an imitation of the classic schools – not by divining and catching their inspiration, but by following in their footsteps. And so we find in passing from Dante to Polizanio and Sannazzaro, from Giotto to Dello, the metamorphoses of Ovid accomplished! In this study of the classics, what they gained in form they lost in conception. The Medici mixed up portraits with Venuses and Pallases, mythological subjects with scenes drawn from nature. Lorenzo the Magnificent caused Pollajolo to represent the strong limbs of Hercules, Signorelli to paint nude divinities, and public beauties were taken as the models of saints. At such profanation, Fra Girolamo Savonarola was struck with grief and horror; and, as well to mend manners as to disinfect literature, he sought to regenerate art by restoring it to the bosom of God.

The spirit that he inspired outlived his funeral pyre: and Luca della Robbia, Lorenzo di Credi, Verocchio, Cronaca, Baccio della Porta, painted from chaste images and devout subjects. Ghirlandajo, Pinturicchio, the renowned Masaccio, held faith in the religious mission of art, as did that Umbrian school which spake to the heart rather than the senses, beneath the wing of the neighboring Assisi. From Gentile di Fabriano came Perugino and Raphael, and the first Venetians, among whom it is no longer a scandal to say that Gentile Bellino was not inferior to Titian.

Raphael has been called the most marvellous union of all the qualities which make the others severally great: design, color, power of chiaroscuro, perspective effect, imagination, style; above all, expression, and that grace which is the beautiful of beauties. Not only were his first essays, when still a faithful disciple of the Umbrian school, works of faith; but also those which he wrought in his zenith, such as the Attila, Heliodorus, and the miracle of Bolsena. His delight was in symbolic subjects, theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, poetry, representing ideas in his figures. When he preferred to follow his imagination and models to tradition, he strayed away, as in the commissions of Chigi, and the beautiful story of Psyche; but later on, when he fled from Rome, he turned himself to the grand Transfiguration, from the midst of which he passed to behold it in heaven.

And Michael Angelo? Others have been loud in their praises of the strength of his joints, the relief and play of his muscles, the foreshortening, the anatomic fidelity, the expression diffused through the whole person; but I can never cease wondering how in the Sistine Chapel he has portrayed the two extreme points of the life of the human race – the creation and the last judgment; and that indefinable of melancholy and veneration in the Moses which sought no model and has found no rival. It is natural; for, from the Bible, the Divine Comedy, and ascetic meditation, he drank in the inspiration wherewith to ennoble human nature.

Their school passed away in the conceits of the licentious age which came after – in the figures caught in the very act of standing to be copied; in flimsy drapery, substituted for the old garments majestically simple; the infinity of shallow conceptions, frivolous allegories, and wanderings from the practical road of Vasari; in the immense pictures of Cortona, Arpino, Lanfranco, the frenzies of Luca Giordano, and convulsed attitudes of Fiammingo, Spinazzi, and the genius, erratically great, of Lorenzo Bernini – such things as these they preferred, I will not say to nature, to which they shut their eyes, but to so many noble exemplars. They were seized with the mania of novelty, of surprises, with the idolatry of the form at the cost of the conception. So they turned from poetic beauty to what is so inferior – the merely symmetrical.

The most renowned works of the great masters were inspired by religion: the delicate cherubini of Angelico, the gates of Ghiberti, the Moses and the Pietà of Buonarotti, the Last Supper of Leonardo, the Assumption of Titian, the marvellous improvisations of Tintoretto. From religion Raphael drew those epics which compose the Vatican galleries and the library at Sienna. To it Correggio devoted his cupolas, with all their grace and force of chiaroscuro. Therein Annibale Caracci found his Communion of Saint Jerome, and Domenichino his, which is one of the three great paintings in Rome, and that Madonna del Rosario where he more clearly displays his intention of contrasting the sorrows of earth with the joys of heaven. The Christ of Carlo Dolce and the Madonnas of Sassoferrato and Murillo are in every household. Maratta was called Carlo of the Madonnas. And in my own province particularly, the paintings of Luino, Cesare da Sesto, Gaudenzio Ferrari, Andrea Solaro, Salaino, Marco d’Oggiono Moretto, the Procaccini, the Campi, and that Borgagnone, as great as he is little known, are marked by a religious unction and devout simplicity.

The churches are indeed galleries, or rather harbors from the vandalism of would-be restorers and the robbery which is according to law. In them we find the best models of architecture; and since the unknown authors of the greater cathedrals, and the whole families of the Campiani at Milan, Bregno and Lombardi at Venice, Pedoni at Cremona, Rodari at Coma, Pellegrini of Tibaldo, we have no design better than the sanctuaries of Rho and Caravaggio, the Fontana in the chapel of the Presepio, the Sanmicheli in the cathedral of Montefiascone, the Palladio in the Church of the Redeemer at Venice.

But besides the finish of the sculpture, the glass was stained with historic subjects, the pulpits and windows marvellously adorned, the goldsmith’s art was displayed in the ornamentation of candlesticks, lamps, busts, and canopies, which brought into play the art of engraving.

The care of recording on tombs the nothingness of human greatness makes them the truest portraits of the character of each age. In those of the middle ages the figures are austere, with hands crossed on the breast, awaiting the trumpet-call of the resurrection; in the sixteenth century they are pompous, inappropriate, even immodest.

The cloisters were built upon the most beautiful heights, where the soul, absorbed in the admiration of nature, was of itself lifted up to chant the praises of the God who created it. The porticos were vast tableaux worked by the greatest artists. And here, while you would suggest to me the John Baptists of the Discalced Friars, and the Filippo Benizzi in the Annunciation at Florence by Andrea the faultless, the Holy Solitude, the Camaldoli, Carthusian monasteries, Alvernia, Vallombrosa, and the sublimity of Grottaferrata, let me call to your minds our own Lombardy the sanctuaries of Saronno by Luini, of Varallo by Gaudenzio, the Holy Mount by Mancalvo, the Carthusian monastery of Garignano by the great Daniel Crespi, before which Byron was struck with wonder and with fear. In fine, even in the delirium of art in the sixteenth century, which are the greatest monuments of sculpture? The Saint Bibiana of Bernini, the Saint Cecilia of Maderno, the Susanna of Fiammingo, the Saint Bruno of Houton, from which number we must not omit the Attila of Algardi. The Assumption of Forli by Cignani still remains the noblest work of the past age. Since it is a far easier thing to copy a form than to create a conception, many have reduced art to imitation. And we see it said that the type of the Eternal Father is taken from Jove, the Saviour from Antinous, from Niobe the Mother of Sorrows, and from the Farnese Flora and the terra cotta Faun, Saint Cecilia and Saint Joachim; and it appears equally ridiculous to call one of these imitators a new Phidias or new Apelles, as for Angelo Mazza to entitle himself Homer Redivivus. Winckelmann praised Raphael for a head of Christ “which set forth the beauty of a heroic youth without beard,” while he criticises Michael Angelo “for having taken his figures of the Saviour from the barbarous productions of the middle ages.” With equal discrimination Vasari, of all the wonders of Giotto at Assisi, can only admire “the very great and truly marvellous effect of one who drinks standing, but bent down to the earth, at a fountain.” Very little have these advanced the theories of Cicognara and Giuseppe Bossi, and the icy grandeur of David, Gerard, Girodet, and the other imperialists, followed here by Benvenuti, Cammuccini, Bossi, Diotti, and their like. Fabre, the French painter, was discussing with Alfieri on a crucifixion which he was about to paint. After speaking for some time on the type he ought to choose, he concluded: “Do you know what? I will paint the head of the Belvedere Apollo, give him a beard, and behold it done.” Alfieri had the good sense to reply: “If you would succeed in that, paint a dying Apollo, but not a God who redeemed us.”

After Battoni, the last painter of note of the mixed school, Mengs, went back to the antique with a mediocrity at once pedantic and fastidious. But Traballeschi and certain artists of second name, such as De Maria, Franchi, Ferrari, Torretti, and of higher mark, Andrea Appiani in the cupola of San Celso at Milan, were the men who paved the way for the regeneration. Canova undertook to regenerate art chiefly with classic models, but at least with enthusiasm. But how far do his Venus, Perseus, Theseus, and even Psyche, fall behind the Magdalen, and the mausoleums of Maria Christina, Ganganelli, Rezzonico, and Pius VI?

Bartolini, a more careful observer of nature, gave an impulse to the new art, nor is the fault his if he plunged from the conventionalities of the academy into a prosaic realism. But, restricting myself among a multitude of sculptors, to the notice of one or two, who has not admired the Dolorosa and Triumph of the Cross of Duprè, the Archangel of Finelli, the Deposition from the Cross, and the tomb at Castelfidardo of Tenerani? These men opened up a new era, where the worship of ideas prevailed over that of mere form, combating the servility of the past and the materialism of the present, aiming at a beauty not at variance with morality – a beauty perceptible to the reason. I confine myself to the Italians, but what a pleasure it would be to me to touch upon Munich and the school of Düsseldorf, and that of Berlin; and Cornelius, Schadow, the Bohemian Fuhrich, and the Frenchmen Lehmann, Pradier, Flandrin, and a noble band of others like to them.

So likewise I confine myself to the plastic arts; but were we to treat of poetry, we could say something of Tasso, crowned in death, of Perfetti, the laureate of Benedict XII, and Corilla of Pius VI. Or of music, born also in the church and there perfected before it went to amuse the court and theatre, whence it returned with profanity into the church; so that there was nothing left but to abandon it, if Palestrina had not shown how to wed reverence of speech with harmony, and reconcile devotion with art. Do you know of aught more wonderful than the Moses and Stabat of Rossini, the Crucifixus of Bellini, or the Ave Maria of Donizetti?

And hence you will conclude that where art has ever been welcomed and cherished, was under the care of the Popes, in this Rome of ours, which, in the words of Petrarch, is

“The symbol of the heavens and the earth,
The Saviour’s image, by all men revered.”

Perhaps there has not been a Pope who has not raised some edifice or given rise to some sculpture or painting.

Eugenius IV wished to consecrate Fra Angelico bishop; Julius II, who secured his splendid dominions from the Po to the Garigliano, was ever in the company of Bramante, Michael Angelo, Perugino, Giulio Romano, and commenced the Vatican Museum by placing there the Apollo, the Laocoon, the Ariadne and the Torso. What shall I say of Leo X, who seemed to wish by the triumph of art to “give the lie” to Germany, which accuses Catholics of ignorance and dearth of civilization? The German reformer on his arrival in the midst of the artistic wealth of Rome, only perceived therein profanity, idols, and as it were an absence of reason, and a Pope making an ostentatious pomp of religion and pretending to the austerity of Paul and Hilarion in the time of the Farnese and the Medici. Adrian VI seemed like a prodigy, a monstrosity, so accustomed were the minds of men to connect the idea of a pope with that of a Mecænas of the arts.

They have ever made their palaces a sanctuary of the arts, and as it were a harbor from the wrecks of time and the greed of speculators and kings, who paused at the threshold of the Vatican, resounding with the prayers of all the ages and the blasphemy of this.

With still greater intelligence, the pontiffs of the past age collected together the masterpieces, and the Museo Pio Clementino, and the illustrations of it executed by Winckelmann and Ennius Quirinus Visconti, became the envy and the model of all foreigners.

Rome, relying on the veneration which the nations entertained for her, and which kings felt they owed her as the fount of all authority, set her face against a new age, wherein might alone is right, and reason speaks on the side of vast battalions and by the mouth of artillery. What was the outrage which most of all grieved the Romans? The spoliation of the museums; for the people were disgusted with kings, nobles, and prelates, but not with the arts.

But the end of injustice is never far removed, and, as victory had borne them away, victory restored to Rome her popes and her monuments. Pius VII who had filled the post left bare by spoliation, after his return, among other works, built the new wing across the Belvedere gallery. He left to us the Museo Chiaramonti, a gallery of paintings, few in number, but each a masterpiece, and the long gallery of antique inscriptions, arranged after the manner of the great Morcelli. Gregory XVI gave us the Christian, Egyptian, and Etruscan museums, filled with the contents of the mysterious vaults of Latium, and the numerous vases, so wondrous, of Etruria and the Campagna, which had just come to light. He commenced the rebuilding of Saint Paul’s, restored the Coliseum, excavated the Basilica Julia, refitted the Lateran Palace. Poletti the architect assisted him, aided by Agricola, Paoletti, Finelli, Tadolini, Botti, Tajetti, Sabatelli, Serani, Minardi, Coghetti, Bengoni. And as at first, Poussin, Mignard, Ponget, Claude Lorraine, Le Gros, Valedier, Quesnoy, Laboureur, Monot, Brill, Agincourt, etc., so afterward came the illustrious foreigners, Ingres, Thorwaldsen, Gibson, Pettrich, Frederick Overbeck, Voigt the engraver. From here were taken the statues of Hiram Powers for the Capitol of Washington, not to mention the objects of art carried away by the 80,000 foreigners who flock hither from all parts every year to gaze on the wonders of Rome. A Prussian society took up its quarters here, to illustrate the new and antique relics, in rivalry with our Archæological Academy. And the names of Fea, Nibby, Canina, Bartolomeo Borghese, Visconti, win reverence from the whole scientific world.

What can I say of Pius IX that is not known to the whole world? Let me call to your minds what took place in the midst of the acclamations which greeted his accession. A deputation from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith being presented to him, when among the deputies he found the name of Overbeck, the most faithful representative of Christian art, he called him to himself, and gave him his special benediction, accompanied by words of holy affection. At his wish the court of the Quirinal, where Pius VII was arrested, was painted; there is Overbeck’s Christ at the moment when the Jews thought to cast him from the mountain, and he escaped from their midst: thus representing at once the perils which are past and those which are to come. Nor can I forget the emotion with which the Holy Father lamented to me the deaths, so close upon each other, of Poletti, Tenerani, Overbeck, and Minardi; nor the pleasure with which I recall the rearrangement he effected in the entire museum of the Vatican, and the marvellous statue of Augustus from the Villa of Livy with which he endowed it, and the metal colossus of Hercules, purchased with his own money, the Claudius of Lanuvius, and the Apoxiomenos in Parian marble, restored by Tenerani, and placed in the Vatican in 1851. There he placed also the Pomponia Azzia, found in the Appian Way, and the Ceres disinterred at Ostia, which he substituted for a poor Diana.

It was the time when at his simple summons all the bishops of the world hastened to the Vatican council. Magnificent spectacle! – which Rome alone can offer to the world, of all the representatives of the church united to discuss freely the truth which the Pontiff should proclaim infallibly. Those prelates, in the moments of their repose, were wont to admire on all sides the care which Pius IX had lavished upon art. Here the circus of Caracalla restored, and the portico of Octavia disinterred; there, in the Roman forum, the portico of the Dii Majores and the apsis of the Basilica of Constantine. In another spot the Basilica of Saint Paul is restored, the arena of the greatest artists in painting, sculpture, stained glass, and mosaics. He opened the confessions with their wealth of marbles and metals, in the two patriarchal basilicas, the Lateran and Liberian. He restored the mausoleums of Saint Constantia, Saint Clement on the side of Celio, Saint Agnes, Saint Cecilia, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Saint Lorenzo without the walls, with the paintings of Fracassini, Mariani, and Grandi. Mariani painted Saint Lucy of the Banner and Santa Maria in Aquiro, and Gugliari Saint Augustine. Podesti and Consoni drew for the Vatican Palace the portraits of the most famous ecclesiastics of ancient or modern times; among which stand out the Martyrs of Fracassini, who has painted but too little. All these works gave rise not only to the ancient use of medals, but also to public monuments, such as the column of the Immacolata, the works of Poletti, and the statue cast from cannon by De Rossi.

In 1852 was formed a commission of archæology to chiefly examine the Christian monuments, and explore the Catacombs, the theatre of those scenes of sacrifice, love, and resignation wherein society was regenerated, and where now De Rossi convinces us that scholarship and wit are not enough for speech, but that piety has a secret of its own to touch on things which are better felt than described.

The Egyptian Museum was increased by the monuments collected by Clot Bey. To the Etruscan were added statues, candelabra, sarcophagi from Bolsena, Tarquinia, and Viterbo. The Christian Museum of the Lateran was founded, to which the reopened Ostia sent mosaics, sarcophagi, and epigraphs. The Nomentian and Appian Ways were excavated still further, as far as Bovilla. And the emporium of marbles, the site of the seven cohorts of Virgil at Monte Fiore, and the ruins of the Palatine – which the Pontiff himself visited suddenly, giving an unexpected joy to the workmen, in the month of the celebration of Rome’s birth – attest how inexhaustible are the riches of this city, which, not to mention the seven great galleries, is indeed one vast gallery. And these excavations, whether designed or accidental, disclose a wealth ever beyond expectation, as is seen in the piazza of the Holy Apostles, the grove of the brothers Arvali, especially in the Church Della Pace, the piazza Navona, on the Monte Luziale, and in the new cemetery of the Jews.

That the Pontiff has not been behindhand in works of practical utility, we see in the Acqua Pia, in the palace of the house of reform, the military and civil hospitals, and that of peace, the tobacco manufactory, the adornments of the Pincio, the penitentiary, the bridges over the Tiber, the Piazza Pia and elementary school, and a new city commenced on the Viminal and Esquiline.

And while on this point, we see in the Exposition of the Baths of Diocletian, which Michael Angelo repaired with a respect not always shown by his followers, an example of a character which Rome alone of all the world can produce; and this collection of the objects of Catholic worship was the most beautiful hymn which the Pontiff raised against the blasphemy which precedes violence. This was a thought of the Pontiff’s. It was executed by his command, and at his own expense. He inaugurated it, closed it in person, and with his own hand distributed the prizes. Just indeed was the homage which the artists of every nation then represented in Rome paid to Pius IX, in the jubilee of his pontificate, the expression of which he left exposed for many days in the gallery of Raphael, where Mantovani, Consoni, and Galli at this day emulate the wondrous decorations of Sanzio and Giovanni da Udine.

The popes and ministers of the church have watched over art with special care, lest this chosen daughter of God should be sacrificed to his enemy. And now, what is left? In the face of these glories, how much misery saddens us! All the manifestations of the supremacy of materialism over what is spiritual are multiplied, and hence so many edifices purely industrial. The fever of making and unmaking on the spur of the moment, the race for life without the enjoyment of the least repose, have reduced art, which at first was an enthusiasm, afterwards a taste, now to a fashion and a luxury, bereft of the mighty force of our ancient community and the great-minded and holy faith of our fathers. What the romance is to history, the novel to the epic poem, the drama to the tragedy, the portrait and its kind are to the great artistic works and historic paintings, lost in common and epigrammatic subjects, and tortured with minutiæ.

And this is not the end. He who preserves a sense of shame, of charity, of faith, must either behold with loathing, or close his eyes, when he sees the pencil of the lithographer and even the pure light of heaven prostituted to dishonor whatever he has held most holy in faith and life, to tempt the senses with foulness that Sodom would have denounced. As they have made poison distil from their inkstands, so, with vile ignorance or hateful forethought, they have made art a pander for impurity and a school for the barricades and petroleum. From such frenzy, which terrifies the most daring and causes the most thoughtless to reflect, we hope that men will return to conscience; and in a world which, in order to cherish a better faith in its own greatness will believe no longer in God, this hope is sustained by seeing the Martyrs, of Giovanni Ferrari; the Angels above the Dead Christ, of Tabacchi; the Christian Martyr, of Argenti; the Assumption, of Morelli and Grigioletti; the Saint Joseph, of Bertini; the Saint Clair, of Mancinelli; the Saint Lucian in Prison, of Ceccarini; the Ecce Ancilla Domini, of Brioschi.

And you, as many of you as have authority and dignity, labor hard with the pen, the voice, example, and precept to prevent the youth not yet contaminated with this new licentiousness, nor yet drunk with that perfume which lulls before it suffocates, from turning renegades to the spirituality of art. Make them improve the feeling rather than the style of their productions. Make them disavow the causes whose effects we groan under, and which Providence has allowed so long to afflict us. Make them rise above the prejudices of the journals and the abjectness of officials, as well as the mercenary motives of a utilitarian world and from practices which make a trade of art. Let them never forget the lofty mission of art, and that the form is merely a garb and outfit to clothe the moral idea. For beauty is the perfection of being, perceived by the spirit, felt in the heart, and its handmaid is truth, represented with love. And, without doubt, for him whose aim is truth, the best way of finding it is in subjects and deeds of religion. Let us banish, then, indifference, which slays love and genius alike, and that cold calculation which smothers trustful faith. The time, the people, the man best fitted for the culture of art, will be those whose life, at once profound and active, shall not be bound down, but indeed lifted up by beliefs that are fixed and by customs that are right; who combine fidelity to nature with the impulse of enthusiasm; retaining power over matter, with due regard to historical and moral proprieties; exciting that emotion which is not unaccompanied by pleasure, but pleasure mingled with admiration.

Restore, I entreat you, art to its great principles! Fill life again with those sweet illusions and great delights, making a language of the deepest thoughts of a civilization ever more refined, and so accustom us to realize the ideal, to ennoble humanity! Give it back to its great office, to bear witness to right belief, and to give joy to the little ones, who are our brethren in Christ!

– text taken from the article “Faith the Life of Art” by Cesare Cantu, translator unknown, from the July 1872 edition of The Catholic World magazine

Catholic World – Art and Religion

bronze processional cross at the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, Orleans, Massachusetts, artist unknown; photographed on 27 August 2015 by Karemin1094; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsGod reveals himself to all the faculties of the soul. We not only know him as truth; we also love him as beauty. As he is infinite truth, so is he perfect beauty. Without the existence of God as absolute truth, science is impossible. Science, which is co-ordinated knowledge, can never be well grounded unless it rest upon the eternal and first cause, which is God. God as truth is at the bottom of all knowledge; as beauty, he is the ideal present to the soul in every conception of art.

Art is the expression of ideal beauty under a created form. The philosopher, in his meditations, seeks the true, which he translates into formulas; the artist in his impassioned love seeks the beautiful, which he makes to live on canvas, to breathe in marble, to speak from the living page.

The end of art is not to imitate nature. On the contrary, in the presence of natural beauty it looks beyond to the type, the idea of a still higher beauty. Hence the artist is not a mere copier of nature; for he is enamored of an ideal that disgusts him with all that he beholds in the real world. The aim and despair of his life is to give to this ideal a form and a sensible expression. Ideal beauty is that which disenchants the soul of the love of every created thing, and which in the presence of reality lifts it up to a higher love. It is a gleam from the face of God reflected through the blue heavens, the starry sky, or whatever in nature is grand or beautiful. It is the eternal allurement and eternal disenchantment of the noblest souls. True beauty is ideal beauty, and ideal beauty is a reflection of the infinite. Hence art, which aims to give expression to this beauty, is essentially religious, and tends to elevate the soul from earth to heaven, and bear it away toward the infinite.

It is the ideal side of natural beauty that gives to it its religious power.

The view of the beautiful in nature creates in us a longing for heaven, because the image of God is reflected from all those objects which so inspire the soul. When, in the spring-time we seat ourselves on the border of a lake in whose tranquil waters, as in a vast mirror, are reflected the green woods and the laughing meadows, the trees and the plants and the flowers; into whose bosom the rippling waters of rill and rivulet are flowing, all joyous like children that run to meet their gentle mother, whilst the quiet winds whisper to one another from leaf to leaf, as if afraid to dispel the enchantment of the spot – does not, in such an hour, a mysterious solitude creep over the soul, and free it from the distracting thoughts of life, giving it power to raise itself on the wings of contemplation to the very throne of God? The sight of true beauty always reminds us of heaven. Seated on the border of that enchanted lake, man grows sad and thoughtful, a sweet melancholy takes hold of him, because he has caught a glimpse of home, but is still an exile. When, on a summer’s evening, the sun has sunk to rest, and not a breath creeps through the rosy air, but all nature is bowed in silent prayer, and the stars come out one by one, the guardians of the night – in this heavenliest hour, who has not been impressed by a sense of the infinite, the unmistakable presence of God, before whom heaven and earth, “from the high host of stars to the lulled lake and mountain coast,” grow still, absorbed in adoration?

There is also in the grand and rugged scenes of nature an immense religious power.

The ocean, the desert, high mountains and mighty rivers, storm and darkness, with the voice of thunder and the lightning flash, all speak of God, and in their presence man bows in homage to the omnipotence of his Creator. Hence the child of nature, however rude and imperfect his idea of God, is essentially religious in his aspirations.

Man must isolate himself and become absorbed in his own abstract and empty thoughts before he can lose consciousness of the ever-abiding presence of the Creator. For every creature is a revelation of heaven to the human soul, reminding it of its origin and high destiny. If nature leads us to God, why may not art have the same power, since both are expressions of the same eternal beauty?

Before considering this question, we wish to advert to the immense power and universal influence of art.

Few can enter into the sanctuary of science – even the rudest mind when brought in contact with ideal beauty by the creative power of art – but feel its force and its inspiration. Art is the most lasting of national glories. Indeed, we may say that without art there is no glory either national or individual.

The greatest deeds and the proudest names sink back in death unless art embalm them in poetry or in song, give them immortality on the speaking canvas or in the breathing marble.

Brave men lived before Agamemnon, but they are forgotten, for their names never shone on the poet’s page. Those nations are most glorious in which art attained its highest development.

The muse of Homer, the eloquence of Demosthenes, and the chisel of Phidias, have done more to immortalize Greece than the deeds of her proud heroes. The greatest human actions are in themselves but little removed from the commonplace affairs of everyday life; but the creative power of art transforms them and invests them with a charm which the reality never possessed. The primeval forests of Kentucky, in the day when its name was the “dark and bloody ground,” witnessed many a deed of human daring and of warlike prowess equal to those of Achilles and Hector under the walls of Troy; but art with its celestial wand never transfigured those deeds on the poet’s page, and they are forgotten, buried with the leaves that overshadowed them. The life of man is short, even that of a nation is not long; but art dies not, and has moreover the divine power of conferring immortality upon all that it touches. Shakespeare is worth more to the glory of England than all the victories of all her generals. Dante, Raphael, and Michael Angelo, with innumerable other names which represent the highest artistic power, have made Italy the consecrated land of poetry and of song, the home of beauty and of all loveliness – the native country of the soul.

Time alone, which is the approver of all things, can give to art its full power, and it is only when we consider it in the past that we become aware of its great influence in the history of the human race. The present is always a vulgar time; too real to be beautiful. The present is the slave of power and wealth, but these soon disappear, and art remains for ever. The first impulse in the movement which has carried the European mind to its present state of enlightenment was given by art in conjunction with religion. The study of the Grecian and Roman models, in poetry, in eloquence, and in architecture, fired the nations of Europe with a love of artistic perfection, and consequently greatly contributed to our present civilization. The historic power of art is in some respects greater than that of history itself. Few men know history as a science – the masses are brought into contact with the heroes of the past by poetry and by song.

Has God, who has given to art a universal mission in the development of man’s moral and intellectual nature, banished its elevating influence from the sphere of religion? It would be foreign to our present scope to discuss the actual and possible perversions of art. There is naught on earth so holy that the free will of man may not turn it to evil. The fact that a thing may be abused simply proves that it has a right and proper use. The abuse comes from the free agency of man; the use is the mission given by God, which is always holy and elevated.

The direct aim of art is the expression of infinite beauty under a created form, and hence a true work of art should elevate the soul to the contemplation of heavenly beauty. This contemplation of the divine ideal disenchants us of the things of earth; which truth is expressed by the old proverb, that there is no great genius without melancholy.

He whose soul habitually contemplates the ideal world is necessarily saddened by the reality of life, which is so infinitely beneath the elevation of his thoughts.

There is nothing sensuous in the idea of true beauty. Its property is to purify and moderate desire, not to inflame it. Hence art addresses itself less to the sense than to the soul. It seeks to awaken not desire, but sentiment. Chastity and beauty seek each other. Chastity is beautiful, and beauty is chaste.

These considerations go to show that art, the end of which is the expression of beauty, is in its tendency moral and elevating, and consequently religious.

There can, then, be no just cause of antagonism between religion and true art, as there can be no contradiction between theology and real science.

Far from being enemies, religion and art are allies. This truth the Catholic Church has ever proclaimed. She has stigmatized no one of the arts. In her universal life, she has a mission for each and every one of them. Her churches are not alone the temples of the living God – they are also the home of the arts which point heavenward.

The Christian religion in its dogmas and aspirations is essentially spiritual. The Catholic Church is the great and only successful defender of the distinction between spirit and matter. By her teachings and practices, she has rendered man more spiritual, and consequently more beautiful. By awakening him to the consciousness of the diviner and more ethereal part of his nature, she has developed in him the instinct of art, which is essentially spiritual because its soul is the ideal.

The more we meditate upon the nature of art, the more thoroughly are we convinced that true art is the sister of true religion. Protestantism, protesting against many truths, also protested against the alliance of religion and art. We speak of the Protestantism of the past; for no man knows what Protestantism is to-day. It is anything and everything, from semi-Catholicism down to naked infidelity. It has become mere individualism, and may consequently no longer be spoken of as an organization. The Protestantism which is dead objected to the alliance of religion and art because it conceived them to be of opposite nature and contrary tendency. Religion is the worship of God in spirit and in truth, and Protestantism looked upon art as purely material.

But in this as in other matters, the Protestant view was based upon a misconception both of religion and of human nature. If man were wholly spiritual, his religion would also be purely spiritual. But matter forms part of his nature. Even that which in him is most spiritual – thought – has its sensible element. An idea is an image, whence it follows that we cannot even think without forming to ourselves a mental representation of the thing thought of. No human act can be purely spiritual. The law of our being is that we rise from the visible to the invisible, from the sensible to the supersensible. An invisible and purely spiritual religion would be to us an unreal and intangible religion. An invisible church is a contradiction in terms, and without a church there can be amongst men no authoritative religious teaching. Neither religious nor intellectual life, in our present state, can exist without language, and language addresses itself directly and primarily to the senses. It is therefore impossible for man to express the spiritual without making use of the material. Hence art, which seeks to adumbrate the infinite under a finite form, in this simply conforms to the universal law of man’s nature, which in all things, even in thought, subjects him to matter.

Is not Christianity based upon this fact? Did not God take unto himself a visible and material nature in order to manifest to the world his invisible power, and beauty, and holiness? Is not the Christian religion a system of things invisible, visibly manifested? The end of religion is spiritual, but in order to attain this end it must possess a visible and material element. This fact of itself gives to art a religious mission of the highest order.

This mission is to proclaim to the world Jesus Christ and him crucified and glorified – by poetry, by song, by painting, by architecture, in a word, by every artistic creation of which genius is capable.

Jesus Christ is the beau ideal of art – the most lovely and beautiful conception of the divine mind itself. He is the visible manifestation of God, the all-beautiful.

Purity, and gentleness, and grace, with power and majesty, all combine to make him the most beautiful of the sons of woman, the fairest and the loveliest figure in all history, to whom the whole world bows in instinctive love and homage. There is a shadow on the countenance of Jesus which gives to it its artistic completeness. It is sorrow. There is something trivial in gaiety and joy which deprives them of artistic effect. The cheek of beauty is not divine except the tear of sorrow trickle down it. Hence to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified is not to preach perfect religion alone, but also the perfect ideal of art.

Christian science, which is theology, has as its object the dogmas of the church. Christian art relates directly to religious worship, but it has incidentally a doctrinal significance. If we consider eloquence an art, which we may do, for true eloquence is always artistic, we must concede that it holds a most important place in the church of Jesus Christ. He blessed eloquence and bade it convert the world when he spoke to the apostles these memorable words: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.” The divine command was to preach the Gospel, not to write it. The living word spoken by the divinely commissioned teacher has alone borne fruit in the world, converted the nations, and changed the face of the earth. Eloquence must be spoken. If you take from it its voice, you take away its soul. It is the cry of an impassioned nature, in which love, and faith, and deep-abiding conviction are enrooted. Add to this purity and holiness of life in him who speaks, and let him be in earnest, and he will be eloquent. Eloquence in the mouth of a consecrated teacher has a sacramental power. It is one of the divinely established ordinances for the propagation of religious truth, and for the conversion of a soul to God.

Poetry, too, is consecrated to the service of religion. The muse never soars her loftiest flight except when lifted up on the wings of religious inspiration. The most poetic word in language is that brief, immense word – God. It is the sublimest, the profoundest, the holiest word that human tongue can utter. It forms the instinctive cry of the soul in the hour of every deep emotion. In the hour of victory, in the hour of death, in the ecstasy of joy, in the agony of woe, that sacred word bursts spontaneously from the human heart. It is the first word that our mother taught our infant lips to lisp, when, pointing to heaven, she told us that there was God our Father, and bade us look above this base, contagious earth. When the mother for the first time feels her first-born’s breath, in tenderness of gratitude she pronounces the name of God; when in utter helplessness of woe she bends over the grave of her only child, and her heart is breaking, she can find no relief for her agonizing soul, until, raising her tearful eyes to heaven, she breathes in prayer the name of God.

When two young hearts that are one vow eternal love and fealty, it is in the name of God they do it; and the union of love loses half its poetry and half its charm except it be contracted before the altar of God and in his holy name.

When the mother sends her son to do battle for his country, she says, “God be with thee, my boy!”

When nations are marshalled in deadly array of arms, and the alarming drum foretells the danger nigh, and the trumpet’s clanguor sounds the charge, and contending armies meet in the death grapple, amid fire and smoke and the cannon’s awful roar, until victory crowns them that win; those banners that were borne proudly on till they floated in triumph over the field of glory are gathered together in some vast temple of religion, and there an assembled nation sings aloud in thanksgiving: “We praise thee, O God! we glorify thee, O Lord!” How often has not God chosen the muse of poetry in order to convey to the world his divine doctrines! The Bible contains much of the sublimest poetry ever written. Some of the Psalms of David, portions of Job and Isaias, equal in deep and lofty poetic feeling anything that Dante or Milton wrote. And did not these privileged minds also receive their highest inspirations from religion?

We may not separate poetry from music. Music is poetry in tones. It is the language of feeling, the universal language of man. The cry of joy and of sorrow, of triumph and of despair, of ecstasy and of agony, is understood by every human being because it is the language of nature. All the deep emotions of the soul seek expression in modulation of sound.

Cousin says: “There is physically and morally a marvelous relation between a sound and the soul. It seems as though the soul were an echo in which the sound takes a new power.”

Byron, too, seems to have felt this:

“Oh! that I were
The viewless spirit of a lovely sound,
A living voice, a breathing harmony;
A bodiless enjoyment, born and dying
With the blest Tone that made me!”

At the awakening call of music, the universal harmonies of nature stir within the soul. The ancients were wont to say that he who cultivates music imitates the divinity, and Saint Augustine tells us that it was the sweet sound of psalmody which made the lives of the monks of old so beautiful and harmonious. God is eternal harmony, and the works of his hand are harmonious, and his great precept to men is that they live in harmony. Did not Jesus Christ come into the world amid the choral song of angels? Would you, then, banish music from the church of Jesus? No art has such power as music to draw the soul toward the infinite. It would seem as though the sounds of melody were the viewless spirits of heaven, calling us away from earth to our true home in the mansion of our Father. Whosoever has enjoyed the rare privilege of being present in the Sistine Chapel, during Holy Week, when the melodies of Leo, Durante, and Pergolesi, on the Miserere, are sung, has felt the immense power of religious music. For a moment, at least, he has quitted this earth, and the voice of song has borne his soul in ineffable ecstasy to the very throne of God. As music develops religious sentiment, so religion gives to music its sublimest themes. To her, Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart owe their divinest inspirations.

Painting, too, asks to be received into the temple of religion. What sentiment is there that the painter cannot express? All nature is subject to his command – the physical world and the moral world. His muse soars from earth to heaven, and contemplates all that lies between them. Above all, the human countenance divine, that mirror of the soul, belongs to the painter. His brush, dipped in the light of heaven, gives to virtue its own celestial hue; to vice, its inborn hideousness. He expresses every emotion of the human heart, every noble love, every lofty aspiration, every dark and baneful passion. Aristotle, the most comprehensive mind of the pagan world, affirms that painting teaches the same precepts of moral conduct as philosophy, with this advantage, that it employs a shorter method. Christian painting began in the Catacombs. In the rude pictures of that subterranean world we find the chief doctrines of Christianity reduced to their most simple expression under forms the most touching.

Painting there represents the Phoenix rising from its ashes, emblem of the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection of the body; the good shepherd bearing upon his shoulders the lost sheep, which teaches with touching simplicity one of the most beautiful of our Lord’s parables; the three youths in the fiery furnace, signifying the providence of God for those who fear and love him; Pharao and his hosts engulfed in the Red Sea, proclaiming to the faithful that God is the avenger of those who put their trust in him. These and similar subjects were peculiarly adapted to inspire courage in the hearts of the Christians of the first ages, when to be a follower of the cross was to be a hero.

As men of genius and learning by their life-long labors show us the divine beauties and perfections in the character of Jesus in new bearings, so the art of painting throws around his history an intenser light. His divinity is as manifest in the “Transfiguration” of Raphael as in the famous sermon of Massillon. His ineffable sufferings on Mount Calvary and the Godlike power which consented to death, but conquered agony, are as vividly and feelingly portrayed on the canvas of Rubens as in the unequalled and inimitable discourse of Bourdaloue. No one can look upon the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci without being inspired with a most sublime conception of that holiest event. Can we think of the passion and death of the Saviour without forming to ourselves a mental image corresponding to the scene? If, after all, we must have a picture, why not take that of genius rather than trust to our own tame plebeian fancy? And then, for those who cannot read or meditate profoundly, for the poor whom Jesus loved, what master is like painting?

Saint Basil declares that painters accomplish as much by their pictures as orators by their eloquence.

The church as a lecture-room will interest only the cultivated few; the church as the temple of art sanctified by religion is the home of worship for the multitude.

Religion, if it be anything, must be popular, which science can never be, and which art always is. Then, in the name of the religion of the poor, let architecture advance to raise to God the temple of majesty and beauty, the democratic palace of the people, where the prince and the beggar sit side by side as brothers, a basilica prouder and loftier than that of the sceptred monarch.

– text taken from the article “Art and Religion” in the June 1872 edition of The Catholic World magazine, author not listed

On Union with God, by Saint Albert the Great

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Albert the Great, date and artist unknown; parish church in Sitzendorf an der Schmida, Germany; photographed on 18 August 2017 by Manfred Kuzel; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsPREFACE

Surely the most deeply-rooted need of the human soul, its purest aspiration, is for the closest possible union with God. As one reads through this short work, written by Saint Albert the Great towards the end of his life, when that great soul had ripened and matured, one feels that here indeed is the ideal of one’s hopes.

Simply and clearly the great principles are laid down, the way is made plain which leads to the highest spiritual life. It seems as though, while one reads, the mists of earth vanish and the snowy summits appear of the mountains of God. We breathe only the pure atmosphere of prayer, peace, and love, and the one great fact of the universe, the Divine Presence, is felt and realized without effort.

But is such a life possible amid the whirl of today? To faith and love all things are possible, and our author shows us the loving Father, ever ready to give as much and more than we can ask. The spirit of such a work is ever true; the application may vary with circumstances, but the guidance of the Holy Spirit will never be wanting to those souls who crave for closer union with their Divine Master.

This little treatise has been very aptly called the “Metaphysics of the Imitation,” and it is in the hope that it may be of use to souls that it has been translated into English.

Saint Albert the Great is too well known for it to be necessary for us to give more than the briefest outline of his life.

The eldest son of the Count of Bollstädt, he was born at Lauingen in Swabia in 1205 or 1206, though some historians give it as 1193. As a youth he was sent to the University of Padua, where he had special facilities for the study of the liberal arts.

Drawn by the persuasive teaching of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, he joined the Order of Saint Dominic in 1223, and after completing his studies, received the Doctor’s degree at the University of Paris.

His brilliant genius quickly brought him into the most prominent positions. Far-famed for his learning, he attracted scholars from all parts of Europe to Paris, Cologne, Ratisbon, etc., where he successively taught. It was during his years of teaching at Paris and Cologne that he counted among his disciples Saint Thomas Aquinas, the greatness of whose future he foretold, and whose lifelong friendship with him then began.

In 1254 Albert was elected Provincial of his Order in Germany. In 1260 he was appointed Bishop of Ratisbon, but resigned his see in 1262. He then continued unweariedly until a few years before his death, when his great powers, especially his memory, failed him, but the fervour of his soul remained ever the same. In 1280, at Cologne, he sank, at last worn out by his manifold labours.

“Whether we consider him as a theologian or as a philosopher, Albert was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary men of his age; I might say, one of the most wonderful men of genius who appeared in past times” (Jourdain).

“It is good for me to adhere to my God.”

“Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”


I have felt moved to write a few last thoughts describing, as far as one may in this waiting-time of our exile and pilgrimage, the entire separation of the soul from all earthly things and its close, unfettered union with God.

I have been the more urged to this, because Christian perfection has no other end but charity, which unites us to God.

This union of charity is essential for salvation, since it consists in the practice of the precepts and in conformity to the Divine will. Hence it separates us from whatever would war against the essence and habit of charity, such as mortal sin.

But religious, the more easily to attain to God, their last end, have gone beyond this, and have bound themselves by vow to evangelical perfection, to that which is voluntary and of counsel. With the help of these vows they cut off all that might impede the fervour of their love or hinder them in their flight to God. They have, therefore, by the vow of their religious profession, renounced all things, whether pertaining to soul or body. God is in truth a Spirit, and “they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth,” that is, with a knowledge and love, an intelligence and will purified from every phantom of earth.

Hence it is written: “When you shall pray, enter into your chamber” – i.e., into the inmost abode of your heart – and, “having shut the door” of your senses, with a pure heart, a free conscience and an unfeigned faith, “pray to your Father” in spirit and in truth, in the “secret” of your soul.

Then only will a man attain to this ideal, when he has despoiled and stripped himself of all else; when, wholly recollected within himself, he has hidden from and forgotten the whole world, that he may abide in silence in the presence of Jesus Christ. There, in solitude of soul, with loving confidence he makes known his desires to God. With all the intensity of his love he pours forth his heart before Him, in sincerity and truth, until he loses himself in God. Then is his heart enlarged, inflamed, and melted in him, yea, even in its inmost depths.


Whosoever you are who longs to enter upon this happy state or seeks to direct there your steps, thus it behooves you to act.

First, close, as it were, your eyes, and bar the doors of your senses. Suffer not anything to entangle your soul, nor permit any care or trouble to penetrate within it.

Shake off all earthly things, counting them useless, noxious, and hurtful to you.

When you have done this, enter wholly within yourself, and fix your gaze upon your wounded Jesus, and upon Him alone. Strive with all your powers, unwearyingly, to reach God through Himself, that is, through God made Man, that you may attain to the knowledge of His Divinity through the wounds of His Sacred Humanity.

In all simplicity and confidence, abandon yourself and whatever concerns you, without reserve, to God’s unfailing Providence, according to the teaching of Saint Peter: “Casting all your care upon Him,” Who can do all things. And again it is written: “Be nothing solicitous”; “Cast your care upon the Lord and He shall sustain you”; “It is good for me to adhere to my God”; “I set the Lord always in my sight”; “I found Him Whom my soul loves”; and “Now all good things came to me” together with Him. This is the hidden and heavenly treasure, the precious pearl, which is to be preferred before all. This it is that we must seek with humble confidence and untiring effort, and yet in silence and in peace.

It must be sought with a brave heart, even though its price be the loss of bodily comfort, of esteem, and of honour.

Lacking this, what does it profit a religious if he “gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” Of what value are the religious state, the holiness of our profession, the shaven head, the outward signs of a life of abnegation, if we lack the spirit of humility and truth in which Christ dwells by faith and love? Saint Luke says: “The kingdom of God,” that is, Christ, “is within you.”


In proportion as the mind is absorbed in the thought and care of the things of this world do we lose the fervour of our devotion, and drift away from the things of Heaven.

On the other hand, the greater our diligence in withdrawing our powers from the memory, love and thought of that which is inferior in order to fix them upon that which is above, the more perfect will be our prayer, the purer our contemplation. The soul cannot give itself perfectly at the same time to two objects as contrary one to another as light to darkness; for he who lives united to God dwells in the light, he who clings to this world lives in darkness.

The highest perfection, therefore, of man in this life lies in this: that he is so united to God that his soul with all its powers and faculties becomes recollected in Him and is one spirit with Him. Then it remembers naught save God, nor does it relish or understand anything but Him. Then all its affections, united in the delights of love, repose sweetly in the enjoyment of their Creator.

The image of God which is imprinted upon the soul is found in the three powers of the reason, memory, and will. But since these do not perfectly bear the Divine likeness, they have not the same resemblance to God as in the first days of man’s creation.

God is the “form” of the soul upon which He must impress His own image, as the seal on the wax or the stamp on the object it marks.

This can only be fully accomplished when the reason is wholly illuminated according to its capacity, by the knowledge of God, the Sovereign Truth; the will entirely devoted to the love of the Supreme Good; the memory absorbed in the contemplation and enjoyment of eternal felicity, and in the sweet repose of so great a happiness.

As the perfect possession of this state constitutes the glory of the Blessed in Heaven, it is clear that in its commencement consists the perfection of this life.


Blessed is he who, by continually cleansing his soul from the images and phantoms of earth, draws its powers inward, and thence lifts them up to God.

At length he in a manner forgets all images, and by a simple and direct act of pure intellect and will contemplates God, Who is absolutely simple.

Cast away, therefore, all phantoms, images, and forms, and whatsoever is not God, that all your intercourse with Him may proceed from an understanding, affection, and will, alike purified. This is, in truth, the end of all your labours, that you may draw nigh unto God and repose in Him within your soul, solely by your understanding and by a fervent love, free from entanglement or earthly image.

Not by his bodily organs or outward senses does a man attain to this, but by the intelligence and will, which constitute him man. So long as he lingers, trifling with the objects of the imagination and senses, he has not yet passed beyond the limits and instincts of his animal nature, which he possesses in common with the brute beasts. They know and feel through images and by their senses, nor can it be otherwise, for they have no higher powers. Not so is it with man, who, by his intelligence, affections, and will, is created in the image and likeness of God. Hence it is by these powers that he ought, without intermediary, purely and directly to commune with God, be united to Him, and cleave to Him.

The Devil does his very utmost to hinder us from this exercise, for he beholds in it a beginning and a foretaste of eternal life, and he is envious of man. Therefore he strives, now by one temptation or passion, now by another, to turn away our thoughts from God.

At one time he assails us by arousing in us unnecessary anxiety, foolish cares or troubles, or by drawing us to irregular conversations and vain curiosity. At another he ensnares us by subtle books, by the words of others, by rumours and novelties. Then, again, he has recourse to trials, contradictions, etc.

Although these things may sometimes seem but very trifling faults, if faults at all, yet do they greatly hinder our progress in this holy exercise. Therefore, whether great or small, they must be resisted and driven from us as evil and harmful, though they may seem useful and even necessary. It is of great importance that what we have heard, or seen, or done, or said, should not leave their traces or fill our imagination.

Neither before nor after, nor at the time, should we foster these memories or allow their images to be formed. For when the mind is free from these thoughts, we are not hindered in our prayer, in meditation, or the psalmody, or in any other of our spiritual exercises, nor do these distractions return to trouble us.

Then should you readily and trustfully commit yourself and all that concerns you to the unfailing and most sure Providence of God, in silence and peace. He Himself will fight for you, and will grant you a liberty and consolation better, nobler, and sweeter than would be possible if you gave yourself up day and night to your fancies, to vain and wandering thoughts, which hold captive the mind, as they toss it here and there, wearying soul and body, and wasting uselessly alike your time and strength.

Accept all things, whatsoever their cause, silently and with a tranquil mind, as coming to you from the fatherly hand of Divine Providence.

Free yourself, therefore, from all the impressions of earthly things, in so far as your state and profession require, so that with a purified mind and sincere affection you may cleave to Him to Whom you have so often and so entirely vowed yourself.

Let nothing remain which could come between your soul and God, that so you may be able to pass surely and directly from the wounds of the Sacred Humanity to the brightness of the Divinity.


Would you journey by the shortest road, the straight and safe way unto eternal bliss, unto your true country, to grace and glory? Strive with all your might to obtain habitual cleanness of heart, purity of mind, quiet of the senses. Gather up your affections, and with your whole heart cleave unto God.

Withdraw as much as you can from your acquaintance and from all men, and abstain from such affairs as would hinder your purpose.

Seek out with jealous care the place, time, and means most suited to quiet and contemplation, and lovingly embrace silence and solitude.

Beware the dangers of which the times are full; fly the agitation of a world never at rest, never still.

Let your chief study be to gain purity, freedom, and peace of heart. Close the doors of your senses and dwell within, shutting your heart as diligently as you can against the shapes and images of earthly things.

Of all the practices of the spiritual life, purity of heart stands highest, and rightly, for it is the end and reward of all our labours, and is found only with those who live truly according to the spirit and as good religious.

Wherefore you should employ all your diligence and skill in order to free your heart, senses, and affections from whatever could trammel their liberty, or could fetter or ensnare your soul. Strive earnestly to gather in the wandering affections of your heart and fix them on the love of the sole and pure Truth, the Sovereign Good; then keep them, as it were, enchained within you.

Fix your gaze unwaveringly upon God and Divine things; spurn the follies of earth and seek to be wholly transformed in Jesus Christ, yea, even to the heart’s core.

When you have begun to cleanse and purify your soul of earthly images, and to unify and tranquillize your heart and mind in God with loving confidence, to the end that you may taste and enjoy in all your powers the torrents of His good pleasure, and may fix your will and intelligence in Him, then you will no longer need to study and read the Holy Scriptures to learn the love of God and of your neighbour, for the Holy Spirit Himself will teach you.

Spare no pains, no labour, to purify your heart and to establish it in unbroken peace.

Abide in God in the secret place of your soul as tranquilly as though there had already risen upon you the dawn of Eternity, the unending Day of God.

Strong in the love of Jesus, go forth from yourself, with a heart pure, a conscience at peace, a faith unfeigned; and in every trial, every event, commit yourself unreservedly to God, having nothing so much at heart as perfect obedience to His will and good pleasure.

If you would arrive thus far, it is needful for you often to enter within your soul and to abide therein, disengaging yourself as much as you can from all things.

Keep the eye of your soul ever in purity and peace; suffer not the form and images of this world to defile your mind; preserve your will from every earthly care, and let every fibre of your heart be rooted in the love of the Sovereign Good. Thus will your whole soul, with all its powers, be recollected in God and form but one spirit with Him.

It is in this that the highest perfection possible to man here below consists.

This union of the spirit and of love, by which a man conforms himself in everything to the supreme and eternal will, enables us to become by grace what God is by His nature.

Let us not forget this truth: the moment a man, by the help of God, succeeds in overcoming his own will, that is, in freeing himself from every inordinate affection and care, to cast himself and all his miseries unreservedly into the bosom of God, that moment he becomes so pleasing to God that he receives the gift of grace. Grace brings charity, and charity drives out all fear and hesitation, and fills the soul with confidence and hope. What is more blessed than to cast all our care on Him Who cannot fail? As long as you lean upon yourself you will totter. Cast yourself fearlessly into the arms of God. He will embrace you, He will heal and save you.

If you would ponder often upon these truths they would bring to you more happiness than all the riches, delights, honours, of this false world, and would make you more blessed than all the wisdom and knowledge of this corruptible life, even though you should surpass all the wise men who have gone before you.


As you go forward in this work of ridding you of every earthly thought and entanglement you will behold your soul regain her strength and the mastery of her inward senses, and you will begin to taste the sweetness of heavenly things.

Learn, therefore, to keep yourself free from the images of outward and material objects, for God loves with a special love the soul that is thus purified. His “delights” are “to be with the children of men,” that is, with those who, set free from earthly affairs and distractions, and at peace from their passions, offer Him simple and pure hearts intent on Him alone.

If the memory, imagination, and thoughts still dwell below, it follows of necessity that fresh events, memories of the past, and other things will ensnare and drag you down. But the Holy Spirit abides not amid such empty thoughts.

The true friend of Jesus Christ must be so united by his intelligence and will to the Divine will and goodness that his imagination and passions have no hold over him, and that he troubles not whether men give him love or ridicule, nor heeds what may be done to him. Know well that a truly good will does all and is of more value than all.

If the will is good, wholly conformed and united to God, and guided by reason, it matters little that the flesh, the senses, the exterior man are inclined to evil and sluggish in good, or even that a man find himself interiorly lacking in devotion. It suffices that he remains with his whole soul inwardly united to God by faith and a good will.

This he will accomplish if, knowing his own imperfection and utter nothingness, he understands that all his happiness is in his Creator. Then does he forsake himself, his own strength and powers, and every creature, and hides himself in complete abandonment in the bosom of God.

To God are all his actions simply and purely directed. He seeks nothing outside of God, but knows that of a truth he has found in Him all the good and all the happiness of perfection. Then will he be in some measure transformed in God. He will no longer be able to think, love, understand, remember aught save God and the things of God. He will no longer behold himself or creatures save in God; no love will possess him but the love of God, nor will he remember creatures or even his own being, save in God.

Such a knowledge of the truth renders the soul humble, makes her a hard judge towards herself, but merciful to others, while earthly wisdom puffs up the soul with pride and vanity. Behold, this is wise and spiritual doctrine, grounded upon the truth, and leading unto the knowledge and service of God, and to familiarity with Him.

If you desire to possess Him indeed, you must of necessity despoil your heart of earthly affections, not alone for persons, but for every creature, that you may tend to the Lord your God with your whole heart and with all your strength, freely, simply, without fear or solicitude, trusting everything in entire confidence to His all-watchful Providence.


The author of the book entitled “De Spiritu et Anima” tells us that to ascend to God means nothing else than to enter into oneself. And, indeed, he who enters into the secret place of his own soul passes beyond himself, and does in very truth ascend to God.

Banish, therefore, from your heart the distractions of earth and turn your eyes to spiritual joys, that you may learn at last to repose in the light of the contemplation of God.

Verily the soul’s true life and her repose are to abide in God, held fast by love, and sweetly refreshed by the Divine consolations.

But many are the obstacles which hinder us from tasting this rest, and of our own strength we could never attain to it. The reason is evident – the mind is distracted and preoccupied; it cannot enter into itself by the aid of the memory, for it is blinded by phantoms; nor can it enter by the intellect, for it is vitiated by the passions. Even the desire of interior joys and spiritual delights fails to draw it inward. It lies so deeply buried in things sensible and transitory that it cannot return to itself as to the image of God.

How needful is it, then, that the soul, lifted upon the wings of reverence and humble confidence, should rise above itself and every creature by entire detachment, and should be able to say within itself: He Whom I seek, love, desire, among all, more than all, and above all, cannot be perceived by the senses or the imagination, for He is above both the senses and the understanding. He cannot be perceived by the senses, yet He is the object of all our desires; He is without shape, but He is supremely worthy of our heart’s deepest love. He is beyond compare, and to the pure in heart greatly to be desired. Above all else is He sweet and love-worthy; His goodness and perfection are infinite.

When you understand this, your soul will enter into the darkness of the spirit, and will advance further and penetrate more deeply into itself. You will by this means attain more speedily unto the beholding in a dark manner of the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity, in Christ Jesus, in proportion as your effort is more inward; and the greater is your charity, the more precious the fruit you will reap. For the highest, in spiritual things, is ever that which is most interior. Grow not weary, therefore, and rest not from your efforts until you have received some earnest or foretaste of the fulness of joy that awaits you, and has obtained some first-fruits of the Divine sweetness and delights.

Cease not in your pursuit till you behold “the God of gods in Sion.”

In your spiritual ascent and in your search after a closer union with God you must allow yourself no repose, no slipping back, but must go forward till you have obtained the object of your desires. Follow the example of mountain-climbers. If your desires turn aside after the objects which pass below you will lose yourself in by-ways and countless distractions. Your mind will become dissipated and drawn in all directions by its desires. Your progress will be uncertain, you will not reach your goal, nor find rest after your labours.

If, on the other hand, the heart and mind, led on by love and desire, withdraw from the distractions of this world, and little by little abandon base things to become recollected in the one true and unchangeable Good, to dwell there, held fast by the bonds of love, then will you grow strong, and your recollection will deepen the higher you rise on the wings of knowledge and desire.

They who have attained to this dwell as by habit in the Sovereign Good, and become at last inseparable from it.

True life, which is God Himself, becomes their inalienable possession; for ever, free from all fear of the vicissitudes of time and change, they repose in the peaceful enjoyment of this inward happiness, and in sweet communication with God. Their abode is for ever fixed within their own souls, in Christ Jesus, Who is to all who come to Him “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”


From all that has hitherto been said, you have understood, if I mistake not, that the more you separate yourself from earthly images and created objects, and the closer your union with God, the nearer will you approach to the state of innocence and perfection. What could be happier, better, sweeter than this?

It is, therefore, of supreme importance that you should preserve your soul so free from every trace or entanglement of earth that neither the world nor your friends, neither prosperity nor adversity, things present, past, or future, which concern yourself or others, not even your own sins above measure, should have power to trouble you.

Think only how you may live, as it were, alone with God, removed from the world, the simple and pure life of the spirit, as though your soul were already in eternity and separated from your body.

There you would not busy yourself with earthly things, nor be disquieted by the state of the world, by peace or war, fair skies or foul, or anything here below. But you would be absorbed and filled by His love.

Strive even now in this present life to come forth in a manner from your body and from every creature.

As far as you can, fix the eye of your soul steadfastly, with unobscured gaze, upon the uncreated light.

Then will your soul, purified from the clouds of earth, be like an Angel in a human body, no longer troubled by the flesh, or disturbed by vain thoughts.

Arm yourself against temptations, persecutions, injuries, so that in adversity as in prosperity, you may still cleave to God in unbroken peace.

When trouble, discouragement, confusion of mind assail you, do not lose patience or be cast down. Do not betake you to vocal prayers or other consolations, but endeavour by an act of the will and reason to lift up your soul and unite it to God, whether your sensual nature will or no.

The devout soul should be so united to God, should so form and preserve her will in conformity to the Divine will, that she is no more occupied or allured by any creature than before it was created, but lives as though there existed but God and herself.

She will receive in unvarying peace all that comes to her from the hand of Divine Providence. In all things she will hope in the Lord, without losing patience, peace, or silence.

Behold, therefore, of how great value it is in the spiritual life to be detached from all things, that you may be interiorly united to God and conformed to Him.

Moreover, there will then be no longer anything to intervene between your soul and God. Whence could it come? Not from without, for the vow of voluntary poverty has despoiled you of all earthly goods, that of chastity has taken your body. Nor could it come from within, for obedience has taken from you your very will and soul. There is now nothing left which could come between God and yourself.

That you are a religious, your profession, your state, your habit and tonsure, and the other marks of the religious life declare. See to it whether you are a religious in truth or only one in name.

Consider how you are fallen and how you sin against the Lord your God and against His justice if your deeds do not correspond with your holy state, if by will or desire you cling to the creature rather than to the Creator, or prefer the creature to the Creator.


Whatever exists outside of God is the work of His hands. Every creature is, therefore, a blending together of the actual and the possible, and as such is in its nature limited. Born of nothing, it is surrounded by nothingness, and tends to nothingness.

Of necessity the creature depends each moment upon God, the supreme Artist, for its existence, preservation, power of action, and all that it possesses.

It is utterly unable to accomplish its own work, either for itself or for another, and is impotent as a thing which is not before that which is, the finite before the infinite. It follows, therefore, that our life, thoughts, and works should be in Him, of Him, for Him, and directed to Him, Who by the least sign of His will could produce creatures unspeakably more perfect than any which now exist.

It is impossible that there should be in the mind or heart a thought or a love more profitable, more perfect or more blessed than those which rest upon God, the Almighty Creator, of Whom, in Whom, by Whom, towards Whom all tend.

He suffices infinitely for Himself and for others, since from all eternity He contains within Himself the perfections of all things. There is nothing within Him which is not Himself. In Him and by Him exist the causes of all transitory things; in Him are the immutable origins of all things that change, whether rational or irrational.

All that happens in time has in Him its eternal principle.

He fills all; He is in all things by His essence, by which He is more present and more near to them than they are to themselves.

In Him all things are united and live eternally. It is true that the weakness of our understanding or our want of experience may oblige us to make use of creatures in our contemplation, yet there is a kind of contemplation which is very fruitful, good, and real, which seems possible to all. Whether he meditates on the creature or the Creator, every man may reach the point at which he finds all his joy in His Creator, God, One in Trinity, and kindles the fire of Divine love in himself or in others, so as to merit eternal life.

We should notice here the difference which exists between the contemplation of Christians and that of pagan philosophers. The latter sought only their own perfection, and hence their contemplation affected their intellect only; they desired only to enrich their minds with knowledge. But the contemplation of Saints, which is that of Christians, seeks as its end the love of the God Whom they contemplate. Hence it is not content to find fruit for the intelligence, but penetrates beyond to the will that it may there enkindle love.

The Saints desired above all in their contemplation the increase of charity.

It is better to know Jesus Christ and possess Him spiritually by grace, than, without grace, to have Him in the body, or even in His essence.

The more pure a soul becomes and the deeper her recollection, the clearer will be her inward vision. She now prepares, as it were, a ladder upon which she may ascend to the contemplation of God. This contemplation will set her on fire with love for all that is heavenly, Divine, eternal, and will cause her to despise as utter nothing all that is of time.

When we seek to arrive at the knowledge of God by the method of negation, we first remove from our conception of Him all that pertains to the body, the senses, the imagination. Then we reject even that which belongs to the reason, and the idea of being as it is found in creatures. This, according to Saint Denis, is the best means of attaining to the knowledge of God, as far as it is possible in this world.

This is the darkness in which God dwells and into which Moses entered that he might reach the light inaccessible.

But we must begin, not with the mind, but with the body. We must observe the accustomed order, and pass from the labour of action to the repose of contemplation, from the moral virtues to those of sublime contemplation.

Why, O my soul, do you vainly wear yourself out in such multiplicity of things? You find in them but poverty.

Seek and love only that perfect good which includes in itself all good, and it will suffice you. Unhappy are you if you know and possess all, and are ignorant of this. If you knew at the same time both this good and all other things, this alone would render you the happier. Therefore Saint John has written: “This is eternal life: that they may know you,” and the Prophet: “I shall be satisfied when your glory shall appear.”


Seek not too eagerly after the grace of devotion, sensible sweetness and tears, but let your chief care be to remain inwardly united to God by good will in the intellectual part of the soul.

Of a truth nothing is so pleasing to God as a soul freed from all trace and image of created things. A true religious should be at liberty from every creature that he may be wholly free to devote himself to God alone and cleave to Him. Deny yourself, therefore, that you may follow Christ, your Lord and God, Who was truly poor, obedient, chaste, humble, and suffering, and Whose life and death were a scandal to many, as the Gospel clearly shows.

The soul, when separated from the body, troubles not as to what becomes of the shell it has abandoned – it may be burnt, hanged, spoken evil of; and the soul is not afflicted by these outrages, but thinks only of eternity and of the one thing necessary, of which the Lord speaks in the Gospel.

So should you regard your body, as though the soul were already freed from it. Set ever before your eyes the eternal life in God, which awaits you, and think on that only good of which the Lord said: “One thing is necessary.” A great grace will then descend upon your soul, which will aid you in acquiring purity of mind and simplicity of heart.

And, indeed, this treasure is close at your doors. Turn from the images and distractions of earth, and quickly shall you find it with you and learn what it is to be united to God without hindrance or impediment.

Then will you gain an unshaken constancy, which will strengthen you to endure all that may befall you.

Thus was it with the martyrs, the Fathers, the elect, and all the blessed. They despised all and thought only of possessing in God eternal security for their souls.

Thus armed within and united to God by a good will, they despised all that is of this world, as though their soul had already departed from the body.

Learn from them how great is the power of a good will united to God.

By that union of the soul with God it becomes, as it were, cut off from the flesh by a spiritual separation, and regards the outward man from afar as something alien to it.

Then, whatever may happen inwardly or in the body will be as little regarded as though it had befallen another person or a creature without reason.

He who is united to God is but one mind with Him.

Out of regard, therefore, for His sovereign honour, never be so bold as to think or imagine in His presence what you would blush to hear or see before men.

You ought, moreover, to raise all your thoughts to God alone, and set Him before your inward gaze, as though He alone existed. So will you experience the sweetness of Divine union and even now make a true beginning of the life to come.


He who with his whole heart draws nigh unto God must of necessity be proved by temptation and trial.

When the sting of temptation is felt, by no means give your consent, but bear all with patience, sweetness, humility, and courage.

If you are tempted to blasphemy or any shameful sin, be well assured you can do nothing better than to utterly despise and contemn such thoughts. Blasphemy is indeed sinful, scandalous, and abominable, yet be not anxious about such temptations, but rather despise them, and do not let your conscience be troubled by them. The enemy will most certainly be put to flight if you will thus contemn both him and his suggestions. He is too proud to endure scorn or contempt. The best remedy is, therefore, to trouble no more about these thoughts than we do about the flies which, against our will, dance before our eyes. Let not the servant of Christ thus easily and needlessly lose sight of his Master’s presence, nor let him grow impatient, murmur, or complain of these flies; I mean these light temptations, suspicions, sadness, depression, pusillanimity – mere nothings which a good will can put to flight by an elevation of the soul to God.

By a good will man makes God his Master, and the holy Angels his guardians and protectors.

Good will drives away temptation as the hand brushes away a fly.

“Peace,” therefore, “to men of good will.”

In truth no better gift than this can be offered to God.

Good will in the soul is the source of all good, the mother of all virtues. He who possesses it, possesses without fear of loss all he needs to live a good life.

If you desire what is good and are not able to accomplish it, God will reward you for it as though you hadst performed it.

He has established as an eternal and unchangeable law that merit should lie in the will, and that upon the will should depend our future of Heaven or hell, reward or punishment.

Charity itself consists in nothing else but a strong will to serve God, a loving desire to please Him, and a fervent longing to enjoy Him.

Forget not, therefore, temptation is not sin, but rather the means of proving virtue. By it man may gain great profit, and this the more inasmuch as “the life of man upon earth is a warfare.”


All that we have hitherto described, all that is necessary for salvation, can find in love alone its highest, most complete, most beneficent perfection.

Love supplies all that is wanting for our salvation; it contains abundantly every good thing, and lacks not even the presence of the supreme object of our desires.

It is by love alone that we turn to God, are transformed into His likeness, and are united to Him, so that we become one spirit with Him, and receive by and from Him all our happiness: here in grace, hereafter in glory. Love can find no rest till she reposes in the full and perfect possession of the Beloved.

It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws nigh to man, and man to God, but where charity is not found God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity we possess God, for “God is charity.”

There is nothing keener than love, nothing more subtle, nothing more penetrating. Love cannot rest till it has sounded all the depths and learned the perfections of its Beloved. It desires to be one with Him, and, if it could, would form but one being with the Beloved. It is for this reason that it cannot suffer anything to intervene between it and the object loved, which is God, but springs forward towards Him, and finds no peace till it has overcome every obstacle, and reached even unto the Beloved.

Love has the power of uniting and transforming; it transforms the one who loves into him who is loved, and him who is loved into him who loves. Each passes into the other, as far as it is possible.

And first consider the intelligence. How completely love transports the loved one into him who loves! With what sweetness and delight the one lives in the memory of the other, and how earnestly the lover tries to know, not superficially but intimately, all that concerns the object of his love, and strives to enter as far as possible into his inner life!

Think next of the will, by which also the loved one lives in him who loves. Does he not dwell in him by that tender affection, that sweet and deeply-rooted joy which he feels? On the other hand, the lover lives in the beloved by the sympathy of his desires, by sharing his likes and dislikes, his joys and sorrows, until the two seem to form but one. Since “love is strong as death,” it carries the lover out of himself into the heart of the beloved, and holds him prisoner there.

The soul is more truly where it loves than where it gives life, since it exists in the object loved by its own nature, by reason and will; while it is in the body it animates only by bestowing on it an existence which it shares with the animal creation.

There is, therefore, but one thing which has power to draw us from outward objects into the depths of our own souls, there to form an intimate friendship with Jesus. Nothing but the love of Christ and the desire of His sweetness can lead us thus to feel, to comprehend and experience the presence of His Divinity.

The power of love alone is able to lift up the soul from earth to the heights of Heaven, nor is it possible to ascend to eternal beatitude except on the wings of love and desire.

Love is the life of the soul, its nuptial garment, its perfection.

Upon charity are based the law, the prophets, and the precepts of the Lord. Hence the Apostle wrote to the Romans: “Love is therefore the fulfilling of the law,” and in the first Epistle to Timothy: “The end of the commandment is charity.”


Of ourselves we are utterly unable to attain to charity or any other good thing. We have naught to offer to the Lord, the Author of all, which was not His already.

One thing alone remains to us: that in every occurrence we should turn to Him in prayer, as He Himself taught us by word and example. Let us go to Him as guilty, poor, and miserable, as beggars, weak and needy, as subjects and slaves, yet as His children.

Of ourselves we are utterly destitute. What can we do but cast ourselves at His feet in deepest humility, holy fear mingling in our souls with love, peace, and recollection?

And while we are fain to draw nigh with all lowliness and modesty, with minds sincere and simple, let our hearts burn with great desires, with ardour and heartfelt longings. And so let us supplicate our God, and lay before Him with entire confidence the perils which menace us on every side. Let us freely, unhesitatingly, and in all simplicity, confide ourselves to Him, and offer Him our whole being, even to the last fibre, for are we not in truth absolutely His?

Let us keep nothing for ourselves, and then will be fulfilled in us the saying of Blessed Isaac, one of the Fathers of the Desert, who, speaking of this kind of prayer, said: “We shall be one being with God, and He will be all in all to us, when that perfect charity by which He loved us first has entered into our inmost hearts.”

This will be accomplished when God alone becomes the object of all our love, our desires, our striving, of all our efforts and thoughts, of all that we behold, speak of, hope for; when that union which exists between the Father and the Son, and between the Son and the Father shall be found also in our mind and soul.

Since His love for us is so pure, sincere, and unchanging, ought not we in return to give Him a love constant and uninterrupted?

So intimate should be our union with Him that our hopes, thoughts, prayers breathe only God. The truly spiritual man should set before him, as the goal of all his efforts and desires, the possession even in a mortal body, of an image of the happiness to come, and the enjoyment even here below of some foretaste of the delights, the life, and glory of Heaven.

This, I say, is the end of all perfection – that the soul may become so purified from every earthly longing, and so raised to spiritual things, that at last the whole life and the desires of the heart form one unbroken prayer.

When the soul has thus shaken off the dust of earth and aspires unto her God, to Whom the true religious ever directs his intention, dreading the least separation from Him as a most cruel death; when peace reigns within and she is delivered from the bondage of her passions and cleaves with firm purpose to the one Sovereign Good, then will be fulfilled in her the words of the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing,” and “in every place, lifting up pure hands, without anger and contention.”

When once this purity of soul has gained the victory over man’s natural inclination for the things of sense, when all earthly longings are quenched and the soul is, as it were, transformed into the likeness of pure spirits or Angels, then all she receives, all she undertakes, all she does, will be a pure and true prayer.

Only persevere faithfully in your efforts and, as I have shown from the beginning, it will become as simple and easy for you to contemplate God and rejoice in Him in your recollection as to live a purely natural life.


There is also another practice which will tend greatly to your progress in spiritual perfection, and will aid you to gain purity of soul and tranquil rest in God. Whatever men say or think of you, bring it before the tribunal of your own conscience. Enter within yourself, and there, turning a deaf ear to all else, set yourself to learn the truth. Then will you see clearly that the praise and honour of men bring you no profit, but rather loss, if you know that you are guilty and worthy of condemnation in the sight of truth. And, just as it is useless to be honoured outwardly by men if your conscience accuse you within, so in like manner is it no loss to you if men despise, blame, or persecute you without, if within you are innocent and free from reproach or blame. Nay, rather, you have then great reason to rejoice in the Lord in patience, silence, and peace.

Adversity is powerless to harm where sin has no dominion; and just as there is no evil which goes unpunished, so is there no good without recompense.

Seek not with the hypocrites your reward and crown from men, but rather from the hand of God, not now, but hereafter; not for a passing moment, but for eternity.

You can, therefore, do nothing higher nor better in every tribulation or occurrence than enter into the sanctuary of your soul, and there call upon the Lord Jesus Christ, your helper in temptation and affliction. There should you humble yourself, confessing your sins, and praising your God and Father, Who both chastises and consoles.

There dispose yourself to accept with unruffled peace, readiness, and confidence from the hands of God’s unfailing Providence and marvellous wisdom all that is sent you of prosperity or adversity, whether touching yourself or others. Then will you obtain remission of your sins; bitterness will be driven from your soul, sweetness and confidence will penetrate it, grace and mercy will descend upon it. Then a sweet familiarity will draw you on and strengthen you, abundant consolation will flow to you from the bosom of God. Then you will adhere to Him and form an indissoluble union with Him.

But beware of imitating hypocrites who, like the Pharisees, try to appear outwardly before men more holy than they know themselves in truth to be. Is it not utter folly to seek or desire human praise and glory for oneself or others, while within we are filled with shameful and grievous sins? Assuredly he who pursues such vanities can hope for no share in the good things of which we spoke just now, but shame will infallibly be his lot.

Keep your worthlessness and your sins ever before your eyes, and learn to know yourself that you may grow in humility.

Shrink not from being regarded by all the world as filthy mud, vile and abject, on account of your grievous sins and defects. Esteem yourself among others as dross in the midst of gold, as tares in the wheat, straw among the grain, as a wolf among the sheep, as Satan among the children of God.

Neither should you desire to be respected by others, or preferred to anyone whatsoever. Fly rather with all your strength of heart and soul from that pestilential poison, the venom of praise, from a reputation founded on boasting and ostentation, lest, as the Prophet says, “The sinner is praised in the desires of his soul.”

Again, in Isaias, we read: “They that call you blessed, the same deceive you, and destroy the way of your steps.” Also the Lord says: “Woe to you when men shall bless you!”


The more truly a man knows his own misery, the more fully and clearly does he behold the majesty of God. The more vile he is in his own eyes for the sake of God, of truth, and of justice, the more worthy of esteem is he in the eyes of God.

Strive earnestly, therefore, to look on yourself as utterly contemptible, to think yourself unworthy of any benefit, to be displeasing in your own eyes, but pleasing to God. Desire that others should regard you as vile and mean.

Learn not to be troubled in tribulations, afflictions, injuries; not to be incensed against those that inflict them, nor to entertain thoughts of resentment against them. Try, on the contrary, sincerely to believe yourself worthy of all injuries, contempt, ill-treatment and scorn.

In truth, he who for God’s sake is filled with sorrow and compunction dreads to be honoured and loved by another. He does not refuse to be an object of hatred, or shrink from being trodden under foot and despised as long as he lives, in order that he may practise real humility and cleave in purity of heart to God alone.

It does not require exterior labour or bodily health to love God only, to hate oneself more than all, to desire to seem little in the eyes of others: what is needed is rather repose of the senses, the effort of the heart, silence of the mind.

It is by labouring with the heart, by the inward aspiration of the soul, that you will learn to forsake the base things of earth and to rise to what is heavenly and Divine.

Thus will you become transformed in God, and this the more speedily if, in all sincerity, without condemning or despising your neighbour, you desire to be regarded by all as a reproach and scandal – nay, even to be abhorred as filthy mire, rather than possess the delights of earth, or be honoured and exalted by men, or enjoy any advantage or happiness in this fleeting world.

Have no other desire in this perishable life of the body, no other consolation than unceasingly to weep over, regret and detest your offences and faults.

Learn utterly to despise yourself, to annihilate yourself and to appear daily more contemptible in the eyes of others.

Strive to become even more unworthy in your own eyes, in order to please God alone, to love Him only and cling to Him.

Concern not yourself with anything except your Lord Jesus Christ, Who ought to reign alone in your affections. Have no solicitude or care save for Him Whose power and Providence give movement and being to all things.

It is not now the time to rejoice but rather to lament with all the sincerity of your heart.

If you cannot weep, sorrow at least that you have no tears to shed; if you can, grieve the more because by the gravity of your offences and number of your sins you are yourself the cause of your grief. A man under sentence of death does not trouble himself as to the dispositions of his executioners; so he who truly mourns and sheds the tears of repentance, refrains from delight, anger, vainglory, indignation, and every like passion.

Citizens and criminals are not lodged in like abodes; so also the life and conduct of those whose faults call for sighs and tears should not resemble those of men who have remained innocent and have nothing to expiate.

Were it otherwise, how would the guilty, great though their crimes may have been, differ in their punishment and expiation from the innocent? Iniquity would then be more free than innocence. Renounce all, therefore, contemn all, separate yourself from all, that you may lay deep the foundations of sincere penance.

He who truly loves Jesus Christ, and sorrows for Him, who bears Him in his heart and in his body, will have no thought, or care, or solicitude for aught else. Such a one will sincerely mourn over his sins and offences, will long after eternal happiness, will remember the Judgment and will think diligently on his last end in lowly fear. He, then, who wishes to arrive speedily at a blessed impassibility and to reach God, counts that day lost on which he has not been ill-spoken of and despised.

What is this impassibility but freedom from the vices and passions, purity of heart, the adornment of virtue?

Count yourself as already dead, since you must needs die some day.

And now, but one word more. Let this be the test of your thoughts, words, and deeds. If they render you more humble, more recollected in God, more strong, then they are according to God. But if you find it otherwise, then fear lest all is not according to God, acceptable to Him, or profitable to yourself.


Would you draw nigh unto God without let or hindrance, freely and in peace, as we have described? Desire you to be united and drawn to Him in a union so close that it will endure in prosperity and adversity, in life and in death? Delay not to commit all things with trustful confidence into the hands of His sure and infallible Providence.

Is it not most fitting that you should trust Him Who gives to all creatures, in the first place, their existence, power, and movement, and, secondly, their species and nature, ordering in all their number, weight, and measure?

Just as Art presupposes the operations of Nature, so Nature presupposes the work of God, the Creator, Preserver, Organizer, and Administrator.

To Him alone belong infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, essential mercy, justice, truth, and charity, immutable eternity, and immensity. Nothing can exist and act of its own power, but every creature acts of necessity by the power of God, the first moving cause, the first principle and origin of every action, Who acts in every active being.

If we consider the ordered harmony of the universe, it is the Providence of God which must arrange all things, even to the smallest details.

From the infinitely great to the infinitely small nothing can escape His eternal Providence; nothing has been drawn from His control, either in the acts of free-will, in events we ascribe to chance or fate, or in what has been designed by Him. We may go further: it is as impossible for God to make anything which does not fall within the dominion of His Providence as it is for Him to create anything which is not subject to His action. Divine Providence, therefore, extends over all things, even the thoughts of man.

This is the teaching of Holy Scripture, for in the Epistle of Saint Peter it is written: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He has care of you.”

And, again, the Prophet says: “Cast your care upon the Lord and He shall sustain you.” Also in Ecclesiasticus we read: “My children, behold the generations of men; and know that no one has hoped in the Lord, and has been confounded. For who has continued in His commandment, and has been forsaken?” And the Lord says: “Be not solicitous, therefore, saying, What shall we eat?” All that you can hope for from God, however great it may be, you shall without doubt receive, according to the promise in Deuteronomy: “Every place that your foot shall tread upon shall be yours.” As much as you can desire you shall receive, and as far as the foot of your confidence reaches, so far you shall possess.

Hence Saint Bernard says: “God, the Creator of all things, is so full of mercy and compassion that whatever may be the grace for which we stretch out our hands, we shall not fail to receive it.”

It is written in Saint Mark: “Whatsoever you shall ask when you pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.”

The greater and more persistent your confidence in God, and the more earnestly you turn to Him in lowly reverence, the more abundantly and certainly shall you receive all you hope and ask.

But if, on account of the number and magnitude of his sins, the confidence of any should languish, let him who feels this torpor remember that all is possible to God, that what He wills must infallibly happen, and what He wills not cannot come to pass, and, finally, that it is as easy for Him to forgive and blot out innumerable and heinous sins as to forgive one.

On the other hand, it is just as impossible for a sinner to deliver himself from a single sin as it would be for him to raise and cleanse himself from many sins; for, not only are we unable to accomplish this, but of ourselves we cannot even think what is right. All comes to us from God. It is, however, far more dangerous, other things being equal, to be entangled in many sins than to be held only by one.

In truth, no evil remains unpunished, and for every mortal sin is due, in strict justice, an infinite punishment, because a mortal sin is committed against God, to Whom belong infinite greatness, dignity, and glory.

Moreover, according to the Apostle, “the Lord knows who are His,” and it is impossible that one of them should perish, no matter how violently the tempests and waves of error rage, how great the scandal, schisms and persecutions, how grievous the adversities, discords, heresies, tribulations, or temptations of every kind.

The number of the elect and the measure of their merit is eternally and unalterably predestined. So true is this that all the good and evil which can happen to them or to others, all prosperity and adversity, serve only to their advantage.

Nay more, adversity does but render them more glorious, and proves their fidelity more surely.

Delay not, therefore, to commit all things without fear to the Providence of God, by Whose permission all evil of whatever kind happens, and ever for some good end. It could not be except He permitted it; its form and measure are allowed by Him Who can and will by His wisdom turn all to good.

Just as it is by His action that all good is wrought, so is it by His permission that all evil happens.

But from the evil He draws good, and thus marvelously shows forth His power, wisdom, and clemency by our Lord Jesus Christ. So also He manifests His mercy and His justice, the power of grace, the weakness of nature, and the beauty of the universe. So He shows by the force of contrast the glory of the good, and the malice and punishment of the wicked.

In like manner, in the conversion of a sinner we behold contrition, confession, and penance; and, on the other hand, the tenderness of God, His mercy and charity, His glory and His goodness.

Yet sin does not always turn to the good of those who commit it; but it is usually the greatest of perils and worst of ills, for it causes the loss of grace and glory. It stains the soul and provokes chastisement and even eternal punishment. From so great an evil may our Lord Jesus vouchsafe to preserve us! Amen.

– text taken from On Union with God, by Saint Albertus Magnus, translated by a Benedictine of Princethorpe Priory; Gutenburg version produced by David E.Brown, Bryan Ness; it has the Imprimatur of Edmund Surmont, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Westminster, England, 7 December 1911

Catholic World – Cardinal Pole

Cardinal Reginald PoleCardinal Pole was a representative man. As Archbishop of Canterbury he stands in direct contrast to Cranmer. Each of these primates was at the head of a host during a period of mortal conflict. They led respectively the forces of the old and of the new faith. Pole represented the Catholics of England, especially the wiser and better part of them. Cranmer was one of the feeblest and worst specimens of the reformers. He had not even the unenviable merit of being true to his own principles. He could not stand the shock of battle, and though a standard-bearer, he surrendered his colors in the hope of saving his life. Pole, on the contrary, suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake, and the cruel fate of his mother and his near relatives warned him but too plainly of the end that awaited him if he should ever come within reach of the tyrant. Let us trace his history, though but in outline; for we shall find it full of interesting matter, food for reflection, and lessons of piety. There are many men of less importance and less merit whose lives are better known than his. One who enjoyed his friendship during many years—Ludovico Beccatelli, Archbishop of Ragusa—has left us a record of his acts, and painted his character with a faithful hand. To him principally, and to Cardinal Pole’s own writings, we are indebted for what we have learned respecting him; for though much is to be found on the subject of his career in the pages of Lingard, Strype, Flanagan, Hume, Strickland, and Froude, it is to those higher sources especially, together with the state papers of the time, that every one must remount who would obtain reliable information.

It was when Henry VII had passed the middle of his reign, and Alexander VI filled the papal chair, that Reginald Pole was born at Stowerton Castle in Staffordshire. His father was Sir Richard Pole, (afterward Lord Montacute, or Montague,) a Welsh knight, and his mother was Mary, Countess of Salisbury, daughter of that Duke of Clarence whom Edward IV. drowned in a butt of Malmsey. He was the cousin also of Elizabeth, Queen of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII. He had thus all the advantages which people attach to high descent, and no pains were spared to give him an education suited to his rank and prospects. The monasteries were then schools for the instruction of boys of good family, and to one of these Reginald was sent when a child. It was the Carthusian monastery at Shene, from whence he was removed in time to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he laid the foundation of his future learning, and was taught by the celebrated Linacre, the preceptor of Prince Arthur, and physician to Henry VIII and the Princess Mary. His education was carried on at the cost of Henry; for which reason he often in after life spoke of the king with gratitude. He was but a boy when he obtained his degree of B.A., and might (like Wolsey, who graduated at Oxford when fourteen years old) have been called the “Boy Bachelor.” He was also admitted very early into deacons’ orders; at seventeen he was made Prebendary of Salisbury; and at nineteen Dean of Wimborne and Exeter.

The reformation had not yet broken out. England was ruled without a parliament by the all-powerful minister Cardinal Wolsey; and Henry VIII, who had in 1513, when Pole was at Oxford, won the battle of the Spurs and taken Tournay, appeared for a moment as a competitor for the imperial crown on the death of Maximilian. It was part of his good pleasure that Reginald Pole should be highly educated, and accordingly about the year 1520, when the youth was twenty years old, he caused him to repair to the University of Padua to complete his studies. Reginald resided in that seat of learning in great splendor. A numerous retinue attended him, and he enjoyed the society and esteem of many eminent persons, such as Bembo and Sadolet. His morals were pure, his manners graceful, and his amiability made him much beloved.

After five years of university life, he returned to England, and was received by Henry with many marks of royal favor. But he shunned the splendors and seductions of the court, and retired to a house that had belonged to Dean Colet within the Carthusian monastery at Shene. Henry’s erratic career had begun; and he was seeking to obtain a divorce from his faithful and virtuous wife, Catharine of Aragon. Reginald earnestly desired to escape the complications that were likely to ensue. He knew that a storm was gathering; and after two years of retirement at Shene, he obtained Henry’s permission to pursue his studies at the University of Paris. He was not yet priests’ orders, neither had he taken monastic vows. For this a curious reason was assigned.

All the contemporaries of Queen Catharine affirm that she earnestly desired a union in marriage between her daughter, the Princess Mary and Reginald Pole. His mother, the Countess of Salisbury, had always resided with Mary, and the biographers of Pole with one voice declare that Mary had regarded him with favor from earliest childhood. We ought not, however, to lay too much stress on this fact, since the disparity of their ages was too great to admit of their being lovers at an early period of life. Reginald was sixteen years older than Mary, yet it is not surprising that, when her proposed marriage with the Emperor of Germany was broken off, and Reginald, having returned to England, appeared at court in his twenty-fifth year conspicuous for the culture of his mind and the beauty of his person, the queen should wish to see him become the husband of her child. He was of royal blood, and very nearly resembled his ancestor Edward III and his great-uncle Edward IV. His portrait was taken by Michael Angelo for that of the Saviour of men in the grand painting of the Raising of Lazarus. He revived, therefore, in his carriage and features the memory of the heroic Plantagenets from whom he descended. Already renowned for learning, and with a mind enriched with travel and residence in foreign lands, he had frequent opportunities of seeing the lovely Mary who would probably one day be Queen of England. Lady Salisbury still lived with her, and she was both her relative and friend. The princess showed great partiality for the noble and accomplished Reginald; and at a much later period a marriage was proposed between them as a matter of state convenience, but without its being very long or seriously entertained.

Reginald was not suffered to remain long in peace at the University of Paris. An order arrived requiring him to procure opinions favorable to the divorce, in concert with Langet, the brother of the Bishop of Bayonne. The task was ungrateful to him, full of danger, and hardly to be executed with a clear conscience. He resigned it to his colleague, and was soon recalled. He might have succeeded Wolsey in the see of York, and possibly Warham in that of Canterbury, had he been willing to pander to the vicious inclinations of his royal master. He wavered, indeed, for a moment, and fancied he had found an expedient by which he might satisfy Henry without wounding his own conscience. He repaired to Whitehall Palace, and there, in the stately gallery, he stood before the anti-christian king. He loved that king in spite of his wickedness; for he owed to him his education, together with many dignities and splendors. He loved him too well to deceive him. The truth could not be suppressed. It wrought within him like a pent-up fire. His feelings overcame him, and he burst into tears. It was enough to stir the king’s displeasure. It revealed the secret workings of Reginald’s mind. The divorce would be a crime—a horrible crime. The reasons assigned in its favor were flimsy deceits. The helpless queen and her daughter would be victims moving all hearts to pity. Henry frowned, and his hand often sought the dagger’s hilt; but though Reginald wept, it was not likely a Plantagenet should fear. Upon quitting the gallery, Reginald was loaded with the bitterest reproaches by his brothers, and especially by Lord Montague. He was induced to write to the king. He explained his motives in language equally firm and temperate; and Henry, into whom the demons had not yet fully entered, took the letter, or professed to take it, in good part. He declared that he loved Pole in spite of his obstinacy, and that, if his opinion were only favorable to the divorce, he should love him more than any man in the kingdom. History has taught us how much his love was worth; for his embraces were sure pledges of ruin and destruction. He did not, however, withdraw Reginald’s pension of five hundred crowns, but allowed him to leave England again.

Having emphatically declared his dissent from the resolutions of parliament and convocation, Pole found his position more and more uneasy. He turned his face again to the south, and in 1532 took up his residence for a time at Avignon. During his absence the fatal divorce was completed, and the doom of England as a Catholic country was sealed. The thought of returning to it became distasteful; and he retired to the monastery of Carpentras, and subsequently to his old quarters at Padua. His leave of absence was extended. He was enabled to visit Venice. His pension was duly paid; he received the revenues of the deanery of Exeter, and was specially exempted from the obligation of swearing allegiance to the children of Anne Boleyn. So far forbearance was shown toward him, and he was not insensible to the indulgence. He always in after life retained the same feelings, and even his bitterest invectives were softened with notes of love.

In the year 1535, when he was in his thirty-fifth year, (for, being born in 1500, his years run with the century,) Pole was requested to send in his opinion on the authority claimed in England by the see of Rome. A similar request was made to all other English noblemen and gentlemen; for Henry in his worst deeds endeavored to fortify himself by public opinion; and when doctors at the universities resisted his will, he overcame their scruples by the help of menacing letters. Mr. Starkey, a personal acquaintance, was commissioned to correspond with Pole, and he advised him to avoid his previous errors. He was to say distinctly and honestly whether he approved the divorce and the separation from Rome—whether they were, in his opinion, right or wrong in the abstract, and not whether they might be defended on grounds of expediency. He insisted the more on this distinction, because, as we have seen, when Pole was first consulted by Henry about the separation from Catharine, he had hesitated, requested time for consideration, and tried to discover reasons for complying with his sovereign’s wishes.

But years had passed since that trying occasion. The germs of evils had rapidly developed. Henry’s character had unfolded; Pole’s had matured. Their divergence had become antagonism; and Pole was in no way disposed to let the opportunity now afforded him escape. It was the time to write what contemporaries widely scattered, and even posterity, might read. Brief answers to brief questions would do for the king; but a volume would do better for Rome, the courts of Europe, the people of England, and the angry glances of the lawless prince himself. He intended it, no doubt, for Henry’s perusal in the first instance; but he could hardly doubt that what he might speak in secret chambers would be proclaimed from the house-tops. He showed the manuscript in parts to Cardinal Contarini. The language was impassioned and almost violent. The cardinal advised discretion, and ended by protesting against what he considered fruitless invective. To this Reginald replied that he knew the king’s character well. He had been too much flattered. No one had durst tell him the truth. He could not be moved by gentleness. His eyes ought to be opened by the plainest speaking, and the censures of the church ought long ago to have fallen upon him. It was not for his sake only that Pole wrote; he had the welfare of the flock of Christ in his heart. He was determined to expose the matter fully, that king and people might be thoroughly warned.

In the mean time the emperor’s designs on England were abandoned; and the quarrel between him and Henry seemed likely to be brought to a peaceful issue. Thus one hope which Pole entertained of seeing divine judgments fall on the king of England was blighted. Yet his book must be completed. The king must have the first reading of it. He would not even submit it to Pope Paul III through Cardinal Contarini. Perhaps he feared that his holiness would think it ill-timed or intemperate. We certainly find him lamenting that the pope did not convince the emperor how much more blessed it would be to fight with Henry than with the Turks—to be the champion of the Christian faith in Europe, and drive back the fearful encroachments of heresy.

At length, in May, 1536, Pole’s De Unitate Ecclesiæ, was completed. His ardent disposition and his indignant piety found vent in this composition, and it rolled along like a river swollen by rains. The very passages in it which Mr. Froude holds up to reprobation and scorn are those which Catholics in general will regard with the most pleasure; they will strike upon their ears as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and denouncing in just and measured terms the crimes of a royal heresiarch. It will appear to them instinct with affection rather than hatred. “I will cry in your ears,” he says, “as in the ears of a dead man—dead in your sins. I love you—wicked as you are, I love you. I hope for you, and may God hear my prayer. I should be a traitor did I conceal from you the truth. I owe my learning to your care.” He draws a hideous picture of Henry’s guilt and presumption, and then proceeds to dissect a book which Henry had sent him on the supremacy by Dr. Sampson, Bishop of Chichester. He inveighs against the abuse which Henry made of his regal power, maintaining that the king exists for the people, not the people for the king. He makes the people the source of kingly power; and his words, populus regem procreat, “the people make the king,” involve a distinct denial of

“The right divine of kings to govern wrong.”

He subordinates the regal office to that of the priest, and in language singularly modern, he asserts that sovereigns are responsible to their people, and that Henry, by breaking his coronation oath, has forfeited his right to the crown, and justified the rebellion of his subjects.

The third and most important section follows. It is addressed to Henry VIII, to England, to the emperor, and to the Spanish army. He accuses the king of intriguing with Mary Boleyn before his marriage with Anne, and brands the “supreme head of the church” as the “vilest of plunderers, a thief, and a robber.” He relates in forcible language the story of the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher, and the Charterhouse monks. He calls on England loudly to rebel.

“O my country!” he says, “if any memory remains to you of your ancient liberties, remember—remember the time when kings who ruled over you unjustly were called to account by the authority of your laws. They tell you that all is the king’s. I tell you that all is the commonwealth’s. You my country, are all. The king is but your servant and minister.”

No trumpet of revolt could blow louder, yet Pole did not stop even here. He proclaimed his intention of exciting the Emperor Charles to invade England, and to assemble under his banner all those English who remained true to God and his holy church. This part of the treatise, when printed, was circulated as a pamphlet in the German States. It protested that Pole acted in the love of his country, and “in that love of the church which was given him by the Son of God.” The Spaniards above all men were bound in his view to vindicate the honor of the noble daughter of Isabella of Castile, whom Henry had divorced. The king of France, he believed, would make peace with the emperor, and at the pope’s bidding undertake the chastisement of the towering enemy of God and man.

But the address is not all rebuke and menace; the tones of wrath melt into tenderness at the last, and die away in exhortation to repentance and promises of mercy. It effected little. Catharine of Aragon died in Kimbolton Castle in the same year in which it came to hand, and Anne Boleyn, four months later, passed from the bridal-chamber to the scaffold. Henry had broken for ever with the holy see, and England, torn from the centre of unity, sank and wandered in an abyss. The book was sent to England from Venice on the 27th of May, 1536. It was accompanied by two letters, one to the king, the other to Tunstall, Bishop of Durham. The bishop was to read for the king what was intended for his majesty only. By which we must understand that, if the treatise produced the desired effect on Henry’s mind, it would be considered as a secret communication; but if it failed, the author would then be at liberty to publish it to the world. It is not certain that Henry ever read it. He heard reports of it, however, from Tunstall and Starkey, and made no mystery of his displeasure to those around him. To Pole himself he wrote briefly, requiring him to return to England and explain his ideas more fully. Starkey and Tunstall wrote also, pointing out Reginald’s presumption, which, they said, if persevered in would become a crime, and urging him to return to England, and seek the king’s pardon. Pole was far too astute to obey this summons. Other letters were addressed to him, and finding that he would not venture on the English shore, Henry’s agents tried to persuade him not to publish the work, and to give up or burn any copies of it which he might have retained. But this request was as fruitless as the former. Pole continued for a time to receive his pension, and his book, the effects of which were likely to be formidable, was reserved in manuscript till a fitting occasion for publishing it should arise.

Being an English subject, in the enjoyment of certain emoluments and dignities, Reginald Pole was not altogether free in his movements abroad. He could not accept an invitation from the pope to visit him at Rome without first obtaining Henry’s permission, or without, at least, expressing a hope that his majesty would not be offended if he repaired to the eternal city. Henry did not deign to reply, but he induced Reginald’s mother and brothers, Cromwell, and his friends at home, together with some members of both houses of parliament, to endeavor to deter him from the journey and from accepting any office that might be offered him in Rome. For a time, therefore, he resisted the importunities of his friend Contarini, and declined the purple held out to him by Pope Paul III; for he knew that in accepting it he should make the king his implacable enemy and expose his family to cruel persecution. But other circumstances arose, which made the cardinalate appear desirable; and he accepted it about Christmas, 1536, and trusted that it might in the issue aid him in accomplishing the main purpose of his life. That purpose was the recovery of England, in part at least, if not entirely, to the Catholic faith. The rising in England which he had predicted had taken place. The suppression of the monasteries had filled the faithful in the north with indignation, and from the Wash to the borders of Scotland the people in general flew to arms. They bore on their standards the emblems of faith, and the image of Christ crucified was carried in their front. The revolt was styled the “Pilgrimage of Grace,” and its object was not the overthrow of the throne or the sovereign, but the removal from him of all evil counsellors and “villein’s blood.” It is deeply to the disgrace of Englishmen that they did not rise to a man and support the cause of freedom and religion against the worst of tyrants. Pole was anxious to afford the insurgents all the assistance in his power, and to remove from them and from the English in general any pretext for acquiescence in the changes forced upon them. A legate’s commission was granted him, and he was instructed to land in England, or to hover over its coasts in France or Flanders as circumstances might require. He knew not whether the insurrection were crushed, or whether Henry, on the contrary, were in the power of the rebels. He therefore manœuvred with the English government till things should take a decisive turn, and executed his commission with delicacy and dexterity. His professed object was to receive in Flanders such commissioners from the king as he might think proper to send for the purpose of discussing the points at issue between the government and the pope. He brought with him as credentials five letters; one to the Catholic people of England; a second to James of Scotland; a third to Francis King of France; a fourth to the Regent of the Netherlands; and a fifth to the Prince Bishop of Liege. He was ready to treat with Henry on any reasonable terms, and hopes were still entertained at Rome of England’s being reconciled to the holy see. He was instructed to exhort the emperor and the King of France to cease hostilities against each other, and to turn their arms against the Turks. By this means they would forward the supreme pastor’s design of convening a general council for the reformation of manners and the reconcilement of nations which had fallen from the faith to the unity of Christendom.

No sooner had Pole entered France than the English ambassador there required that he should be delivered up, and sent as a prisoner to England. The lengths to which Henry VIII had gone altered the position of his Catholic subjects, and to be faithful to God and the holy see was to be nothing less than a traitor. Reginald Pole especially had incurred this charge, and as soon as it suited Henry’s purpose, he preferred it against him without scruple. The king of France refused to deliver him up, but he requested Pole not to ask for an audience, and to prosecute his journey as speedily as possible. A treaty with England obliged the French government to give no shelter to political offenders, and Pole was compelled to turn aside from Paris and repair to Cambray. His welcome there was no warmer than in France. The Regent of the Netherlands had been terrified by Henry, and Pole was conveyed under an escort to Liege. A price of fifty thousand crowns was put on his head by the king of England, and four thousand auxiliaries were offered to the emperor to aid him in his campaign against France, provided he would deliver up the person of the cardinal into Henry’s hands. The hatred of the king became implacable, and he pursued Pole ever after with the most murderous intentions.

From his watch-tower at Liege, Reginald beheld with bitter regret the failure of every attempt at insurrection in England. Alternate hopes and fears preyed on his mind. Conspiracy against the king seemed to offer the only chance of averting the triumph of Protestantism in England. Rebellion assumed in his eyes a sacred character, and every insurgent who fell wore the glory of martyrdom. He would willingly have seen his relations plotting against the author of untold evils to mankind. But a rumor was spread abroad of his life being in danger; that assassins were employed by Henry to murder him; and the holy father, anxious to preserve so valuable a life, recalled him to Italy. He was bent on publishing his book in defence of the church’s unity, and desired to do so under the pope’s auspices. In a letter to his secretary, Michael Throgmorton, Cromwell, who was then Henry’s chief adviser, heaped reproaches upon Pole for his treason, dared him to publish his book if he thought fit, defended his master’s resistance of papal authority, and intimated that Henry could find means to avenge himself on Cardinal Pole, even though he should be “tied to the pope’s girdle.” The times, it must be confessed, were most painful and trying; wickedness in high places forced many persons from their allegiance against their will who would have been, under happier circumstances, the most loyal and devoted of subjects. The mind of Cardinal Pole was deeply imbued with a love of the Catholic religion, and wherever he might be, whatever he might be doing, his unique object was its reëstablishment in his beloved and native land.

In June, 1538, we catch a glimpse of Cardinal Pole among the orange-groves that skirt the water’s edge on the beautiful bay of Nice. Hither he came as attendant on the pope in a congress which resulted in a truce between France and Spain. But the name of Henry VIII was not mentioned in the treaty on which the sovereigns agreed. The pope and the princes were left free to act toward him or against him as they might think fit.

In the beginning of the year 1539 Pole’s book was printed, and sown broadcast over Europe. Many additions had been made to it, and the excesses into which King Henry had rushed increased the vehement indignation of the author. The pope, also, at the same time, issued his bull of deposition against the apostate prince. His crimes could no longer be endured; the putrid member must be lopped off from the body of the church. Cardinal Pole himself was despatched on another mission, the object of which was to arouse the Emperor Charles V. to an invasion of England. He addressed an apology to the emperor explaining his conduct, lest his majesty should fail to see how fealty to the King of kings may sometimes oblige a subject to disown allegiance to an earthly sovereign.

Meanwhile, another rising was meditated in England. The Pilgrimage of Grace had failed, but the moment was propitious for another attempt. The Catholic forces of the empire would be stirred against Henry by the pope and Cardinal Pole, and the pacification of Nice had brought Europe into the condition most adverse to the schismatic king. The plot was discovered by the government, and suspicions fell on the relatives of Pole. He was believed to have been in correspondence with them, and to have excited them to conspire and rebel. His brother, Sir Geoffrey Pole, turned king’s evidence, and his accusations were accepted as truthful; though the word of a traitor to his own party is as much to be despised as himself. Knowing, as we do, that the heart of Cardinal Pole was burning with a desire of Henry’s overthrow, it will be to us a question of small interest whether he really instigated his friends to revolt or not. Neither shall we be very careful to inquire into the validity or invalidity of the charges against his kinsfolk. If faithful to the king, they were unfaithful to God; if rebels against his authority, they were valiant for the truth. The evidence obtained in their disfavor was presumptive only; it proved, indeed, something as to their general tendencies; but it was not sufficient for their just condemnation. They had one crime which could not be pardoned; they were near relations of Reginald Pole. The king had not a more dangerous enemy than he beyond the seas; and the accused persons were all of them more or less of royal blood; all capable, on occasion, of setting up a rival claim to the throne, and making their descent, titles, property, and influence means of supplanting the reigning prince. The Marquis of Exeter, Lord Montague, and Sir Edward Neville were beheaded on Tower Hill, December 9th, 1538. Lady Salisbury was made to endure a cruel imprisonment, and deprived of all her property; nor could she even purchase a warm garment to protect her aged limbs. When more than seventy years of age, she was brought to the block. “Blessed are they that suffer for righteousness’ sake,” were her last words. The effect of these judicial murders on Cardinal Pole’s mind may easily be conceived. Other injuries may be forgotten or forgiven, but this shedding of the blood of innocent and beloved relatives is a crime that never ceases to cry to heaven for vengeance.

Pole’s mission to Charles V. produced little effect. Some warlike demonstrations were made against Henry, but the emperor soon assured the legate that it was impossible for him at that time to proceed further. Reginald Pole was bitterly disappointed. Again his hope of the church’s triumph and Henry’s discomfiture was blasted. He saw the wicked in great prosperity and flourishing like a green bay tree. But his strength and consolation was in the inner life. “For me,” he wrote, “the heavier the load of my affliction for God and the church, the higher do I mount upon the ladder of felicity.” There were those who accused him of nourishing a hope that he should one day be king of England; but perhaps they have ascribed to him what was only the foolish dream of some fond admirers.

This legation was a mockery and a cross. He was bandied about from Toledo to Avignon; from Charles V. to Francis. Neither sovereign could be induced to unite against the king of England. Francis refused to receive the legate unless he brought with him some written pledge of the emperor’s sincerity, and Charles refused to give that pledge unless the cardinal had first been received by Francis. Pole saw that he was cajoled by both.

Once more he vacated diplomatic functions. Once more he retired within the cloister at Carpentras, to hide his face in mourning and prayer, to ponder the torments of his saintly mother, and fix his weeping eyes in solitude on the image of his crucified Lord. The emperor had tamely declined to fight the battles of Jehovah, and his supineness added wormwood to Pole’s bitter cup. Paul III had compassion on his distress, and need of his counsels. He recalled him from his retreat near Avignon—from the ruins of the Temple of Diana at Carpentras, to the life and energy of Christian Rome.

The hatred of Henry toward Cardinal Pole was increased by this last attempt to band the most powerful princes of Europe against him. “Judgment of treason” was pronounced on him in England; and efforts were made to induce foreign governments to deliver him up. His steps were tracked by spies; his goings in and out were watched; and he believed the poniards of assassins to be often brandished near him. His aged mother, the venerable Countess of Salisbury, was brought to the block, as we have already mentioned. No examination had extracted evidence of her guilt; no ground for a criminal prosecution could be discovered. She was attainted without previous trial or confession; for Henry and his abject minion, Cromwell, were as indifferent to the forms of law as to the substance of justice. Her name, together with that of Pole’s nephew, the son of Lord Montague, and that of Gertrude the Marchioness of Exeter, was introduced into a bill of attainder, though neither of them had confessed any crime or had been placed upon trial with means of defence. The marchioness was pardoned in six months; of the fate of the young man no record remains; but the aged countess, who was the last in a direct line of the Plantagenets, who was the nearest relation in blood that Henry had, and of whom in former days the king had often said that she was the holiest woman in Christendom, was dragged from the tower to the scaffold after a confinement of two years, and commanded to lay her head on the block.

“My head,” she replied, “never committed treason. If you will have it, you must take it as you can.”

The executioner performed his office while the head was held down by force. Reginald Pole ever after regarded himself as the son of a martyr, and accounted that a higher honor than to be born of a royal line.

His long residence abroad after his mother’s death was not marked by events of sufficient importance to require very special record. At Rome, the pope granted him a guard, that he might be protected from plots against his life contrived by the revengeful Henry. He corresponded largely with persons of distinction in various countries, and his letters, which were published at Brescia (Brixia) in five volumes quarto, in 1754-57, under the editorship of Cardinal Quirinus, are highly circumstantial, and contain abundant matter of historical interest and closely connected with the lives of Pope Paul III, the Emperor Charles V, the King of Scots, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. In 1562, a work of his appeared, entitled, De Concilio Liber; and in the same year, at Rome, edited by P. Manutius, Reformatio Angliae, ex decretis Reginaldi Poli Cardinalis. Two volumes, quarto. The book on councils was written by Pole as president of the Council of Trent in 1545; and Phillips, in his life of him, speaks of it as

“A treatise which, for perspicuity, good sense, and solid reasoning, is equal to the importance of the occasion on which it was written, and shows at once the reach and ease of the author’s genius, and the goodness of his heart. The preface by Manutius is long, and one of the most elegant compositions in the Latin language.”

Cardinal Pole’s life of exile, therefore, was neither idle nor fruitless. The labors which his hand then wrought remain to this day, and are highly prized by all who love to trace the stream of history to its fountain head. The year after Cromwell’s disgrace and death (1541) Pole was appointed Governor of the Province of the Patrimony of Saint Peter—the only part of the States of the Church which is now left to the Bishop of Rome. By this kindness on the part of Paul III, the cardinal was relieved of a disagreeable dependence on foreign princes for his daily expenses. His government was marked by wisdom, gentleness, and moderation. He always discouraged severity, though he held firmly the right of the church to punish offenders. His leisure hours were devoted to literature, and in the writings of ancient and modern poets and sages he often forgot, for a time, the miseries of his country, and the dangers which, even in Italy, beset his own person.

Disorders among the clergy, a general corruption of morals, the schism of Luther, and the excesses of Calvin conspired to make a general council the obvious and only remedy that could be applied. Cardinal Pole and two other legates were nominated by Pope Paul III to preside at the Council of Trent in the year 1542. But the sittings were suspended amid the din of arms, and renewed three years later in the same city. Cardinal Pole then presided again, having on his journey been tracked from place to place by ruffians employed by Henry VIII to dispatch him at all hazards. Such atrocity, however, did not exasperate Pole unduly, nor cause him to forfeit his character for clemency and moderation. It was, on the contrary, objected to him in Italy, as afterward in England, that he was too lenient. It was even laid to his charge, and made an argument against his being raised to the popedom, that during his administration as governor two persons only had been put to death. He lived, alas! in an age when laws were sanguinary, and human life was comparatively of trifling account.

Cardinal Pole rendered valuable assistance in the early stages of the Council of Trent; but in 1546, he was obliged to discontinue his sittings and retire, first to Padua, and afterward to Rome, in consequence of ill health. The decree of the council concerning justification, as it now stands, was revised and completed by him. It is a monument of luminous and concise statement of scriptural truth, and perfectly reconciles passages at first sight discrepant in the epistles of Saint Paul and Saint James.

When Henry VIII was gone to his account, and the young Edward mounted the vacant throne, Cardinal Pole made two unsuccessful efforts to incline the thoughts of that young prince favorably toward the true and ancient religion. But Edward VI in his tender years was surrounded by persons who made it their business to misrepresent every thing connected with the Catholic Church. The boy-king was thus made the tool and victim of crafty and ambitious men, who reared the structure of their own fortunes out of a pile of sacrilege.

When Paul III died in November, 1549, Cardinal Pole was at the head of his council, and governor of Viterbo. The larger part of the cardinals were desirous of electing him to the vacant chair; but the number of votes required being two thirds, the choice did not ultimately fall on him. It was not the design of Providence that he should either be pope of Rome or king of England; yet he was very near being the successor of Paul III on one occasion, and the husband of Mary, Queen of England, on others. During the sitting of the conclave he wrote an essay, which was afterward published, on the duties of the papacy. But the period was not without its trials. Envious detractors arose, and charged him not only with being too lenient in the government of Viterbo, but also with favoring the modern errors. It often happens that when good men avoid severity, their clemency is blamed; when they are gentle and charitable toward heretics, their orthodoxy is impugned.

There was near the lake Benacus, (now Garda,) in the neighborhood of Verona, a spot named Maguzano, where stood, in Cardinal Pole’s time, a monastery of Benedictine monks. To this retreat the cardinal turned when, in 1553, he obtained the pope’s consent to resign his government of the province of Viterbo. His duties as governor had compelled him frequently to visit Rome, and that city, which should have been the abode of peace and piety, was filled with tumult and discord, in consequence of the dissensions between Julius and Henry II of France. Many of the cardinal’s dearest friends were no more. Contarini, Bembo, Sadolet, Cortesius, Badia, and Giberti, Bishop of Verona, slept the sleep of death, while Flaminius and Victoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara, had also gone down to the grave. Cardinal Pole, therefore, was fain to retire beforehand from a transitory world, and seek once more in the shade of the cloister the peace that passes all understanding and the prospect of a heaven near at hand.

But it was with him as with so many others who have betaken themselves to a spiritual retreat, and bidden farewell to the busy world at the very moment when Providence intended to call them into greater publicity and more active service than ever. Edward VI died on the 6th of July, 1553, the same day of the same month on which his father had stained his hands in the blood of Sir Thomas More. The Princess Mary ascended the throne. She was a zealous Catholic, and if she had only understood the temper of her subjects; if she had not attempted to annihilate a too powerful minority; if she had been content to encourage the ancient faith without persecuting the adherents of the new religion; if she had married an Englishman, or indeed any one but a Spaniard, to whom, on account of his nationality, her people were unalterably averse, she might have prolonged her life and made her reign happy; she might have been one of the greatest sovereigns of her age; she might have established Catholicity in England on a permanent footing; she might have bequeathed to her sister Elizabeth a system of tolerant government, and have taken it out of her power to persecute Catholics in her turn, and to supplant and vitiate entirely the old religion of the land.

No time was lost by the holy father, Julius III, in sending Cardinal Pole to England as legate. Before setting out on his journey, he entered into correspondence with the queen, in order to be certified of her good dispositions, and received from her the warmest assurances of welcome and support. She was, in fact, in the early part of her reign, too eager to announce her future policy, and would have done more wisely if she had followed the counsel of the Emperor Charles V, who warned her “not to declare herself too openly while the issue of affairs was yet uncertain.” The successive rebellions of Northumberland in favor of Lady Jane Grey, and that of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ought to have made her be prudent, and avoid above all things pressing matters to extremity. She knew how deeply the nobles and rich men of her realm were implicated in the crime of sacrilege, and how tenaciously they clung to the spoils of abbeys and church lands of which they had become possessed. Scarcely a day passed without some indication of the insecurity of her tenure of power—without some warning of the necessity of ruling with impartiality and moderation.

Cardinal Pole was on his way to England, when he dispatched from the Tyrol two messengers, one to the King of France, and the other to the emperor, informing them of his instructions to negotiate, if possible, a peace between them in the name of the pope. Charles V., however, was by no means disposed to let Pole proceed quietly on his journey. He was bent on marrying his son Philip to Mary, and he feared that the cardinal might be either a rival of his son or an adversary of the match. He refused, therefore, to see the legate, stopped him in the heart of Germany, and caused him to return to Dillingen, on the Danube. Here he received instructions from Rome to wait until circumstances should clear his path; and here too he learned that the articles of the queen’s marriage had been agreed to, and the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt suppressed. But the chief obstacle to Pole’s presence in England being removed, the emperor consented to receive him at Brussels, and Mary consulted him by letter as to the bishops whom she should appoint to fill the sees of those whom she had removed. The new prelates were carefully selected; and when the Catholic religion was again proscribed in the succeeding reign, one of them only, Kitchin of Llandaff—the calamity of his see—who had changed with every change of the court, abjured the faith of Christ and adopted that of Queen Elizabeth.

Pole was still unable to obtain the emperor’s permission to cross over to England, because the marriage of Mary with Philip had not yet been celebrated. The delay was truly afflictive to the cardinal and the queen, and the negotiations carried on by Pole between the emperor and the king of France produced little effect. At last the emperor yielded to Mary’s entreaties; Pole’s legatine powers, though already very ample, were enlarged; and he was permitted to accept the invitation of the Lords Paget and Hastings, with a train of gentlemen, sent to Brussels for the purpose of escorting him to his native country. He was empowered to reconcile England to the holy see on such conditions as he should think proper and feasible, particular faculties being given to him to dispense with the restitution of church property and ecclesiastical revenues. His agreeable manners and amiable address pointed him out as the fittest man in the world to execute so difficult a commission; and the English ambassador at Brussels, writing of him to Mary, said,

“His conversation is much above that of ordinary men, and adorned with such qualities that I wish the man who likes him the least in the kingdom were to converse with him but one half-hour; it must be a stony heart which he does not soften.”

The bill required for the reversal of Cardinal Pole’s attainder was passed in November, 1554. It stated that the only reason for the attainder had been the cardinal’s refusal to consent to the unlawful divorce of Queen Mary’s father and mother, and its repeal restored him to all the rights which he had forfeited through his probity. The legate having taken leave of the emperor, set out the next day in princely style, accompanied by one hundred and twenty horse. A royal yacht and six men of war were in readiness to receive him at Calais. The wind itself was propitious to his voyage, and, having been rough and contrary for several days, suddenly changed its direction, and wafted the apostolic messenger safely to the British shore.

The legate, when he landed at Dover, was received and welcomed by his nephew, Lord Montague. He was treated as one of the royal family, and on his arrival at Gravesend, he was met by the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Bishop of Durham. They presented him with the act by which his attainder was reversed; and in his character as legate he proceeded with them up the Thames in a royal barge, at the head of which shone conspicuously his silver cross. Masses of spectators lined the banks, and a large number of smaller barges followed him up the river till he arrived at Whitehall, then the residence of the court. The chancellor with many lords, the king, and the queen with the ladies of her court, welcomed him with affectionate joy. The palace of Lambeth, which Cranmer had exchanged for a prison, was richly furnished for his use, and on the morrow, the 28th of November, the lords and commons assembled expressly to hear from the legate’s own lips the object of his coming. The address which he delivered was long and impressive; it dwelt on the dismal condition of nations cut off from the unity of the church; and it set forth the abundant blessings which would follow from the purpose of the holy see and the queen being accomplished in the formal reconciliation of England to the communion of the Bishop of Rome. On the next day, which was the feast of Saint Andrew, the parliament met again, together with the king, the queen, and the legate. The nation, like a scattered and harried flock, was received once more into the fold of the church by general consent, amid deep emotion, praises, and tears of joy. Yet many who were present had misgivings about the permanence and solidity of the union thus affected. They remembered the recent rebellion in favor of Lady Jane Grey, the rising of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the countenance supposed to be given to the rebels by the Princess Elizabeth, the extreme unpopularity of the Spanish alliance, and the haughty, violent character of Gardiner, the chancellor, and of Bonner, the Bishop of London. Events unfortunately justified these apprehensions, and made the short reign of Mary, for reasons which we shall presently enumerate, a dismal failure and an instalment of endless disaster.

The day after the reconciliation, the lord mayor and other civic authorities waited on the legate, and requested him to honor the city with a visit. Accordingly, on the first Sunday in Advent he went by water from Lambeth, landed at Saint Paul’s wharf, and proceeded in great pomp to the cathedral, where high mass was celebrated in presence of their majesties and the court. The sermon was preached by Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, who took occasion to confess the share which he had in the national guilt, and to implore his hearers, who had been influenced by him when he went astray, to follow him now that he had recovered the right path. It was certainly asking a good deal, since Gardiner himself had sat with Cranmer and pronounced the sentence of divorce between the king and Catharine. He had also maintained the royal supremacy, and sold his pen to Henry’s caprice.

The bill which was framed to effect the restoration of the Catholic religion in England was very comprehensive and carefully worded. It distinguished minutely between the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and guarded against what legists are accustomed to consider the encroachments of the latter. It secured to the owners of church lands the undisturbed possession of their property wherever it had been legally conveyanced; and without this concession the legate’s mission would have proved fruitless. It was followed by a release of state prisoners, and by an embassy being sent to the Roman see. Before it had reached its destination, Pope Julius III died, after a pontificate of five years. He was succeeded by Marcellus, who reigned only three weeks, and by his decease opened the door for renewed exertions to raise Cardinal Pole to the papal chair. It was the third time that Pole’s friends had used all their influence in his behalf. In the conclave which elected Julius III, Cardinal Farnese had nearly succeeded in procuring his election; in the proceedings which issued in the choice of Marcellus, the same cardinal had obtained letters from the king of France in Pole’s favor; and now again, when Caraffa was chosen and took the name of Paul IV., it was not the fault of Philip, Mary, or Gardiner that the tiara did not light on the head of Reginald Pole.

Having mediated a peace successfully between France and the emperor, Pole was appointed, by Philip’s special request, chief of the privy council. He was to be absent from the queen as little as possible, and nothing of importance was to be undertaken without his concurrence. Pope Paul IV., however, did not look favorably on Cardinal Pole, and had, even at this time, some thought of recalling him to Rome. Meanwhile the legate with Gardiner made a slight attempt to arouse the University of Oxford from its lethargy in respect to human learning, and a short time afterward, before the end of the year 1555, Gardiner being dead, the cardinal convoked a national synod to consider the disorders of the period, and the best means of stemming the torrent of depraved morals and strange forms of unbelief.

It is not our purpose to enter into the history of the severe measures which were adopted for the extirpation of heresy in England, and which we may, with the light which subsequent events have cast upon them, with reason suspect to have been extreme and injudicious. We are concerned only with the history of Cardinal Pole, and every thing goes to prove that he always preferred lenient to severe measures, so far as he considered it compatible with the welfare of religion and the safety of the throne. As for Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and other principal personages who were put to death, they deserved their fate on account of the numerous treasons and crimes which they had committed, or to which they had been accessory; and Elizabeth herself might with perfect justice have been brought to the block, from which she was saved only by the influence of Gardiner, for conspiring against the crown of her sister. The whole number of victims brought to the scaffold was only from two to four hundred, and numbers of those who escaped into Ireland were sheltered and concealed from legal pursuit by the Irish Catholics, who have suffered death by thousands for the sake of religion, but have scarcely ever inflicted it on others. The fanatics and demagogues, who with the cowardly and blood-thirsty instincts of their species are seeking to stir up the American people, “who will not rise, in spite of their prayers and their prophecies,” against the Irish Catholics of the United States, will do well to remember this fact, or rather, as such persons always forget what does not suit their purpose, the intelligent and honest citizens of this republic will do well to remember it, when these mischief-makers attribute to their Catholic fellow-citizens any ulterior design or hope of ever seeking to propagate their religion in this country by violent means.

As for Cardinal Pole himself, even Mr. Froude acknowledges that he was “not cruel.” Burnet testifies that he rescued the inhabitants of his own district who were condemned to death from the hand of Bonner. His secretary, Beccatelli, informs us that “he used his best endeavors that the sectaries might be treated with lenity, and no capital punishment inflicted on them;” and he himself declares that he approved of putting heretics to death only in extreme cases. Rigorous and severe punishments upon all classes of offenders, coercive measures and the stern exercise of authority were, however, according to the spirit of that age in every country, and it is not strange that the milder counsels of the gentle Pole were over-ruled, and that he was unable to hinder the executions desired by those who had the supreme power of the law in their hands. The administration of Mary was severe and despotic. Yet it is false to say that in her spirit and intentions she was cruel or tyrannical. What appears to us like an unnecessary and even impolitic rigor and vindictiveness against those who, by the laws of England, were rebels against both the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of the realm, was to a great extent due to the importunate counsels of the lay-lords. Even Bonner and Gardiner would gladly have pursued a milder policy, and the majority of the bishops and ecclesiastics, notwithstanding the atrocious persecutions to which they had been subjected under Henry and Edward, would have cordially sustained their primate if he had been left free to exercise his authority unimpeded by the interference of the civil power. Yet, though Mary’s policy was severe, it was mercy itself compared to that of Henry, Elizabeth, and their Protestant successors. It is not only an atrocious calumny; it is a grim and dismal jest for the panegyrists of Elizabeth, and the exculpators of the hideous massacres of Cromwell, to affix the epithet of “bloody” to Queen Mary. Moreover, it is not a mere question of a greater or lesser amount of bloodshed which should govern our award of justice in respect to the two cases. There is a difference of principle in the case, which an impartial Jew, Mohammedan, infidel, or even Protestant can and ought to admit, as some have admitted. Those persons who, in England or elsewhere, have been put to death by the civil power for the crime of heresy under the Catholic law, have been condemned for abjuring that religion in which they had been brought up, and which had been part of the law of the land, as well as the universal and traditional belief of the nation, from the beginning of its formation, or at least for centuries. Even if the principles of law by which they were condemned are pronounced tyrannical and unjust, it is plain that there is no parity between the case of a ruler acting on such principles, in common with other rulers of the time and of past ages, and according to maxims universally approved by jurists and statesmen, and one who compels his subjects to renounce their ancient laws and religion, and to abjure the faith in which they have been educated, at his individual whim and caprice. But although we are not disposed to abandon Queen Mary to her calumniators, we may give to Cardinal Pole the high honor of having been wiser than she was, or than her other counsellors were, and of having been in advance of the general spirit of his age in regard to the wisest and best method of treating religious errors, which had taken too deep a root to be summarily plucked up by a violent effort; and with these few remarks upon a topic which requires much greater space for a satisfactory discussion, we proceed with the personal history of the cardinal.

After Cranmer’s execution, Cardinal Pole, who had hitherto been in deacons’ orders, was ordained priest, consecrated bishop, and invested with the pallium as Archbishop of Canterbury. His works of piety were numerous; he founded religious houses, preached, prayed, and watched for souls in all respects as one that must give account. He was made chancellor of the University of Oxford, by the resignation of Sir John Mason, and chancellor of that of Cambridge also, on the death of Gardiner.

To a sensitive mind there is no greater anguish than that which springs from the hostility of those whom it has faithfully served. This suffering it was Cardinal Pole’s lot to incur. His whole life had been devoted to God, the church, and the holy see. For these he had endured exile, persecution, and the loss of all things. For their sakes he had seen his mother and his dearest relatives dragged to the scaffold. In their cause he had studied, written, toiled, prayed, and wept till his hairs were gray. As their defender and champion he had been welcomed to England by his cousin and sovereign, raised to the head of the English church, and made the chief instrument in bringing back the ancient religion. But having done so, having given every proof a prelate could give of his devoted attachment to his religion, having twice been on the very steps of the papal throne, with what agony must his spirit have been tortured when he found, as he did find, that he was in disfavor with Paul IV.; that he was superseded as legate; that he was recalled to Rome; and that, to crown the cup of bitterness, he and his friend, Cardinal Morone, were to answer to a charge of heterodoxy before the Inquisition.

“Does Almighty God, therefore,” he wrote to the pontiff, “require that a parent should slay his child? Once, indeed, he gave this precept when he commanded Abraham to offer in sacrifice his son Isaac, whom he tenderly loved, and through whom all the promises made to the father were to be accomplished. And what are now the preparations your holiness is making but so many forerunners of the sacrifice of my better life, that is, of my reputation? For in how wretched a sense must that pastor be said to live who has lost with his flock the credit of an upright belief?… Is this sword of anguish, with which you are about to pierce my soul, the return I am to receive for all my services?”

Happily for the cardinal, Mary and Philip took his part. They remonstrated with the pope on the loss which they and their subjects would sustain if Pole were recalled, and they prevailed with the holy father so far that he consented to the cardinal’s retaining the see of Canterbury, while he appointed Peto, the Greenwich friar, to supersede him as legate. Quite in the spirit of her father, Mary caused the nuncio who brought this decision to England to be arrested, and interdicted Peto from accepting the legatine office. He never received any official notice of his appointment, nor Pole of the papal decision. He was, however, too loyal a subject of the pope to avail himself of this regal interference. He ceased to act as legate, and sent his chancellor to Rome with entreaties and protests. Again the pope required that Pole should appear in Rome to clear himself from the charge of heresy; and Peto was summoned there also to assist the pontiff with his advice. Proceedings against the English cardinal were already commenced, and the distressing state of things was set at rest only by the death of some of the principal actors. Peto, the rival legate, died, and while the affair was still in suspense the grave closed over the disappointed, despairing queen, and the broken-hearted cardinal. He was attacked by a quartan ague, and, feeling conscious of his approaching end, he made a will, in which he protested his attachment to the Church of Rome and especially to Pope Paul IV., from whom he had experienced treatment which seemed equally inexplicable and unkind. His last hours were passed in acts of devotion, and it was probably with supreme satisfaction that he laid his aching head on the pillow of death on the morning of the 18th of November, 1558. His friend, cousin, and sovereign had preceded him in the dark valley by only twenty-two hours, and he felt, no doubt, that his most powerful if not his best friend was no more. Elizabeth was already queen, and her Protestant tendencies were well known. There was every reason to suspect that she would reverse the religious system restored by her sister, and take advantage of the general unpopularity which Mary by her severity had incurred. There was one object only for which Cardinal Pole could reasonably wish to prolong his life, and that was to clear himself from the extraordinary charge which had been brought against him by calumniators. But it was the will of Providence that his fair and unspotted fame should be vindicated only after his death.

During forty days the palace at Lambeth was hung with black. An altar was placed in the apartment of the deceased cardinal, and masses were said constantly for the repose of his soul. His body was then conveyed to Canterbury with great pomp, and his funeral was followed by large numbers of citizens and clergy. The exalted rank of Cardinal Pole, the important part he had played in the history of his time, and the high offices he had filled made him an object of reverence to the multitude, who knew not, and did not even suspect, the intrigues of which he was the victim and the humiliating charge under which he lay.

We shall not endeavor in this place to follow the example of his indiscriminating panegyrists. Suffice it to say that he was a devoted son of the church, and that he did all in his power to resist the impious will of the tyrant with whom Providence had brought him face to face. His zeal for the conversion of England was laudable, though not crowned with the success which it deserved.

In his youth he had written a commentary on Cicero’s works; but this was never printed, and the manuscript was lost. He excelled in exposition of the Scriptures, which were his constant study and delight. “His character,” Mr. Froude allows, “was irreproachable; in all the virtues of the Catholic Church he walked without spot or stain.” He was honored with the friendship of men of great distinction, such as Sir Thomas More, Erasmus, Sadolet, Bishop of Carpentras, Bembo, Friuli, Paul III, and Ignatius Loyola. His forgiving disposition may be gathered from the fact that when three English ruffians came to Capranica to murder him, were arrested on suspicion, and confessed that they were emissaries of Henry VIII, he would only allow them to be condemned to the galleys for a few days. His clemency, as we have seen, in a relentless age, caused him to be suspected; and we have the testimony of Bishop Burnet, the Protestant historian of the Reformation, to assure us that

“such qualities and such a temper as his, could he have brought others into the same measures, would probably have gone far toward bringing back this nation to the Church of Rome; as he was a man of as great probity and virtue as any of the age he lived in.”

– text taken from the article “Cardinal Pole” in the June 1870 edition of Catholic World, author not listed

Prayer of Saint Colga

main article for Saint ColgaI beseech the intercession with thee, O holy Jesus, of thy Four Evangelists, who wrote thy Divine Gospel, viz., Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I beseech the intercession with thee of thy four chief Prophets, who foretold thy Incarnation, Daniel, and Jeremiah, and Isaiah, and Ezechiel.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the nine degrees of the Church on Earth, from the Psalm-singer to the Bishop.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the elect who have taken these degrees from the commencement of the New Testament to this day, and who shall adopt them from this day to the day of judgment.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the nine degrees of the Heavenly Church, viz., Angels and Archangels, Virtutes, Potestates, Principatus, Dominationes, Throni, Hirophin, Sarophin.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the noble Patriarchs, who foretold thee through the spiritual mysteries.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the twelve Minor Prophets, who figured thee.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the Twelve Apostles, who loved, and who desired, and who adhered to, and who followed, and who chose thee before all others.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all thy sons of pure virginity throughout the world, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament, together with the youthful John, thine own bosom child.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the repentant saints, with Peter the Apostle.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the perfect virgins of the world, with the Virgin Mary, thine own Holy Mother.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the repentant widows, with Mary Magdalene.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all righteously tempted persons, with afflicted Job, who was visited with tribulations.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy martyrs of the whole world, both of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, from the beginning of the world to Eli and Enoch, who shall suffer the last martyrdom on the brink of the judgment; with Stephen, with Cornelius, with Cyprian, with Lawrence, with Georgius, with Germanus.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy monks who made battle for thy sake throughout the whole world, with Eliam, and with Elisium, in the Old Testament; with John, with Paul, with Anthony, in the New Testament.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the chosen of the Patriarchal Law, with Abel, with Seth, with Eli, with Enoch, with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the chosen of the written Law, with Moses, with Jesu, with Calep, with Aaron, with Eliazar, and with Jonas.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the chosen of the Law of the Prophets, with Elias and with Elisium; with David, with Solomon.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the chosen of the Law of the New Testament, with thine own Holy Apostles, and with all the saints to the end of the world.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy bishops who founded the ecclesiastical city in Jerusalem, with Jacob of the knees, thine own holy brother.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy bishops who founded the ecclesiastical city in Rome, with Lin, with Cleit, with Clement.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy bishops who founded the ecclesiastical city in Alexandria, with Mark the Evangelist.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy bishops who founded the ecclesiastical city after them, with the Apostle Peter.

I beseech the intercession with thee of the holy Innocents of the whole world, who suffered crucifixion and martyrdom for thee, with the two thousand one hundred and forty youths who were murdered by Herod in Bethlehem of Juda, with the boy Ciric.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the hosts of the perfect, righteous elders, who preached of thee in their old age, and their perfection, and their righteousness, with Eligib in the Old Testament, and with the noble, perfect, righteous elder Simeon, at the beginning of the New Testament, who caught thee upon his wrists and upon his knees and upon his arms, rejoicing over thee, when he said: Nunc dimitte secundum tuum Domine secundum verbum tuum in pace. Quia viderunt oculi mei salutem tuam. Quod parasti antefaciem omnium populorum lumen adrevelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the holy disciples, who learned all the spiritual knowledge, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the seventy-two disciples.

I beseech the intercession with thee of all the perfect teachers, who preached the spiritual sense (??a??), with the seventy-two disciples themselves, and with the Apostle Paul, that thou take me this night, O Holy Trinity, under thy protection and shelter, and with ardour to defend me and to protect me from the demons with all their solicitations, and from all the creatures of the world; from the desires, from the transgressions, from the sins, from the disobediences, from the dangers of this world; from the pains of the next; from the hands of enemies and all dangers; from the fire of Hell and eternity; from disgrace before the face of God; from the pursuit of demons, that they prevail nought with us in our passage to the other world; from the dangers of this world; from every person whom God knows to be unfriendly to us throughout the ten points of the Earth. May God put away from us their fury, their power, their valour, their bravery, their cunning; may God light up meekness, and charity, gratitude, and mercy, and forgiveness in their hearts, and in their thoughts, and in their souls, and in their minds, and in their bowels.

O Holy Jesus

O Beautiful Friend.

O Star of the Morning.

O Full Noonday Sun.

O Resplendent.

O Noble torch of the righteous, and of the truth, and of the eternal life, and of eternity.

O Fountain ever new, everlasting.

O Heart’s-love of the illustrious Patriarchs.

O Longing of the Prophets.

O Master of Apostles and Disciples.

O Bestower of the Law.

O Precursor of the New Testament.

O Judge of the Judgment Day.

O Son of the Merciful Father, without a Mother in Heaven.

O Son of the truly perfect Virgin Mary, without a father on Earth.

O true brother of the heart.

For the sake of thy consanguinity, hear the supplication of this poor miserable being, that thou receive the offering for all Christian Churches and for myself.

For the sake of the Merciful Father, from whom thou didst come unto us upon Earth.

For the sake of thy Divinity, which that Father modified so as to receive thy humanity.

For the sake of the Immaculate Body from which thou didst come (wert formed) in the womb of the Virgin.

For the sake of the Spirit with the seven forms, which descended upon that body in unity with thyself and with thy Father.

For the sake of the holy womb from which thou didst receive that body without destruction of virginity.

For the sake of the holy following, and the holy pedigree from which that body descended, from the body of Adam to the body of Mary.

For the sake of the seven things which were foretold of thee on Earth, namely, thy conception, thy birth, thy baptism, thy crucifixion, thy burial, thy resurrection, thy ascension, thy coming to the judgment.

For the sake of the holy tree upon which thy side was torn.

For the sake of the innocent blood which trickled upon us from that tree.

For the sake of thine own body and blood, which are offered upon all the holy altars which are in all the Christian Churches of the world.

For the sake of all the scriptures in which thy news is recorded.

For the sake of all the truth in which thy resurrection is recorded.

For the sake of thy charity, which is the head and the top of all the testaments, ut dicitur, caritas super exaltat omnia.

For the sake of thy royal kingdom, with all its rewards and glorious gifts and music.

For the sake of thy mercy, and thy forgiveness, and thy loving friendship, thy own bountifulness, which is more extensive than all wealth, that I may obtain the forgiveness and the annihilation of my past sins from the beginning of my life to this day, after the words of David, who said: Beati quorum remissæ sunt iniquitates et quorum tecta sunt peccata, id est: dispense, and give, and bestow thy holy grace and thy holy spirit to defend and shelter me from all my present and future sins; and to light up in me all truth, and to retain me in that truth to the end of my life, and that thou receive me at the end of my life into Heaven, in the unity of illustrious patriarchs and prophets, in the unity of Apostles and Disciples, in the unity of Angels and Archangels, in the unity which excels all unities, that is, in the unity of the bright, holy, all-powerful Trinity, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit. For I can effect nothing unless I effect it in the language of the Apostle Paul, who said: Quis me liberavit a corpore mortis hujus peccati nisi gratia tua Domine Jesu Christe qui regnas in secula seculorum. Amen.

Catholic World – Catholic Christmas

ChristmasThe evening of the last day of the church’s advent arrives. She gathers her ministers around her, and, singing hymns of glad expectation, they remain in her temples, even until midnight. Let us listen to the grand harmony!

Divided into two vast bodies, they peal forth the verses of the royal prophet in alternate chorus; and who could tire hearkening? Well does Durendus say, that “the two choirs typify the angels and the spirits of just men, while they cheerfully and mutually excite each other in this holy exercise.” We fancy ourselves among the choirs of heaven, as St. Ignatius once was in spirit, when he learned the method of alternate chanting.

Oh! whose heart does not yearn toward the church in these her days of longing! She has laid away from her all that is dazzling and joyous; yet is she most charming. Anxious love, like a sun, burns over her, altering her color; yet is she all beauty—bright and rich and warm—her aspect teeming with purity and love and inspiration. “I am black, but beautiful.” (Cant. i. 4)

It is midnight. Long since men ceased from their labors. The din of traffic has been hushed for hours. Yet there is a sound through all the world. From every city and town and village, from spire-crowned hill and from holy valley, from numberless sweet nooks and by-ways, it swells forth, the sound of a grand harmony, the voices of myriads chanting. Now the tones speak of longing; now they tremble with expectation; then there is a burst of rapture following the mellow warbling of desire. It is the voice of the church longing for her Beloved! She shall be gratified, for even now there is a knocking at her temple gates. The chant is hushed, and a voice, gentle as the lisping of a child, breathes the sweet entreaty, “Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled; for my head is full of dew and my locks of the drops of the night.” (Cant. v. 2.) Yes, lovely Babe, gladly will the temple-doors open to thee; for many a long and weary mile did thy mother journey with thee beneath her heart!

Winter ruled the earth. Chill blew the breezes, and coldness was over all nature. Shivering had the aged saint and Mary asked for shelter, but the inns were filled, and none in Bethlehem would trouble to receive them. Riches were not theirs, and all saw that the unknown mother’s time was near; hence, fearing they might have to look to the child, they shut her from their dwellings. The only place of refuge her holy spouse could find for his charge was a cheerless stable, hollowed from a rough, cold rock. The ox and the ass were their only earthly companions; hay and straw formed the rude couch upon which the mother brought forth her child at midnight. Jesus! Saviour! she wraps thee scantily in swaddling-clothes, and lays thee shivering in a manger. Well then may the dew and the drops of the night hang heavy upon thy locks!

But, though in Bethlehem these unknown travellers were outcasts, God did not desert them. The glimmerings of adoring angels’ wings fell upon the mother’s eyes to comfort her heart, for there were angels near in numbers. They hovered over and within the hut, making it ring with the most blessed hymn that mortal or angelic ears had ever heard: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good-will.”

Instantly upon this knocking the church rises to open to her Beloved, and now begins her joy. Now she will celebrate his birthday, and her heart leaps high in bidding him welcome. Her torches, her sanctuary lamps, the countless candles on her altars, all are lighted with the speed of love; their shining shows her spouse that she was so full of expectation, so confident of his coming, that she has already cast away her weeds of mourning and desire, and has arrayed her charms in her most precious robes. Evergreens and tapestry are twining and glowing all about her—in her niches, upon her piers, her arcades, her parapets, her cloister-galleries, her massive stalls, her carved and fretted ceilings. Her altars and her sanctuaries have festoons and garlands, and crowns of sweetest design, and veils and hangings of choicest embroidery. She peals her bells and sweeps her fingers over her organ-keys, and tunes her many instruments, to fill her temples with the rapturous canticle of the day, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.”

But let us circumscribe our views. As we may behold the joy of the universal church in even her smallest division, let us see how, in the good old Catholic times, the simplest villagers celebrated the first day of the Incarnate Eternal!

The few rich men among them have sent stores of flowers and fruits from their conservatories to deck the green branches gathered in the forest. Pious ladies have brought in the various ornaments, which they have been preparing for weeks, as an offering for their new-born Saviour. The happy pastor and many of his spiritual flock have been busy in the church four days, disposing the decorations with untiring ingenuity and taste.

Now it is almost midnight. The skies are clear and studded with twinkling stars. Ice is over all the streams, snow is over all the streets and fields, and weighs down the trees. Stillness is upon the the village, yet not the stillness of slumber. You can see that something is transpiring which takes not place at other midnights; for lights are glimmer through the cottage-windows, and, now and then, cheerful forms are seen passing to and fro. They are all expecting, and they shall not be delayed; for hark! suddenly a merry peal of bells bursts over them; joyously it rings forth—now in soft, sweet cadence, and now in swelling harmony. It pours along the streets and fills the village dwellings. It echoes through the cloudless vault, over the snowy fields and the glassy streams, reaching even the scattered hamlets in the distance. Suddenly and joyously the music bursts upon all:

“Adeste fideles, laeti, triumphantes
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.”
And the cottage-doors are thrown open, and groups of merry children sally forth gladly shouting, “Christmas, Christmas!”

Then the tapers are extinguished, and the villagers all hasten forth with holy eagerness to see their Jesus cradled in the manger; and, as they direct their steps toward the old church, they awaken the midnight echoes with that sweet old carol:

“Now the circling year have given
The joyful season, when from heaven
Life descended to the earth
In the Babe who took his birth
From our sweet Lady!

“Behold him in the manger laid,
Owned by the cattle of the shed,
Who know their God meanest bands
Enswathed by the tender hands
Of our sweet Lady!

“Now he smiles on Joseph blessed;
Now he seeks his mother’s breast;
Now he sobs, and now he cries,
All beneath the guardian eyes
Of our sweet Lady!

“Run, run, ye shepherds, haste and bring
Your simple homage to our King!
Ye heaven-called watchers, taste and see
Our God, meek-seated on the knee
Of our sweet Lady!”
Thus they stream along from every cottage, along every pathway toward the church, men, women, and little children, singing and chatting happily. Far off in the moonlit distance you see small parties hastening over the white plains from their scattered homes to mingle in the festival. How beautifully do they remind us of those happy shepherds who left their flocks near the “Tower of Ader,” and went over to Bethlehem, to see the word that had come to pass!

The bells continue pealing out their music to the midnight, and the church continues filling. Listen to the half-suppressed ejaculation of joyous surprise as each new group enters the holy place and beholds its charming decorations! Over every window’s curve, and hanging down by its sides, is a mighty wreath of evergreens. In front of every hallowed niche lights are burning, and wreaths of foliage hang over it. The pillars are all twined round and round, up to the very ceiling, with ivy, holly, laurel, intermingled with those berries that grow red in winter. But who shall describe the glories of the sanctuary! The arch that rises over it flows with the fullest folds of tapestry, white as snow, save where they are here and there interwrought with flowers of rose-hued silk and thread of gold, and intertwined with holly and laurel, and boughs of the orange-tree with its golden clusters. On the altar-steps are vases filled with evergreens, slender strings of ivy twisting around tall branches and bending gracefully between them down even to the floor. The altar is crowded with lighted candles, and along the intervals of the candlesticks flow festoons of slender branches, leaves, and flowers. A stole of flowers decorates the very crucifix; the tabernacle sparkles in its richest veil.

Oh! in olden times even a village church was grand beyond description; for then men took a pride in their religion. They loved to see God’s Bride in bridal splendor; they loved to see the Queen in regal vesture; they loved to see the Sister of the Church in heaven with something like heavenly glory around her. The rich man gave of his abundance, the poor man gave of his labor, ladies wrought embroidery—all in holy unison strained every nerve to make her temples beautiful.

Now the church has filled with kneeling forms. The rich and the poor, the lady and the servant, the laborers and they for whom they labor, here kneel side by side, they are all equal here, for they are all alike, are God’s own children, the brethren of the Babe of Bethlehem.

The steeple-bells have ceased to peal, for not a single thought must now wander outside. Eyes and ears and heart and soul and every feeling are intent upon the grand occurrences within.

Presently blue clouds of sweet incense are seen floating toward the sanctuary, and modestly there comes a youth swinging a silver censer; a long procession of little acolytes, clad in snow-white surplices and bearing lighted tapers, follow him slowly; a saintly looking priest, in precious vestments, closes the holy array. His youthful attendants are chosen boys of blameless life and pleading aspect: and, indeed, they look pure and innocent and cherub-like, as they dispose themselves around the holy place, and kneel toward the altar.

Then amid half-suppressed, repentant cries for “mercy on us,” swelling forth from the choir, the psalm is said—the psalm of preparation, of praise, of hope, of humble confidence: the confession is made; prayers for pardon, lights and gracious hearing are repeated. Then the priest ascends “unto the altar of God,” and whispers prayers, speaking rapturously of the “Child that is born to us, the Son that is given to us.” But look at hie countenance as he returns slowly to the middle of the altar; you can see that he is full of some grand event—his soul, his heart, his feelings, all hold jubilee. One more entreaty for mercy repeated again and again with passionate earnestness, and he raises his eyes and his arms as though about to ascend in ecstasy, and, like one inspired, he breaks forth in the angelic hymn, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” It is the signal of jubilee. Suddenly there is a burst of many little bells, shaken by the hands of the surpliced children, ringing out their silver music until the hymn is ended by the priest; the organ’s richest and fullest chords are struck, swelling forth in harmony like that which the rivers made in Paradise when they sang their first hymn of praise to him who set them flowing, and the full choir of trained voices burst forth: “Et in terra pax hominibus.”

Truly you think yourself at Bethlehem. It seems as though the Child were just born—as though you heard the heavenly hosts singing their grand anthem—saw the shepherds wondering and adoring—beheld the Infant lying in the manger, a fair, radiant, smiling little Babe, with an old saint beside it, leaning on his staff, and a comely virgin, in a trance of motherly affection, kissing its bright forehead. So these villagers seem to feel it all. A start of joy runs through the whole assembly, a radiance lights up every feature; friends kiss each other, fathers kiss their children, mothers kiss their little ones; a whisper runs from soul to soul through all the church—”Pax hominibus.”

Then follow collect, the epistle, the gradual, a gospel, all full of the grand event. And then the choir’s jubilee begins again, as the anointed one at the altar intones “Credo in unum Deum.” Who shall tell the stirless reverence of each prostrate form, as all bow yet lower at the words that still the mystery of the night! Softly the organ warbles in its mellowest keys; from the richest voice in all the choir sweetly flow the words “Et Homo factus est.” Every mind reflects, and every heart is melted.

Then comes the offertory; and all present, according to their various means, make their offerings for those “who serve the altar,” and for the poor. While the priest raises in offering the paten with the Post and the chalice with wine, the villagers also, kneeling, make an offering of their homage to their new-born Redeemer; and mothers lift their little ones to heaven in spirit, praying that they may advance “in wisdom and age and grace with God and men,” as did the Child of Mary. Then follows the washing of the heads, with its appropriate prayers; then, the secretas, the preface, the whispered prayers for God’s church, for friends and benefactors, for all the living faithful.

The moment of consecration draws nigh. Books are laid aside, hands are clasped upon the breast, every head is bent. The sweet voices in the choir have been hushed; the organ’s silvery tones, murmuring more and more softly, have at length died away, awe-stricken by the silence that fills God’s house. Yes! silence fills it, for silence now seems a something—a breathless, pulseless, but mighty spirit feeling all this temple, as the cloud of God’s glory once filled the tabernacle. You think you could almost most hear a spirit move, you feel as though you were among the angels when they waited breathless to behold the effect of the sublime utterance, “Let there be light.” Bending low in reverend humility, the priest in a whisper of awe speaks the almighty words, “This is my body,” “This is the chalice of my blood;” the light breathing of that whisper is heard even in the bosom of the Eternal Father, the golden gates of Paradise are thrown open, and God “bows the heavens and comes down.” He is here, this church is now the hut of Bethlehem, this altar is the manger; for the Child is born upon it as really as the Virgin-mother there brought him forth.

As when of old light was made, there was a music of the spheres, of the sun and moon and all the stars and planets, singing their morning hymn of gratitude, so is the stillness now also broken, so does the choir, warbling in swelling glee, burst forth in grand climax, “Hosanna in excelsis.” And in the mean time priest and people united utter to their new-born Saviour many rich and beautiful prayers for the living, for the faithful departed, for themselves.

The villagers are absorbed in prayer; it seems as though their fervor kept redoubling, as though the flames of holy love burned higher and higher every instant. Well they may, for the moment is approaching in which each heart will be a manger in which Jesus will be laid, each breast a tabernacle in which love itself shall dwell. Already there is a move among them; with modest gait, with clasped hands and downcast eyes, they advance to the sanctuary, the mystic bread is given to them line after line, and, bearing their God with them, they all return in reverence to give thanks, to petition for good things. Serenity is in their eyes and on their features, joy is in their hearts, rapture in their souls, peace among their feelings, and Jesus within their bosoms harmonizing all. O truly happy Christmas! O the bliss that now is theirs, the comfort of this moment! Well may the chanters hymn: “O Jesus, God! Great God! Good Pastor! Sweet Lamb! O Jesus, my Jesus! O Bread! O Manna! O Power! what dost thou not grant to man!”

Then praises and thanks are sung joyously by the priest, and his hand is stretched in blessing from the altar. The Mass is over, and the procession moves from the sanctuary, while the choir chants aloud, “Praise the Lord all ye nations, praise him all ye people. Because his mercy is confirmed upon us, and the truth of the Lord remaineth for ever.” (Ps. cxvi.)

The chant dies away, and for awhile not a sound is heard through all the sacred building. No one stirs as yet; all remain some time to return thanks, to allow the impression of the festival to sink deep into their souls. At length they rise, and bowing lowly toward the altar, they go forth. At the church-door hands are shaken, kisses given, warm embraces are exchanged, and joy and happiness and all the blessings of the Child’s nativity are wished and wished again.

But follow them home from their midnight celebration. For a long time the village slumbers not; lights glimmer through the cottage-windows, and within groups are kneeling around a little home-made oratory, with a little crib in the middle, and candles around it. This is of greater importance than the gathering around the yule-fire or the decked tree. Moreover, all did not go home when Mass was over. Go back to the church, and behold those silent figures praying in every posture that feeling can suggest. There, before that tabernacle, a mother prays the divine Child for her own babe; a virgin prays for purity like to that of the Virgin-mother; the child of misery seeks consolation from him who was born in a stable; many repeat over and over again the canticle of the angels, and all beg the blessings of him over whom the angels sang it. At length these also are gone; the lights are quenched about the altar, all, save the silver lamp which is never extinguished; all is still as was the stable when the shepherds had adored and gone back to their flocks.

But the festival of our Saviour’s birth is not over yet. “As the day comes round in music and in light;” you again see the villagers wending their way to the church; and a third time, when the sun is in the mid-arch of heaven. Each time is witnessed the same sublime celebration that we beheld at midnight; for three births of Christ are celebrated. His birth from the Father before lime began; his birth from the immaculate Virgin as a wailing babe at Bethlehem; his mystic birth, by faith and by the sacrament of love, in the heart of each humble adorer.

Such was Christmas in the happy olden times. Alas! that a blight should ever have come upon it. Truly they have not done well to despoil that village church of all its charming features. Well may the church exclaim, weeping: “The keepers that go about the city found me; they struck me, and wounded me: the keepers of the walls took my vail from me.” (Cant, v. 7.) Fondly do we trust she will soon again be clothed in splendor. The pope that reigned when England fell away grieved sadly for her fall. In his distress he put away the triple crown; and even now his statue sits uncrowned, with downcast eyes, as though his grief had hardened him to stone. But soon, we trust, he will again lift up his eyes. Soon, we trust, will his successors rejoiced to find the crown replaced, not by mortal, but by angel hands. Shall we not hope and pray that our own dear land, also, will form not the least brilliant jewel in that crown? One day this church will again deck herself with the flowers she once wore, but which rebellious hands toward to pieces, scattering the leaves around her. Then shall we once again celebrate the good old Catholic Christmas times, and celebrate them with the increased joy which is born of the wanderer’s returned. God granted it speedily!