Saint For The Afflicted, by Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D.

detail from the painting 'Martyrdom of Saint Dymphna and Saint Gerebernus' by Gerard Seghers, early 17th century; Staatsgalerie im Neuen Schloss, Schleißheim, Germany; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsCatholics for the most part are entirely unfamiliar with many of the glorious saints of Ireland. One such forgotten or unknown saint, who, on account of her spotless virtue and glorious martyrdom, is sometimes referred to as the “Lily of Eire,” is Saint Dymphna (pronounced: dimf-na).

Many details of the life of Saint Dymphna are lacking, but the outstanding facts of her short life, as well as the many miracles worked through her intercession after her death, are well known. Her life was written by a certain Peter, a Canon Regular of Saint Autbert’s Church in Cambray, France, in 1680. Other writers before him have written about her and entertained almost tender devotion toward her.

Dymphna was born in the seventh century, when Ireland was almost universally Catholic. Yet, strange to say, her father, Damon, a petty king or chieftain of Oriel, was a pagan. He was a man of great wealth and power, acquired by his success in many wars. Her mother was also of noble descent, exceptionally beautiful, and a devout Christian. Dymphna herself is said to have borne a striking resemblance to her mother and to have inherited both her beauty and charm of disposition. She was a most sweet and winsome child. Every affection and attention was lavished on her from birth. Heaven, too, favored her with special graces.

Dymphna was fourteen when tragedy struck the household. Her mother died and her father is said to have been afflicted with a mental illness, brought on by his grief. The girl was entrusted to the care of a devout Christian woman, who prepared her for Baptism. Father Gerebran, an old and venerable priest, baptized her. He was evidently a member of the household and later taught Dymphna her letters along with the truths of religion. A bright and eager pupil, she advanced rapidly in wisdom and grace. When still very young, Dymphna, like so many other noble Irish maidens before and after her, being filled with a deep love for Jesus Christ, chose Him for her Divine Spouse and consecrated her virginity to Him and to His Blessed Mother by a vow of chastity.

In a frantic effort to fill the void in his life caused by the death of his wife, Dymphna’s father sent messengers throughout his own and other lands to find some woman of noble birth, resembling his beloved wife, who would be willing to marry him. Their search was fruitless. Very likely filled with fear of punishments, they proposed another plan. They directed the king’s attention to the remarkable resemblance between Dymphna and her mother, both in physical beauty and charm of disposition, and suggested that he propose marriage to her.

Under the stress of mental illness and passion, the king was willing to follow this scandalous proposal. He tried to persuade Dymphna by promises of riches and flattering words. But she was filled with disgust by the persistent advances of her father, not only because she saw the evil of such a marriage, but also because she had already dedicated herself to a life of virginity and would have rejected marriage under any circumstances.

Dymphna laid the matter before Father Gerebran and upon his advice decided to flee from her homeland. He himself agreed to accompany her, together with two other friends, the court jester and his wife. The little group hurried to the coast. Faithful vassals rowed them across the mist-laden North Sea. They landed upon the Belgian coast near Antwerp. Fleeing inland, the fugitives made their way to Gelium – now Gheel – where hospitable villagers received the Celtic strangers into their homes. They found here a chapel dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, and decided to make their home near it. Dymphna soon made herself beloved by her tender care of the sick and poor.

Damon, very angry at the disappearance of his daughter, immediately set out in search of the fugitives. They were eventually traced to Belgium. When Dymphna’s father tried to persuade her to return with him, Father Gerebran rebuked him for his wicked proposal. In order to break down her resistance, the king gave orders that Father Gerebran should be put to death. Without delay, his wicked retainers laid violent hands upon the priest. With one blow of a sword his head was severed from his shoulders.

The death of her beloved spiritual guide only confirmed Dymphna’s resolution to resist unto blood, if needs be, herself. Her father again tried to persuade her to return to Ireland with him. This time she not only refused but even scorned his cruel threats. Infuriated by her resistance, he drew his sword and struck off the head of his daughter. She was then only fifteen years of age. Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom between the years 620 and 640.

The records of Dymphna’s life and death say that the bodies of the two martyrs lay on the ground for quite some time before the inhabitants of Gheel removed them to a cave. Some years later a more suitable b trial place was sought. When the workingmen, assigned to the task, entered the cave and cleared away the rubble, they discovered two beautifully sculptured tombs of pure white stone. They opened Dymphna’s coffin and found lying over her breast a red tile bearing the inscription: ‘Here lies the body of the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna.’ Her remains were placed in a small church of the town and kept there for many years.

* * *

Dymphna died to save her virginity from a violently insane father. Her martyrdom bears a striking resemblance to that of Saint Maria Goretti in our own century. So deep was the love of Dymphna for her unfortunate parent that she has spent her time in heaven curing mentally ill people. She has for this reason rightly deserved the title of the patron saint of those suffering from nervous ailments and mental afflictions.

The devout Catholic villagers of Gheel diagnosed the unnatural father as insane while they labelled Dymphna “Saint and erected a shrine over her remains. The relics of her body were placed in a golden reliquary and transferred to the magnificent church of Saint Dymphna, which was built upon the site of the original burial place. Many miracles began to occur at her shrine. On one occasion a violently insane person was brought to the church and blessed with Dymphna’s relics and was instantly cured. Novenas and applications of her relics brought about many other reported cures. These devotions and wonders continue to this day. Then began those strange pilgrimages of the deranged to pray at Dymphna’s shrine. When they brought their delusions and obsessions to be laid at the tomb of the martyred virgin, they were tenderly cared for by the hospitable villagers. Many of the pilgrims recovered their mental health, as is attested by the ancient records of the community which are still preserved.

This good work had been going on for many years when William, Bishop of Cambray, in 1247, caused an investigation of these remarkable cures. This resulted in the founding of the Infirmary of Saint Elizabeth at Gheel, an institution in charge of the nuns of Saint Augustine, who were brought from Mechlin, a city in north central Belgium. The Infirmary served as a place to care for mentally afflicted persons during their stay in Gheel.

Pilgrimages continued throughout the Middle Ages. Gradually it became an established custom for the pilgrims to remain in village homes while awaiting recovery. The villagers, who seemed to have a sixth sense in handling their strange guests, accepted their vocation as a religious duty.

Canon Peter states in his history of Saint Dymphna’s life: “We can hardly question the efficacy of her intercession being manifested by signs and wonders, frequently wrought among the people who had selected her as their special patroness.’

In 1316 Pope John XXII, in 1410 Pope John XXIII, and in 1431 Pope Eugenius IV testified in Apostolic Documents to the miracles worked through the intercession of Dymphna. She was canonized a saint and May 15 was set as her feast in commemoration of the day on which she was martyred. Her feast day is a national holiday in Belgium and is celebrated with great festivity.

Thus Sovereign Pontiffs and the Bishops have always shown their veneration for Saint Dymphna and have favored with indulgences the church which is built over the saint’s tomb – the tomb which God has favored with so many miracles wrought through her intercession. The afflicted and their friends who have invoked the name of Saint Dymphna have not found her wanting. Since she resisted courageously the insane, raging love of her father God has made her the special protectress oi all who are afflicted with nervous and mental disorders, and many miraculous cures at Gheel have established her in that title.

In 1636 Pope Urban VIII blessed and indulgenced the re-established Confraternity of Saint Dymphna, which exists today. Knowing of what had been done by the Confraternity of Saint Dymphna through the centuries, the late Archbishop John T. McNicholas, of Cincinnati, Ohio, considered it an ideal Confraternity to take over the apostolate of the nervous and insane in our own country. On 23 June 1940, a chapel to Saint Dymphna was dedicated on the Longview Hospital grounds, Cincinnati, and a League in her honor which offers many spiritual benefits has been established by the Archbishop.

The spot on which Saint Dymphna died at Gheel, Belgium, now houses one of the greatest (if not the greatest) medical centers in the world for care and treatment of mentally sick people. Since the thirteenth century it has been their haven of refuge. The population of the town today is only about 18,000, of which about 3,000 are patients. A goodly number of these, if not an actual majority, are being cared for in the homes of the townspeople themselves.

The pilgrimages to the Shrine of Saint Dymphna began in the seventh century and continued throughout the Middle Ages. For generations it has come to be recognized as a sign of good standing in the community to have, or have had patients in ones home. Nearly all the inhabitants of the town of Gheel are members of Saint Dymphna’s League and as such do all they can to assist in the cure of the patients. Religious orders established guest houses at Gheel for the deranged pilgrims; the city councilors erected comfortable brick cottages for the disturbed and the indigent. Thus began that intelligent and benevolent interest in the care of the mentally sick which continues to this day and has culminated in the famous Belgian Family Care Colonies, the great contribution made by Catholicism to psychiatry, which is now being practiced in all major European countries and in North and South America. May devotion to Saint Dymphna become a source of hope not only for those suffering from mental and nervous illness, but also for those whose friends and loved ones are so afflicted. May Our Lady, Health of the Sick and Comforter of the Afflicted, bring this message where it is needed most.

– text from the booklet Saint Dymphna, Patron of the Nervous and Emotionally Disturbed by Father Lawrence George Lovasik, S.V.D., 1961; it has the Imprimatur of + Bishop John Mark Gannon, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D., Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania

Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 35

Saint Severinus of CologneArticle

Matter of Expiation – Want of Respect in Prayer – Mother Agnes of Jesus and Sister Angelique – Saint Severin of Cologne – Venerable Frances of Pampeluna and the Priests – Father Streit, S.J.

We should treat holy things in a holy manner. All irreverence in religious exercises is extremely displeasing to God. When the Venerable Agnes ofLangeac, of whom we have already spoken, was Prioress of her convent, she very much recommended to her Religious respect and fervor in their relations with God, reminding them of these words of Holy Scripture, Accursed be he that doth the work of God with negligence. A sister of the community named Angelique died. The pious Superior was praying near her tomb, when she suddenly saw the deceased sister before her, dressed in the religious habit; she felt at the same time as though a flame of fire touched her face. Sister Angelique thanked her for having stimulated her to fervor, and particularly for having frequently made her repeat during life these words, Accursed be he that doth the work of God with negligence. “Continue, Mother,” she added, “to urge the sisters to fervor; let them serve God with the utmost diligence, love Him with their whole heart, and with all the power of their soul. If they could but understand how rigorous are the torments of Purgatory, they would never be guilty of the least neglect.”

The foregoing warning regards in a special manner priests, whose relations with God are continual and more sublime. Let them, therefore, remember it always, and never forget it, whether they offer to God the incense of prayer, whether they dispense the Divine Treasures of the Sacraments, or whether at the altar they celebrate the mysteries of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. See what Saint Peter Damian relates in his 14th Letter to Desiderius.

Saint Severin, Archbishop of Cologne, edified his church by an example of all virtues. His apostolic life, his great labors for the extension of God’s kingdom in souls, have merited for him the honors of canonization. Nevertheless, after his death he appeared to one of the canons of his cathedral to ask for prayers. This worthy priest not being able to understand that a holy prelate, such as he had known Severin to be, could stand the need of prayers in the other life, the deceased Bishop replied, “It is true God gave me grace to serve Him with all my heart and to labor in His vineyard, but I often offended Him by the haste with which I recited the Holy Office. The occupations of each day so absorbed my attention, that when the hour of prayer came, I acquitted myself of that great duty without recollection, and sometimes at another hour than that appointed by the Church. At this moment I am expiating those infidelities, and God permits me to come and ask your prayers.” The biography adds that Severin was six months in Purgatory for that one fault.

Venerable Sister Prances of Pampeluna, whom we have before mentioned, one day saw in Purgatory a poor priest whose fingers were eaten away by frightful ulcers. He was thus punished for having at the altar made the Sign of the Cross with too much levity, and without the necessary gravity. She said that in general priests remain in Purgatory longer than laymen, and that the intensity of their torments is in proportion to their dignity. God revealed to her the fate of several deceased priests. One of them had to undergo forty years of suffering for having by his neglect allowed a person to die without the Sacraments; another remained there for forty-five years for having performed the sublime functions of his ministry with a certain levity. A Bishop, whose liberality had caused him to be named almoner, was detained there for five years for having sought that dignity; another, not so charitable, was condemned for forty years for the same reason.

God wills that we should serve Him with our whole heart, and that we should avoid, in so far as the frailty of human nature will permit, even the slightest imperfections; but the care to please Him and the fear of displeasing Him must be accompanied by a humble confidence in His mercy.

Jesus Christ has admonished us to hear those whom He has appointed in His place to be our spiritual guides as we should Himself, and to follow the advice of our superior or confessor with perfect confidence. Thus an excessive fear is an offense against His Mercy.

On 12 November 1643, Father Philip Streit, of the Society of Jesus, a Religious of great sanctity, died at the Novitiate of Briinn in Bohemia. Every day he made his examination of conscience with the greatest care, and acquired by this means great purity of soul. Some hours after his death, he appeared all radiant to one of the Fathers of his Order, Venerable Martin Strzeda. “One single fault,” he said, “prevents me from going to Heaven, and detains me eight hours in Purgatory; it is that of not having sufficiently confided in the words of my Superior, who, in the last moments of my life, strove to calm some little trouble of conscience. I ought to have regarded his words as the voice of God Himself.”

MLA Citation

Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 34

Abbot Louis of BloisArticle

Matter of Expiation – Negligence in Holy Communion – Louis of Blois – Saint Magdalen de Pazzi and the Departed Soul in Adoration

To tepidity is allied negligence in the preparation for the Eucharistic Banquet. If the Church unceasingly calls her children to the Holy Table, if she desires that they communicate frequently, she always intends that they should do so with that fervor and piety which so great a mystery demands. All voluntary neglect in so holy an action is an offense to the Sanctity of Jesus Christ, an offense which must be repaired by a just expiation. Venerable Louis of Blois, in his Miroir Spirituel, speaks of a great servant of God who learned in a supernatural manner how severely these faults are punished in the other life. He received a visit from a soul in Purgatory imploring his aid in name of the friendship by which they had formerly been united. She endured, she said, horrible torments, for the negligence with which she had prepared for Holy Communion during the days of her earthly pilgrimage. She could not be delivered but by a fervent Communion which would compensate for her former tepidity.

Her friend hastened to gratify her desire, received Holy Communion with great purity of conscience, with all the faith and devotion possible; and then she saw the holy soul appear, brilliant with an incomparable splendor, and rise towards Heaven.

In the year 1589, in the monastery of Saint Mary of the Angels, in Florence, died a Religious who was much esteemed by her sisters in religion, but who soon appeared to Saint Magdalen de Pazzi to implore her assistance in the rigorous Purgatory to which she was condemned. The saint was in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament when she perceived the deceased kneeling in the middle of the church in an attitude of profound adoration. She had around her a mantle of flames that seemed to consume her, but a white robe that covered her body protected her in part from the action of the fire. Greatly astonished, Magdalen desired to know what this signified, and she was answered that this soul suffered thus for having had little devotion toward the August Sacrament of the Altar. Notwithstanding the rules and holy customs of her Order, she had communicated but rarely, and then with indifference. It was for this reason Divine Justice had condemned her to come every day to adore the Blessed Sacrament, and to submit to the torture of fire at the feet of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, in reward for her virginal purity, represented by the white robe, her Divine Spouse had greatly mitigated her sufferings.

Such was the revelation which God made to His servant. She was deeply touched, and made every effort to assist the poor soul by all the suffrages in her power. She often related this apparition, and made use of it to exhort her spiritual daughters to zeal for Holy Communion.

MLA Citation

Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 33

painting of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria, by Georg Andreas WasshuberArticle

Matter of Expiation – Tepidity – Saint Bernard and the Religious of Citeaux – Venerable Mother Agnes and Sister de Haut Villars – Father Surin and the Religious of Loudun

Good Christians, Priests, and Religious, who wish to serve God with their whole hearts, must avoid the rock of tepidity and negligence. God will be served with fervor; those who are tepid and careless excite His disgust; He even goes so far as to threaten with His malediction those who perform holy actions in a careless manner – that is to say, He will severely punish in Purgatory all negligence in His service.

Among the disciples of Saint Bernard, who perfumed the celebrated valley of Clairvaux with the odor of their sanctity, there was one whose negligence sadly contrasted with the fervor of his brethren. Notwithstanding his double character of Priest and of Religious, he allowed himself to sink into a deplorable state of tepidity. The moment of death arrived, and he was summoned before God without having given any token of amendment.

Whilst the Mass of Requiem was being celebrated, a venerable Religious of uncommon virtue learned by an interior light, that though the deceased was not eternally lost, his soul was in a most miserable condition. The following night the soul appeared to him in a sad and wretched condition. “Yesterday,” he said, “you learned my deplorable fate; behold now the tortures to which I am condemned in punishment for my culpable tepidity.” He then conducted the old man to the edge of a large, deep pit, filled with smoke and flames. “Behold the place,” said he, “where the ministers of Divine Justice have orders to torment me; they cease not to plunge me into this abyss, and draw me out only to precipitate me into it again, without giving me one moment’s respite.”

The next morning the Religious went to Saint Bernard to make known to him his vision. The holy Abbot, who had had a similar apparition, received it as a warning from Heaven to his community. He convened a Chapter, and with tearful eyes related the double vision, exhorting his Religious to succor their poor departed brother by their charitable suffrages, and to profit by this sad example to preserve their fervor, and to avoid the least negligence in the service of God.

The following instance is related by M. de Lantages in the Life of Venerable Mother Agnes of Langeac, a Dominican Religious. Whilst this Religious was one day praying in choir, a Religious whom she did not know suddenly appeared before her, miserably clad and with a countenance expressive of the deepest grief. She looked at her with astonishment, asking herself who it might be; when she heard the voice say distinctly, ” It is Sister de Haut Villars.”

Sister de Haut Villars had been a Religious in the monastery at Puy, and had died about ten years previous to this vision. The apparition said not a word, but showed sufficiently by her sad countenance how greatly she stood in need of assistance.

Mother Agnes understood this perfectly, and began from that day to offer most fervent prayers for the relief of this soul. The deceased was not content with the first visit; she continued to appear for the space of three weeks, almost everywhere and at all times, especially after Holy Communion and prayer, manifesting her sufferings by the doleful expression of her countenance.

Agnes, by the advice of her confessor, without speaking of the apparition, asked her Prioress to allow the community to offer extra prayers for the dead, for her intention. Since, notwithstanding these prayers, the apparitions continued, she greatly feared some delusion. God, however, deigned to remove this fear. He clearly made known to His charitable servant, by the voice of her angel guardian, that it was really a soul from Purgatory, and that she thus suffered for her negligence in the service of God. From the moment these words were uttered, the apparitions ceased, and it is not known how long that unfortunate soul may have had to remain in Purgatory. Let us cite another example, qualified to stimulate the fervor of the faithful. A holy Religious named Mary of the Incarnation, of the convent of the Ursulines, in Loudun, appeared some time after her death to her Superior, a woman of intelligence and merit, who wrote the details of the apparition to Father Surin of the Company of Jesus. “On November 6th,” she wrote, “between three and four o’clock in the morning, Mother of the Incarnation stood before me, with an expression of sweetness on her countenance that appeared more like that of humility than of suffering; yet I saw that she suffered much. When I first perceived her near me, I was seized with great fright, but as there was nothing about her that inspired fear, I soon felt reassured. I asked her in what state she was, and if we could render her any service. She replied, ‘I satisfy Divine Justice in Purgatory.’ I begged her to tell me why she was detained there. Then with a deep sigh she answered, ‘It is for being negligent in several common exercises; a certain weakness by which I allowed myself to be led by the example of imperfect Religious; finally, and especially, the habit which I had of retaining in my possession things of which I had no permission to dispose, and of making use of them to suit my needs and natural inclinations. Ah! if Religious knew,’ continued the good Mother, ‘the wrong they do their souls by not applying themselves to perfection, and how dearly they shall one day expiate the satisfactions which they give themselves contrary to the light of their consciences, their efforts to do violence to themselves during life would be very different. Ah! God’s point of view is different from ours, His judgments are different.’

“I asked her again if we could do anything to relieve her sufferings. She replied, ‘I desire to see and possess God, but I am content to satisfy His Justice as long as it shall please Him ‘ I asked her to tell me whether she suffered much. ‘My pains,’ she replied, ‘are incomprehensible to those who do not feel them.’ Saying these words, she drew near my face to take leave of me. It seemed as though I was burned by a coal of fire, although her face did not touch mine; and my arm, which had barely grazed her mantle, was burned and caused me considerable pain.”

A month later she appeared to the same Superior to announce her deliverance.

MLA Citation

Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 32

illustration of Saint Elizabeth and a Beggar, artist unknown; from 'Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Patroness of the Third Order', by Father Hilarion Duerk, OFM, 1919Article

Matter of Expiation – The Life of Pleasure – The Pursuit of Comfort – Venerable Frances of Pampeluna and the Man of the World – Saint Elizabeth and the Queen, her Mother

In our days there are Christians who are total strangers to the Cross and the mortification of Jesus Christ. Their effeminate and sensual life is but one chain of pleasures; they fear everything that is a sacrifice; scarcely do they observe the strict laws of fasting and abstinence prescribed by the Church. Since they will not submit to any penance in this world, let them reflect on what will be inflicted upon them in the next. It is certain that in this worldly life they do nothing but accumulate debts. Since they omit to do penance, no part of the debt is paid, and a total is reached that affrights the imagination. The venerable servant of God, Frances of Pampeluna, who was favored with several visions of Purgatory, saw one day a man of the world, who, although he had otherwise been a tolerably good Christian, passed fifty-nine years in Purgatory on account of seeking his ease and comfort. Another passed thirty-five years there for the same reason; a third, who had too strong a passion for gambling, was detained there for sixty-four years. Alas! these injudicious Christians have allowed their debts to remain before God, and those which they might so easily have acquitted by works of penance they have had to pay afterwards by years of torture.

If God is severe towards the rich and the pleasure-seekers of the world, He will not be less so towards princes, magistrates, parents, and in general towards all those who have the charge of souls and authority over others.

A severe judgment, says He Himself, shall be for them that bear rule. (Wisdom 6:6)

Laurence Surius relates how an illustrious queen, after her death, bore witness to this truth. In the Life of Saint Elizabeth, Duchess of Thuringia, it is said that the servant of God lost her mother, Gertrude, Queen of Hungary, about the year 1220. In the spirit of a holy Christian daughter, she gave abundant alms, redoubled her prayers and mortifications, exhausted the resources of her charity for the relief of that dear soul. God revealed to her that she had not done too much. One night the deceased appeared to her with a sad and emaciated countenance; she placed herself on her knees next to the bed, and said to her, weeping, “My daughter, you see at your feet your mother overwhelmed with suffering. I come to implore you to multiply your suffrages, that Divine Mercy may deliver me from the frightful torments I endure. Oh! how much are those to be pitied who exercise authority over others? I expiate now the faults that I committed upon the throne. Oh! my daughter, I pray you by the pangs I endured when bringing you into the world, by the cares and anxieties which your education cost me, I conjure you to deliver me from my torments.” Elizabeth, deeply touched, arose immediately, took the discipline to blood, and implored God, with tears, to have mercy on her mother, Gertrude, declaring that she would not cease to pray until she had obtained her deliverance. Her prayers were heard.

Let us here remark that, in the preceding example, there is spoken of a queen only; how much more severely will kings, magistrates, and all superiors be treated whose responsibility and influence are much greater!

MLA Citation

Purgatory Explained, Part 1, Chapter 31


Matter of Expiation – Scandal given – Immodest Paintings – Father Zucci and the Novice

Those who have had the misfortune to give bad example, and to wound or cause the perdition of souls by scandal, must take care to repair all in this world, if they would not be subjected to the most terrible expiation in the other. It was not in vain that Jesus Christ cried out, Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh! (Matthew 18:7).

Hear what Father Rossignoli relates in his Merveilles du Purgatoire. A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all conformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls.

True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them. They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination.

The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in the convent of the discalced Carmelites, when he was attacked by a mortal malady. Feeling that he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul. He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing piteously.

“What!” said the Religious, “have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?” “Alas!” replied he, “it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defense. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls.

“In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalize anyone.”

Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed. “I beg of you,” he added, “go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death.”

The Religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house.

If such are the consequences of an immodest picture, what, then, will be the punishment of the still more disastrous scandals resulting from bad books, bad papers, bad schools, and bad conversations? Vce mundo a scandalis! Vce homini illi per quern scandalum venit! “Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh!” (Matthew 18:7)

Scandal makes great ravages in souls by the seduction of innocence. Ah! those accursed seducers! They shall render to God a terrible account of the blood of their victims. We read the following in the Life of Father Nicholas Zucchi, written by Father Daniel Bartoli, of the Company of Jesus.

The holy and zealous Father Zucchi, who died in Rome, 21 May 1670, had drawn to a life of perfection three young ladies, who consecrated themselves to God in the cloister. One of them, before leaving the world, had been sought in marriage by a young nobleman. After she had entered the novitiate, this gentleman, instead of respecting her holy vocation, continued to address letters to her whom he wished to call his betrothed, urging her to quit, as he said, the dull service of God, to embrace again the joys of life. The Father, meeting him one day in the streets, begged him to give up such conduct. “I assure you,” he said, “that before long you will appear before the tribunal of God, and it is high time for you to prepare yourself by sincere penance.”

In fact, a fortnight afterwards, this young man died, carried away by a rapid death, that left him little time to put the affairs of his conscience in order, so that there was everything to fear for his salvation.

One evening, whilst the three novices were engaged together in holy conversation, the youngest was called away to the parlor. There she found a man wrapped in a heavy cloak, and with measured steps pacing the room. “Sir,” she said, “who are you? and why did you send for me?” The stranger, without answering, drew near and threw aside the mysterious mantle which covered him. The Religious then recognized the unfortunate deceased, and saw with horror that he was entirely surrounded by chains of fire that clasped his neck, wrists, knees, and ankles. “Pray for me!” he cried, and disappeared. This miraculous manifestation showed that God had had mercy upon him at the last moment; that he had not been damned, but that he paid for his attempt at seduction by a terrible Purgatory.

MLA Citation

An American Lourdes, by H Clifford Wilbur


Although Americans, of all creeds are familiar with the history of the beautiful Mohawk valley, many Protestants of this country are not aware of the existence of a pilgrim shrine in the very heart of the historic vale. Yet for more than two hundred years Catholics of America and Canada have visited this spot, where the zealous Jesuit missionary, Isaac Jogues, suffered torture and death at the hands of the savage Mohawks, and where the shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs stands to commemorate his work among the Indians and his martyrdom for the Faith. To the thousands of Catholics who from far and near to worship at this shrine and visit the holy stream whose waters are said to possess healing power, the quaint little town of Auriesville, New York, has become the Lourdes of America. Each year, during the summer months, when the pilgrimages are in progress, throngs of penitents and tourists, attracted by the history of the shrine and the beauty of the surroundings, visit the little village. Many wonderful cures are said to have been wrought here, and many instances of divine favor to pilgrims have been recorded.

The name of Isaac Jogues is graven deep in the history of the Empire State, and the strenuous efforts now being made by the Jesuits of America for the canonization of Jogues are followed with keen interest by Protestants and Catholics alike. The pilgrimages during the past year have been, consequently, unusually large; and should the Holy See grant the request and give the state of New York a saint of its own, Auriesville may some day become the Mecca of American pilgrims.

* * * * * * *

The beautiful valley of the Mohawk is famous for its historical associations and Indian lore, and the history of this American Lourdes is as picturesque as its environment. It dates back to that early time when the Mohawk held undisputed sway in the valley which today bears his name, and his tribe dotted the ground up on which the shrine now stands. On the site of the village of Auriesville was the Indian settlement of Ossernenon, one of the largest of the Mohawk villages and a favorite gathering place of the tribe. Those were troubled times. The Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, now New York and the settlement of Van Rennsalaerwyk, now the city of Albany, were struggling on, while trading posts marked the sites where today stand the cities of Schenectady and Amsterdam. The French, through the Jesuits, had established missions among the Hurons and were pushing steadily southward among the Mohawks and Iroquois, but the Mohawks, averse to white men and Christianity, hunted down missionaries and converts with relentless vigor.

It was in the summer of 1642 that Father Jogues, then stationed at the French post at Quebec, undertook to carry supplies to a mission among the Hurons. Accompanying Jogues on his journey was Rene Goupil, a young helper at the Canadian mission. Both Jogues and Goupil had spent many years among the Indians of Canada, and amid the greatest hardships had worked zealously for their religion. Yet all the sufferings they had endured were as nothing to those they underwent on that memorable journey down the Saint Lawrence River. The Iroquois and Mohawks were on the war-path; the missionaries were surrounded and captured by Mohawks and carried by way of the lakes, now Lake George and Lake Champlain, to the Indian village of Ossernenon. Of the horror of that march Jogues gives but a faint idea in his account of the capture, and how these men of civilized France lived through the terrible punishment administered by the Mohawks at this time is a marvel. It took three days to reach Ossernenon. Torn and bleeding from the cruel blows, tottering and bent under the heavy burdens they were compelled to carry, the missionaries struggled on. At one Iroquois village, after the captives had been made to run the gauntlet, the Indians cut the end of each forefinger from Jogues’ hands. At another, the priest was dragged to a fire and compelled to hold one of his fingers in the flame until it had partly burned away; another finger was crushed to a pulp. Yet their courage never failed, and even the Indians marvelled at the bravery of their white captives. When Ossernenon was reached, the whole tribe joined in the celebration. Between rows of cruel savages the missionaries staggered up the hill leading to the Indian village, buffeted this way and that by the blows of their persecutors. At the entrance to the village Goupil fell, exhausted with pain, and Jogues, his great heart pitiful for his frail companion, lifted him and carried him inside the palisades.

For weeks Jogues and Goupil dwelt in captivity, suffering inconceivable tortures, but in spite of their fearful torments they contrived by cutting the sign of the cross on the bark of trees, to keep it ever before the eyes of the people of the tribe. For his skill in medicine young Goupil was particularly feared and hated. While at prayers one night he was tomahawked, and his body was thrown to the dogs. Risking his life to give his companion Christian burial, Jogues carried the mangled remains to a ravine a little west of the village and secreted them under a large rock in a little brook, and later, under the cover of darkness, he buried the body on the bank of the brook, which today is the holy stream of Auriesville. For thirteen dreary months Jogues was a captive among the Mohawks. During that time he learned the language of the tribe, and in spite of the tortures labored zealously for souls. In the autumn of 1643, he made his escape, and after a perilous journey reached the Dutch settlement of Van Rennsalaerwyk. The Dutch had made overtures for the release of the missionaries, but to no avail, and the Mohawks, enraged at the loss of their captive, demanded from them a heavy ransom. To prevent a massacre of the colony and the surrounding trading posts, it was paid.

By Christmas of that year, Jogues was in France, where he was treated with great honor by Church and Court. The queen regent. Anne of Austria, person ally summoned him to Paris, and, it is said, wept bitterly over his maimed hands. The missionary’s stay in France was of short duration, however, for, longing to establish a mission among the intractable Mohawks, he returned to Montreal, and in the year 1646 under took to conclude the peace treaty talked of between the whites and the savages.

Accompanied by a member of the French post and several Indian allies, Father Jogues set out for Ossernenon, where the council was to be held. The return of the intrepid, priest to the scene of his former sufferings was signalized by much pomp and ceremony, and protestations of friendship from the leaders of the tribe, who had seemingly forgotten the wrongs they had inflicted upon him. After the treaty had been successfully concluded, Jogues expressed a desire to remain and establish a mission in the settlement, but the Mohawks, fearing war with one of the upper nations, urged his departure, so he bade farewell to the tribe and returned to Montreal. He was determined, how ever, to establish missions among the Mohawks; and in September of the same year, accompanied by an adventurous young Frenchman, Jean de la Lande, he set out on his third journey to Ossernenon. When within a few leagues of the settlement, they were surrounded by treacherous Mohawks, and again the brave missionary entered the palisades of Ossernenon, a prisoner. For days, Jogues and de la Lande were horribly tortured. Then, on the morning of October 18. two years after the massacre of Rene Goupil, they were put to death, their bodies thrown into the Mohawk River, and their heads placed upon the stockade.

Until the destruction of the Mohawk villages by the French, in 1656, many other missionaries were put to death in the village of Ossernenon. The French were determined to push southward, and the zeal of the Jesuits, sent to pave the way by establishing missions among the tribes, did not flag in the face of the fiercest opposition. The Mohawks invariably received the missionaries with fair words and pleasant promises; but fearful tortures and death were sure to follow, and the village of Ossernenon, from its bloody history, came to be known as the “Mission of the Martyrs.”

It was held by the French as a mission from 1656 to 1684, when the Mohawk missions were abandoned, owing to the war between the French and English, and the blood-stained little mission in Ossernenon was closed forever.

* * * * * * *

To perpetuate the memories of the brave men who perished in Ossernenon, a shrine was erected two hundred years later upon the site of the Indian village of Ossernenon under the name of Our Lady of Martyrs. The hill upon which it stands embraces nearly the whole site of the old Indian village, and is reached by a winding, willow-bordered road called the Hill of Prayer, up which Isaac Jogues and Rene Goupil marched one bright August day in 1642, between rows of savage Mohawks who thirsted for their blood. On the spot where the youthful Goupil fell stands a memorial cross on which is written a history of the shrine. On this cross, also, is a tribute to the memory of Kateri Tekakwitha, the Iroquois maiden, born in the year 1656 in an village, now the town of Fonda. She eagerly embraced the Catholic faith, and for this was cruelly persecuted by the Mohawks. Because of her angelic purity and holiness she was called the “Lily of the Mohawks,” and as such she is commemorated at the shrine. During her captivity in Ossernenon, she escaped and fled to Canada, where she spent the remainder of her life.

On the brow of the hill, its gilt cross showing far down the valley, is the shrine itself. Near it is the chapel, a pretty, rustic structure, where Mass is said and the Sacraments administered to the pilgrims. In the chapel are the votive offerings, the most beautiful and costly of which are a golden crown of thorns and a gold chalice. The crown of thorns, which is modeled after that with which the artist, de Fleury, crowned his head of Christ, is thickly studded with precious stones, the offerings of grateful pilgrims. The chalice, which contains thirty ounces of pure gold, is a magnificent piece of work. About the cup is a band of seraph heads, surmounted by a row of diamonds, with a row of pearls underneath. Precious stones adorn the stem, and the base is profusely covered with sapphires, diamonds, emeralds and garnets.

In a little log house, once a chapel, is a valuable collection of Indian relics. This is of especial interest to the visitor, as most of the curios are associated with the history of the valley, and have been collected around Auriesville. Near this building are the cottages of the Jesuit fathers in charge of the shrine.

One of the most interesting spots at Auriesville is the ravine, a secluded, pine-shaded glade, where Jogues hid the body of Rene Goupil in a little brook, under a large rock, before burying it on the bank of the stream. To this ravine the pilgrim repairs to bathe his brow, in the form of a cross, with the limpid waters of this holy stream; for tradition says that the bones of the saintly young martyr imparted healing powers to these waters. Here one sees the maimed, the halt and the blind, kneeling in fervent prayer beside the stream, beseeching heaven that they may be healed of their afflictions. The scenes attending the pilgrimages, indeed, are most impressive. Out in the open, the processions of devout pilgrims, led by black-robed priests, making the stations of the cross and chanting the plaintive strains of the “Stabat Mater;” at the shrine, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin; the prostrate penitents at the Calvary; the tragic figures in the gloomy ravine; while everywhere are the faithful saying the rosary.

The location of the shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs is especially reposeful and conducive to spiritual meditation, and looking from the shrine over the quiet vale today, it is hard to realize that here men suffered lingering torture and cruel death; for the beautiful valley, with its placid vista of wooded hills, gently sloping fields and graceful stretch of river, is today a veritable valley of peace.

MLA Citation

  • The Rosary Magazine, March 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 April 2018. Web. 25 April 2018. <>

The Saints of Erin – Saint Benignus, by J P O’Callaghan, B.A.


detail of a stained glass window Saint Benignus of Armagh, Saint Benin's Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland; artist unknown; photographed on 16 September 2010 by Andreas F Borchert; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThe story of Saint Patrick’s first meeting with Saint Benignus is a very beautiful one, and is charmingly told in Dr. Healy’s book, “The Island of Saints and Scholars.”

When the great apostle first came to preach the Gospel in Ireland he coasted northward, seeking a suitable spot to land, and, amongst other places, put in for a little while at the stream now called the Nanny Water, a little south of Drogheda. He there visited the house of a certain man of noble birth named Sescnen whom after due instruction he baptised, together with his wife and family. “Amongst the children there was one, a fair and gentle boy, to whom the saint, on account of the sweetness and meekness of his disposition, gave in baptism the appropriate name of Benignus. Shortly after the baptism, Patrick, wearied out with his labors by sea and land, fell asleep where he sat, as it would seem on the green sward before the house of Sescnen. Then the loving child, robed in his baptismal whiteness, gathered together bunches of fragrant flowers and sweet-smelling herbs and strewed them gently over the head and face of the weary saint; the child then sat at his feet and pressed Patrick’s tired limbs close to his own pure heart and kissed them tenderly. The saint’s companions were in the act of chiding the boy lest he might disturb Patrick, who thereupon awaking and perceiving what took place thanked the tender-hearted child for his kindness, and said to those standing by: ‘Leave him so, he shall be the heir of my kingdom,’ by which he meant, says the author of the ‘Tripartite Life,’ to signify that God had destined Benignus to succeed Patrick in the primatial chair as ruler of the Irish Church.”

After this the child and the saint were inseparable. In all his wanderings he was accompanied by the youth, whom he himself took care to instruct in all divine and human knowledge to fit him for his great destiny.

Saint Benignus, or Benen, had a very pleasing voice and possessed an extensive acquaintance with the chants of the Church, hence he was called Saint Patrick’s “Psalmist.” He was, according to the “Tripartite Life,” “adolescens facie decorus, vultu modestus moribus integer, nomine uti et in re, Benignus.” Hence it came about that Ercuat, the beautiful daughter of King Daire, fell deeply in love with him. Though as yet unbaptised she was, it seems, chiefly attracted by his sweet voice chanting in the choir. The incident and its result is thus related by Aubrey de Vere in his beautiful “Legends of Saint Patrick:”

“The best and fairest, Ercuat by name.
Had loved Benignus in her Pagan years.
He knew it not; full sweet to her’ his voice
Chanting in choir. One day through grief of love
The maiden lay as dead; Benignus shook
Dews from the font above her, and she woke
With heart emancipate that’ out-soared the lark
Lost in the blue-heavens. She loved the Spouse of Souls.”

This daughter of King Daire was one of the very first of our Irish maidens who received the veil from the hands of the great apostle. She spent the remainder of her holy life, along with several companions, making vestments for the priests, and altar-cloths for the use of the cathedral.

When Saint Patrick founded the churches and schools of Armagh (which he did about 450 A. D.) he chose as his coadjutor Benignus, his young and faithful disciple. Dr. Healy says it is generally stated that the latter died on the 9th of November, 468. “A short time before his death he is said to have resigned his primatial coadjutorship, for Saint Patrick was still alive, at least according to the much more general and more probable opinion which places his death in 492, at the great age of one hundred and twenty years.”

That celebrated Irish work called “Leabhar na g Ceart,” or “Book of Rights,” has been generally attributed to Saint Benen, or Benignus, though Dr. Healy is of opinion that there seems to be good reason for doubting if he was really its author, at least in its present form. O’Curry in his “Lectures on the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish,” says it contains a great portion of the law which in ancient Erin settled the relations between the several classes of society, and especially the relations between the local authorities and the central and provincial kings. “It gives,” says the Introduction to the edition published by the Celtic Society, Dublin, 1847 (quoted by O’Curry), “an account of the rights of the monarchs of all Ireland and the revenues payable to them by the principal kings of the several provinces, and of the stipends paid by the monarchs to the inferior kings for their services. It also treats of the rights of each of the provincial kings, and the revenue payable to them from the inferior kings of the districts or tribes subsidiary to them, and of the stipends paid by the superior to the provincial kings for their services.”

Professor O’Curry adds that this book was also called the “Law of Benen,” and the inscription on the book itself certainly attributes its authorship to the same learned and holy man – “The beginning of the ‘Book of Rights.’ which relates to the revenues and subsidies of Ireland, as ordered by Benen, son of Sescnen, Psalmist of Patrick, as is related in the ‘Book of Glendaloch.'”

Whoever wrote the book – and it is at least probable that Saint Benen furnished the first rough draft, though it was no doubt revised and extended subsequently – it is by all antiquarians acknowledged to be an exceedingly valuable authority on the entire internal organization of Ireland in these remote times.

But though there is some doubt as to Saint Benignus being the author of “Leabhar na g Ceart,” there is none at all as to his share in composing the “Senchus Mor,” that vast work which a competent authority has declared to be “the greatest monument in existence of the learning and civilization of the ancient Gaedhlic race in Erin.”

As is well known to all students of Irish history, one of Saint Patrick’s great est undertakings was the purification from paganism and the amending and extension of the great body of laws known as the “Brehon Code.” His labors in this respect claim special attention, for the Brehon Code prevailed in the greater part of Ireland down to the year A. D. 1600, and even still its influence is felt in the feelings and habits of the people. To carry out this stupendous task the national apostle appointed a commission of nine, consisting of three kings, three bishops and three men of science, or, as O’Curry calls them, “lay philosophers.” The three kings were Laeghaire, the Ard-Ri, or High King, Core, king of Munster and Daire, king of Ulster. The latter is supposed to have granted Armagh to Saint Patrick as a site for his church and schools. His daughter, as already mentioned, fell in love with Saint Benignus, but being cured of her earthly affection was received into the Church and took the veil from the hands of Saint Patrick.

The three holy bishops were Saint Patrick himself, Saint Benignus, or Benen, and Saint Cairnech, and the three men of science, “lay philosophers” or “antiquaries,” as the Four Masters style them, were “Dubhthach Mac Uahugair, Chief Poet and Brehon of Erin, Rossa, a doctor of the Berla Feini, or legal dialect, which was very abstruse, and Fergus, a poet who represented the most learned and influential class in the country.” The first meeting was in A. D. 438, and Dr. Healy says that “Benignus, being young and carefully trained by Saint Patrick, and also learned in the Irish tongue, in all probability acted as secretary to the Commission, and drafted with his own hands the laws that were sanctioned by the Seniors.”

The learned Bishop of Clonfert speaks with great authority on these matters, for he was one of the Commission appointed by the government for the publication of the Brehon laws. He, therefore, had peculiar sources of information, and being an eminent antiquarian and competent Irish scholar, he was able to make good use of his opportunities. In his great book, the “Island of Saints and Scholars,” he has given a most interesting account of the labors of the conference.

He begins by explaining that the Brehon Code, which Saint Patrick found in existence here when he came to our shores, owed its existence mainly to three sources: First, to decisions of the ancient judges given in accordance with the principles of natural justice, and handed down by tradition; secondly, to the enactments of the Triennial Parliaments, known as the great Feis of Tara; and thirdly, to the customary laws which grew up in the course of ages and regulated the social relations of the people. “This great code naturally contained many provisions that regulated the druidical rights, privileges, and worship, all of which had to be expunged. The Irish, too, were a passionate and war-like race who rarely forgave injuries or insults until they were atoned for according to the strict law of retaliation, which was by no means in accordance with the mild and forgiving spirit of the Gospel. In so far as the Brehon Code was founded on this principle it was necessary for Saint Patrick to abolish or amend its provisions. Moreover, the new Church claimed its own rights and privileges, for which it was important to secure formal legal sanction and to have embodied in the great Code of the Nation. This was of itself a difficult and important task.”

The “Senchus Mor” itself explains what led to the revision of the Brehon Code, and the explanation is very interesting. As is well known, the only life that was lost for the faith during Saint Patrick’s mission in Ireland was that of his charioteer, Odhran. He was killed by a miscreant who wanted to take the life of the saint and who mistook the servant for the master.

It was the duty of the chief Brehon Dubhthach (Subicic), who was one of the first to accept Patrick’s teaching at Tara, to pronounce judgment on the criminal. The occasion was, it is said, made use of by Saint Patrick and Dubhthach (or Duffy, as the name has been Anglicised) to convene an assembly of the men of Erin at Tara. Here the Chief Brehon explained all that Patrick had done since his arrival in Ireland, and how he had overcome Laeghaire and the Druids by his miracles and preaching.

“Then,” continues the volume, “all the men of Erin bowed down in obedience to the will of God- and Saint Patrick. It was then that all the professors of the sciences in Erin were assembled and each of them exhibited his art before Patrick in the presence of every chief in Erin. It was then, too, that Dubhthach was ordered to exhibit the judgments and all the poetry of Erin and every law which prevailed among the men of Erin through the law of nature and the law of the seers and in the judgment of the island of Erin and in the poets.”

According to O’Donovan, Saint Benen was also the original author of the famous chronicle called the “Psalter of Caskel.” This great work is generally ascribed to Cormac Mac Cullenan, who lived more than three hundred years later. It is ascribed, on the other hand, by Connell Macgeoghan, the translator of the “Annals of Clonmaenoise,” to no less a person than Brian Boroimhe (or Born). O’Donovan reconciles these conflicting statements by saying that Benignus probably began the work, that Cormac Mac Cullenan revised and enlarged it and made it applicable to his own times, and that Brian Boroimhe subsequently “re-edited” it in like manner.

Dr. Healy adopts this view, and gives a very interesting account of how the book came at first to be written. It seems that Saint Benignus was of Munster origin, though born in Meath. Saint Patrick, knowing his worth, sent him to preach especially in those districts which he was himself unable to visit. Hence Benignus, we are told, went through Kerry and Corcomroe in his missionary labors; but particularly devoted himself to southwestern Connaught, and built his chief church at Kilbannoa, near Tuam. He also specially built that province, the natives of which still affectionately revere the memory of the gentle saint with the sweet voice and winning, gracious ways.

“Now when the Munstermen heard of the preference and the blessings which Benignus gave to Galway, they were jealous and complained that he slighted his own kindred. So to please them Benignus went down to Caiseal (Cashel) and remained there from Shrovetide to Easter, composing in his own sweet numbers a learned book which would immortalize the province of his kinsmen and be useful, moreover, both to her princes and to her people.”

Such was Saint Benignus, Primate of Armagh, whose feast day is given as November 8th in the “Martyrology of Donegal.” The subsequent history of Armagh does not concern us here. Suffice it to say that the heirs of Saint Patrick and Saint Benignus were worthy of their glorious predecessors. The school was long one of the most celebrated in the world. Hither flocked crowds of students from all parts of Europe, and so many came from the land of the Saxons that a certain section of the town was entirely set aside for their residence and designated by a name that we would now translate “the English quarter.” Here they were received with true Irish hospitality, obtaining, according to the testimony,of one of their own contemporary writers – Venerable Bede – support, education, and books, free.

Here, too, was transcribed the “Book of Armagh,” that splendid volume whose beautiful penmanship and illuminations have excited the wonder and delight of all who have beheld it. It was copied in A. D. 807 from a still older work, and contains besides the oldest and most authentic “Life of Saint Patrick and his Confessions,” a complete copy of the New Testament and the life of Saint Martin of Tours. Though written throughout in Irish, many of the Gospel headings are in Greek characters, says Dr. Healy, and the last entry of all is a colophon of four Latin lines, but written in Greek characters, showing that even at this early date a knowledge of Greek was general in the Irish schools.

This latter fact and the learned labors of Saint Benignus himself are some of the things we ought to remember when we hear, as we often do nowadays, people who claim to be educated repeating the old shibboleth that not only is there no literature worth mentioning in the Irish language, but that the ancient Irish were a semi-savage race whose whole energies were given up to petty tribal wars and dissensions, and who were altogether devoid of culture.

MLA Citation

  • The Rosary Magazine, March 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 April 2018. Web. 25 April 2018. <>

Brother Alphonsus de Peces


A member of the Spanish Province of Friars Preachers, is deservedly ranked as one of the great apostles of the Rosary. His sanctity, the fruit by which the true Rosarian is ever known, was so eminent as to evoke special praise from the general chapter of his Order held at Lisbon in 1618. From his Convent of Saint Mary, at Barbadillo, he traversed the whole region about, every where preaching the Rosary, founding Confraternities, erecting shrines to Our Lady of the Rosary at the street corners and the waysides, and distributing chaplets to the poor. After many years of such apostolic labors, he peacefully departed this life in his convent at Barbadillo (1610), and is there buried under the Rosary altar.

MLA Citation

  • The Rosary Magazine, February 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 April 2018. Web. 25 April 2018. <>

Brother Vincent Colegero


Dominican who died in the Convent of Messina in 1677, has always enjoyed, in Sicily, the reputation of a saint. Perhaps the most prominent of his virtues was his zeal for the honor of God and the Blessed Virgin through the Rosary. It is narrated that during more than forty years he preached every feast day on this devotion, ever finding in it new thoughts in which to dwell and ever at tracting larger concourses of hearers.

MLA Citation

  • The Rosary Magazine, February 1905. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 April 2018. Web. 25 April 2018. <>