DECEMBER XII SS. EPIMACHUS AND ALEXANDER, ETC., MARTYRS From St. Dionysius of Alexandria, in Eusebius, Hist. l. 6, c. 41. A

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From St. Dionysius of Alexandria, in Eusebius, Hist. l. 6, c. 41.

A. D. 250.

WHILE the persecution set on foot by Decius raged with the utmost violence at Alexandria in 250, and the magistrates were very industrious and active in searching for Christians, Alexander and Epimacnus fell into their hands, and upon confessing the name of Jesus Christ, were loaded with chains, committed to prison, and suffered all the hardships of a long and rigorous confinement. Remaining the same after this severe trial of their faith and patience, they were beaten with clubs, their sides were torn with iron hooks, and they consummated their martyrdom by fire. St. Dionysius, archbishop of that city, and an eye-witness of some part of their sufferings, gives us this short account of their sufferings, and also makes mention of four martyrs of the other sex, who were crowned on the same day, and at the same place. Ammonarium, the first of them, a virgin of irreproachable life, endured unheard-of torments without opening her mouth, only to declare that no arts or power should ever prevail with her to let drop the least word to the prejudice of her holy profession. She kept her promise inviolably, and was at length led to execution, being, as it seems, beheaded. The second of these holy women was named Mercuria, a person venerable for her age and virtue; the third was Dionysia, who, though a tender mother of many children, cheerfully commended them to God, and preferred his holy love to all human considerations; the fourth was another Ammonarium. The judge blushing to see himself shamefully baffled and vanquished by the first of these female champions, and observing the like fortitude and resolution in the countenances of the rest, commanded the other three to be beheaded without more ado. They are all commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on this day.

To place the virtue of the Christian martyrs in its true light, we have but to consider it as contrasting the pretended heroism of the greatest sages of paganism. The martyr’s constancy is founded in humility, and its motive is the pure love of God, and perfect fidelity to his holy law. He regards himself as a weak reed; therefore God strengthens him, and by his grace makes him an unshaken pillar. The martyr considers himself as a base sinner, who deserves to suffer the death he is going to endure; he looks upon his martyrdom as the beginning of his penance, not as the consummation of his virtue; and he is persuaded that whatever he can suffer falls short of what he deserves: that it is the highest honor, of which he is infinitely unworthy, to be called to make a sacrifice to God of his life and all that he has received of his bounty, to give so pregnant a testimony of his fidelity and love, to be rendered conformable to Christ, and to die for his sake who, out of infinite mercy and love, laid down his most precious life, and suffered the most cruel torments, and the most outrageous insults and affronts for us: he calls it the greatest happiness to redeem eternal torments by momentary sufferings. Again, the martyr suffers with modesty and tender fortitude; he desires not acclamations, seeks no applause thinks only that God is the spectator of his conflict, and thes the eyes of men, at least unless with a pure view that God may be known and glorified through the testimony which he bears to his law and sovereign goodness and greatness. Lastly, he praises and thanks God amidst his torments; he feels no sentiments of revenge, but tenderly loves, and earnestly prays for the prosperity of those by whose hands or unjust calumnies he suffers the most exquisite and intolerable pain, and is only afflicted at the danger of their eternal perdition. On the other side, the vain and proud philosopher is puffed up in his own mind because he suffers; he sets forth his pretended virtue and constancy with a foolish grovelling ostentation, he conceals his inward spite, rage, and despair under the hypocritical exterior of a forced and affected patience; he insults his enemies, or at least studies and wishes revenge. The boasted Cato dreaded and abhorred the sight of Csar, and killed himself that he might not be presented before, or owe his life to, an enemy by whom he was vanquished. A Christian hero would have appeared before him without cither indignation or fear, and would have overcome him by humility, meekness, patience, and charity. Socrates by the haughtiness of his looks despised and insulted his judges, and by the insolence of his behavior, provoked them to condemn him; whereas the Christian martyr affectionately embraces, loves, and prays for his tormentors, like St. Stephen under a shower of stones, and covered with wounds and blood.


AMONG the primitive teachers of the Irish church the name of St. Finian is one of the most famous next to that of St. Patrick. He was a native of Leinster, was instructed in the elements of Christian virtue by the disciples of St. Patrick, and out of an ardent desire of making greater progress passed over into Wales, where he conversed with St. David, St. Gildas, and St. Cathmael, three eminent British saints. After having remained thirty years in Britain, about the year 520 he returned into Ireland, excellently qualified by sanctity and sacred learning to restore the spirit of religion among his countrymen, which had begun to decay. Like a loud trumpet sounding from heaven, he roused the sloth and insensibility of the lukewarm, and softened the hearts that were most hardened, and had been long immersed in worldly business and pleasure. To propagate the work of God, St. Finian established several monasteries and schools; the chief of which was Clonard, in Meath, which was the saint’s principal residence. Out of his school came several of the principal saints and doctors of Ireland, as Kiaran the Younger, Columkille, Columba the son of Crimthain, the two Brendans, Laserian, Canicus or Kenny, Ruadan, and others.
St. Finian was chosen and consecrated bishop of Clonard.† The great monastery which he erected at Clonard was a famous seminary of sacred learning.‡ St. Finian in the love of his flock, and his zeal for their salvation, equalled the Basils and the Chrysostoms, was infirm with the infirm, and wept with those that wept. He healed the souls, and often also the bodies of those that applied to him. His food was bread and herbs, his drink water, and his bed the ground, with a stone for his pillow. He departed to our Lord on the 12th of December in 552, according to the Inisfallen Annals, quoted by Usher, but according to others in 564. See his life, published by Colgan, on the 23d of February; Usher, Ant. Brit. c. 18, p. 493; and Index Chronol. p. 531; Sir James Ware, Ant. Hib. c. 29; de Eccl. Cathedr. p. 291; and on the Bishops, p. 136. See also the note on St. Ultan, 4th of September, vol. ii. p. 399.

HE was a native of Leinster in Ireland, a disciple of St. Finian, and became a great master of a spiritual life. He founded and governed the monastery of Tyrdaglas in Munster, and died of a pestilence which raged in Ireland in the year 548.

ST. CORMAC, an ancient Irish saint, is mentioned in the Calendars on this day, as an abbot of eminent sanctity. Usher supposes him the same who paid a visit to St. Columkille, mentioned by Adamnan l. 3, c. 117.

ST. COLMAN, abbot of Glendaloch, is also mentioned this day in the Irish Calendar: he died in 659. See Colgan’s MSS.


SHE built there a new church in honor of SS. Peter and Paul, into which she caused the body of St. Mildrede, her immediate predecessor, to be translated. Her death happened about the year 751, according to Thorne, quoted in the Monasticon.1 St. Eadburge seems to be the abbess of that name to whom St. Boniface sometimes wrote. Capgrave confounds her with St. Ethelburge, (daughter of Ethelbert, king of Kent,) who, after the death of king Edwin her husband, consecrated herself to God, and died abbess of Lyming in Kent, towards the close of the seventh century. The relics of St. Eadburge were translated to Canterbury, in 1055, and there deposited in St. Gregory’s church. St. Mildrede is honored on the 20th of February.

THIS saint was son to a gentleman of Auvergne, and in his childhood kept his father’s sheep; but out of an ardent desire of improving himself in spiritual knowledge, privately learned to read, and got the psalter by heart. He was yet young when he took the monastic habit in the neighboring monastery of St. Antony. From the first day such was his fervor that in his whole conduct he appeared a living rule of perfection, and, by sincere humility, esteeming himself below all the world, he meekly and cheerfully subjected himself to every one. Seeking the most perfect means of advancing in the paths of all virtues, he passed from this house to the more austere monastery of St. Germanus of Auxerre, into which he was received by St. Aunarius, bishop of that church. The reputation of the penitential lives of the monks of Luxeu, and of the spiritual wisdom of St. Columban, drew him afterwards thither, and he spent many years in that community, always esteeming himself an unprofitable servant and a slothful monk, who stood in need of the severest and harshest rules and superiors; and, next to sin, he dreaded nothing so much as the applause of men or a reputation of sanctity. Upon the departure of St. Columban, the care of protecting the monastery from the oppressions of men in power, was committed to St. Valery, till he was sent by St. Eustasius with Vandolen, a fellow-monk, to preach the gospel to idolaters. The two apostolic men travelled into Neustria, where king Clotaire II. gave them the territory of Leucone in Picardy, near the mouth of the river Somme. There, with the leave of Bertard, bishop of Amiens, in 611, they built a chapel and two cells. St. Valery by his preaching and the example of his virtue, converted many infidels, and assembled certain fervent disciples with whom he laid the foundation of a monastery. His fasts he sometimes prolonged for six days, eating only on the Sunday; and he used no other bed than twigs laid on the floor. His time was all employed in preaching, prayer, reading, and manual labor. By this he earned something for the relief of the poor, and he often repeated to others, “The more cheerfully we give to those who are in distress, the more readily will God give us what we ask of him.” The saint went to receive the recompense of his happy perseverance on the 12th of December in 622. He is honored in France on the 1st of April and on the 12th of December. From his cells a famous monastery rose and a town which bears his name. His life was carefully written in 660, by Raimbert, second abbot of Leucone, from him.* See Mabillon, Act. Ben. t. 2, p. 76; and Annal. l. 11, n. 33; Gallia Christ. Vetus, t. 4, p 887; Nova, t. 10, pp. 1231, 1234.


HE was son of a British nobleman, and being educated in the fear of God, retired young into a forest in the parish of Ploe-Madiern, where he passed several years in holy solitude, and in the practice of great austerities Marcellus, who subscribed the first council of Tours, and the several other bishops who came over with the Britons into Armorica, had continued to govern their flocks without any correspondence with the French, being strangers to their language and manners. These being all dead, it was necessary to procure a new succession of pastors. St. Corentin was appointed bishop of Quimper or Quimmer, which, in the British language, signified a conflux of rivers, such being the situation of this place near the sea-coast. The cities of Rennes, Nantes, and Vannes were reconquered by Clovis I., and subject to him and his successors, and only became again part of the dominions of the Armorican Britons in the ninth century. French bishops therefore governed those sees, and even the Britons who were settled in those parts. But Lower Brittany was at that time independent, first under its kings; afterwards under counts. The count of Cornouaille, (said in the legends to be Grallo I., who died about 445,) in imitation of Caradoc, count of Vannes, gave his own palace at Quimper to serve the bishop, part for his own house, and part for his cathedral. As low as in the year 1424. under an old equestrian statue in the lower part of the church, was read this inscription: Here was his palace.
St. Corentin was consecrated by St. Martin at Tours, says the legend, but that holy prelate died about the year 397, and the first colony of the Britons was only settled by the tyrant Maximus under their first king Conan in 383, and their last greatest colonies under Riwal, or Hoel I., about the year 520, when they recovered under Childebert part of what Clovis had conquered. It seems therefore most probable that St. Corentin received the episcopal consecration from one of St. Martin’s successors at Tours. He subscribed the council of Angers in 453, under the name of Charaton. Having long governed his church, worn out with his apostolic labors, he gave up his soul to God before the end of the fifth century, probably on the 12th of December, on which his principal festival is celebrated at Quimper, Leon, St. Brieuc, Mans, &c. His name occurs in the English Litany of the seventh century, published by Mabillon. (Annal.) His relics were removed to Marmoutier at Tours in 878, for fear of the Normans, and are still preserved there. See Dom. Morice, Hist. de Bret. t. l, p. 8; and note 13, 14, 19; Lobineau, Vies des Saints de la Bretag. p. 51.

Another ST. CORENTIN, now called CURY, was honored in Devonshire and Cornwall. He came from little Britain, and lived a hermit at the foot of mount Menehent, which Parker, Drake, &c., take for Menehont in Devonshire. He preached to the inhabitants of the country with great fruit, and died in that place in 401. See Borlase, Ant. of Cornwall, &c.
BUTLER, A., The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) IV, 706-710.