June XXI St Aloysius, or Lewis Gonzaga, Confessor
St Aloysius, or Lewis Gonzaga, Confessor
From his life, written in the most authentic manner by F. Ceparius, his master of novices. See also other memoirs collected by Janning the Bollandist, Junij, t. 4, p. 847, ad p. 1169, and his life in French by F. Orleans.
A. D. 1591
Aloysius Gonzaga was son of Ferdinand Gonzaga, prince of the holy empire, and marquis of Castiglione, removed in the third degree of kindred from the duke of Mantua. His mother was Martha Tana Santena, daughter of Tanus Santena, lord of Cherry, in Piemont. She was lady of honor to Isabel, the wife of Philip II. of Spain, in whose court the marquis Gonzaga also lived in great favor. When she understood this nobleman had asked her in marriage both of the king and queen, and of her friends in Italy, being a lady of remarkable piety, she spent her time in fasting and prayer in order to learn the will of heaven, and to draw down upon herself the divine blessing. The marriage was solemnized in the most devout manner, the parties at the same time performing their devotions for the jubilee. When they left the court and returned into Italy, the marquis was declared chamberlain to his majesty, and general of part of the army in Lombardy, with a grant of several estates. The marchioness made it her earnest petition to God that he would bless her with a son, who should devote himself entirely to his love and service. Our saint was born in the castle of Castiglione, in the diocese of Brescia, on the 9th of March, 1568. William, duke of Mantua, stood godfather, and gave him the name of Aloysius. The holy names of Jesus and Mary, with the sign of the cross and part of the catechism, were the first words which his devout mother taught him as soon as he was able to speak; and from her example and repeated instructions the deepest sentiments of religion, and the fear of God were impressed upon his tender soul. Even in his infancy he showed an extraordinary tenderness for the poor; and such was his devotion that he frequently hid himself in corners, where after long search he was always found at his prayers, in which so amiable was his piety, and so heavenly did his recollection appear, that he seemed to resemble an angel clothed with a human body. His father designing to train him up to the army, in order to give him an inclination to that state, furnished him with little guns, and other weapons, took him to Casal to show him a muster of three thousand Italian foot, and was much delighted to see him carry a little pike, and walk before the ranks. The child stayed there some months, during which time he learned from the officers certain unbecoming words, the meaning of which he did not understand, not being then seven years old. But his tutor hearing him use bad words, chid him for it, and from that time he could never bear the company of any persons who in his hearing ever profaned the holy name of God. This offence, though excusable by his want of age and knowledge, was to him during his whole life a subject of perpetual humiliation, and he never ceased to bewail and accuse himself of it with extreme confusion and compunction. Entering the seventh year of his age he began to conceive greater sentiments of piety, and from that time he used to date his conversion to God. At that age, being come back to Castiglione, he began to recite every day the office of our Lady, the seven penitential psalms, and other prayers, which he always said on his knees, and without a cushion; a custom which he observed all his life. Cardinal Bellarmin, three other confessors, and all who were best acquainted with his interior, declared after his death their firm persuasion, that he had never offended God mortally in his whole life. He was sick of an ague at Castiglione eighteen months; yet never omitted his task of daily prayers, though he sometimes desired some of his servants to recite them with him.
When he was recovered, being now eight years old, his father placed him and his younger brother Ralph, in the polite court of his good friend Francis of Medicis, grand duke of Tuscany, that they might learn the Latin and Tuscan languages, and other exercises suitable to their rank. At Florence the saint made such progress in the science of the saints that he afterwards used to call that city the mother of his piety. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was much inflamed by reading a little book of Gaspar Loartes on the mysteries of the Rosary. He at the same time conceived a great esteem for the virtue of holy chastity; and he received of God so perfect a gift of the same, that in his whole life he never felt the least temptation either in mind or body against purity, as Jerom Platus and cardinal Bellarmin assure us from his own mouth. He cultivated this extraordinary grace by assiduous prayer, universal mortification, and the most watchful flight of all occasions; being well apprized that this virtue is so infinitely tender, that it fades and dies if blown upon by the least vapor: and that it is a bright and clear mirror which is tarnished with the least breath, and even by the sight. He never looked at any woman, kept his eyes strictly guarded, and generally cast down; would never stay with his mother alone in her chamber, and if she sent any message to him by some lady in her company, he received it, and gave his answer in a few words, with his eyes shut, and his chamber-door only half open; and when bantered on that score, he ascribed such behavior to his bashfulness. It was owing to his virginal modesty, that he did not know by their faces many ladies among his own relations, with whom he had frequently conversed, and that he was afraid and ashamed to let a footman see so much as his foot uncovered. But humility, which is the mother of all virtues, was in our saint the guardian of his purity. He never spoke to his servants by way of command, but with such modesty that they were ashamed not to obey. He would only say to them: “Pray dispatch this or that· You may do this:” or, “If it be no trouble you may do this or that.” No novice could practise a more exact and ready obedience than Aloysius set an example of towards all his superiors, especially Francis Tuccius, whom his father had appointed tutor to his sons, and governor of their family at Florence.
The two young princes had stayed there a little more than two years, when their father removed them to Mantua, and placed them in the court of the duke William Gonzaga, who had made him governor of Montserrat Aloysius left Florence in November, 1579, when he was eleven years and eight months old. He at that time took a resolution to resign to his brother Ralph his title to the marquisate at Castiglione, though he had already received the investiture from the emperor. And the ambitious or covetous man is not more greedy of honors or riches than this young prince from a better principle appeared desirous to see himself totally disengaged from the ties of the world, by entirely renouncing its false pleasures, which begin with uneasiness, and terminate in remorse, and are no better than real pains covered over with a bewitching varnish. He knew the true delights which virtue brings, which are solid without alloy, and capable of filling the capacity of man’s heart, and these he thirsted after. In the mean time he fell sick of an obstinate retention of urine, of which distemper he cured himself only by the rigorous rules of abstinence which he observed. He took the opportunity of this indisposition to rid himself more than ever of company and business, seldom going abroad, and spending most of his time in reading Surius’s Lives of Saints, and other books of piety and devotion. It being the custom in Italy and other hot climates to pass the summer months in the country, the marquis sent for his sons from Mantua to Castiglione in that season. Aloysius pursued the same exercises, and the same manner of life in the town, at court, and in the country. The servants, who watched him in his chamber, saw him employed in prayer many hours together, sometimes prostrate on the ground before a crucifix, or standing up, absorbed in God so as to appear in an ecstasy. When he went down stairs, they took notice that at every standing-place he said a Hail Mary. It was in this retirement that his mind was exceedingly enlightened by God, and without the help of any instructor he received an extraordinary gift of mental prayer, to which his great purity of heart and sincere humility disposed his soul. He sometimes passed whole days in contemplating, with inexpressible sweetness and devotion, the admirable dispensations of divine providence in the great mysteries of our redemption, especially the infinite goodness and love of God, his mercy, and other attributes. In this exercise he was not able to contain the spiritual joy of his soul in considering the greatness and goodness of his God, nor to moderate his tears. Falling at last on a little book of father Canisius, which treated of Meditation, and on certain letters of the Jesuit missionaries in the Indies, he felt a strong inclination to enter the Society of Jesus, and was inflamed with an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls. He began even then to frequent the schools of Christian Doctrine, and to encourage other boys, especially among the poor, in learning their catechism, and often instructed them himself. So excellently did he then discourse of God as astonished grown persons of learning and abilities. It happened that in 1580 St. Charles Borromeo came to Brescia in quality of apostolic visiter, and preached there on the feast of Mary Magdalen. No importunities of the marquis or other princes could prevail upon that great saint to visit them at their country-seats, or to take up his lodgings anywhere but with the clergy of the churches where he came. Wherefore Aloysius, being only twelve years old, went to Brescia to receive his blessing. It is incredible how much the good cardinal was taken with the piety and generous sentiments of the young prince. But finding that he had never yet received the holy communion, he exhorted him to prepare himself for that divine sacrament, and to receive it very frequently; prescribing him rules for his devout preparation, and with regard to many other practices of piety; all which the holy youth constantly observed, remembering ever after with wonderful joy the happiness of having seen so great a saint. He from that time conceived so tender a devotion to the blessed eucharist, that in hearing mass, after the consecration, he often melted into tears, in profound sentiments of love and adoration; and he frequently received wonderful favors in communicating; and this holy sacrament became his greatest comfort and joy. The marquis after this carried his whole family to Casal, the residence of his government of Montferrat. There the saint made the convents of the Capuchins and Barnabites the usual places of his resort. He fasted three days a week, Fridays at least on bread and water, boiled together for his whole dinner; his collation was a little piece of dry bread. On other days his meals were so slender that his life seemed almost a miracle. He secretly thrust a board into his bed to rest on in the night, and rose at midnight to pray even in the coldest season of winter, which is very sharp under the Alps. He spent an hour after rising, and two hours before going to bed in private prayer.
In 1581, his father attended the empress Mary of Austria, wife to Maximilian II. and sister to Philip II. of Spain, in her journey from Bohemia to Spain, and took with him his three children; a daughter named Isabel who died in Spain, and his two sons, who were both made by king Philip pages to his son James, elder brother to Philip III. Aloysius was then thirteen years and a half old. He continued his studies, but never neglected his long meditations and devotions, which he often performed by stealth in secret corners. Though he every day waited on the infant of Spain, James, to pay his duty to the empress, he never once looked on the face of that princess, or took notice of her person; and so great was his guard over all his senses and so universal his spirit of mortification, that it was a proverb at court, that the young marquis of Castiglione seemed not to be made of flesh and blood. While he remained in Spain he found great pleasure and benefit in reading Lewis of Granada’s excellent book on Mental Prayer. He prescribed himself a daily task of an hour’s meditation, which he often prolonged to three, four, or five hours. He at length determined to enter into the Society of Jesus, in order to devote himself to the instructing and conducting souls to God; and he was confirmed in this resolution by his confessor, who was one of that order. When he disclosed it to his parents, his mother rejoiced exceedingly; but his father, in excessive grief and rage, said he would have him scourged naked. “O that it would please God,” replied modestly the holy youth, “to grant me so great a favor as to suffer that for his love.” What heightened the father’s indignation, was a suspicion that this was a contrivance on account of his custom of gaming, by which he had lately lost six hundred crowns in one evening; a vice which his son bitterly deplored, not so much, as he used to say, for the loss of the money, as for the injury done to God. However, the consent of the marquis was at length extorted through the mediation of friends. The infant or prince of Spain dying of a fever. Aloysius was at liberty, and after two years’ stay in Spain, returned to Italy in July, 1584, on board the galleys of the famous John Andrew Doria, whom his Catholic majesty had lately appointed admiral. His brother travelled in rich apparel, but the saint in a suit of black Flanders serge. In his journey he either conversed on holy things, or entertained himself secretly in his heart with God. As soon as he came to an inn he sought some private little chamber, and fell to prayer on his knees. In visiting religious houses he went first to the church, and prayed some time before the blessed sacrament. When he had arrived at Castiglione he had new assaults to bear, from the eloquence and authority of a cardinal, many bishops, and eminent men, employed by the duke of Mantua and his own uncles; yet he remained firm, and brought over some of these ambassadors to his side, so that they pleaded in his favor. But his father flew back from his consent, loaded his son with opprobrious language, and employed him in many distracting secular commissions. The saint had recourse to God by prostrating himself before a crucifix, and redoubling his severities, till the marquis, no longer able to oppose his design, cordially embraced him, and recommended him to Claudius Aquaviva, general of the society, who appointed Rome for the place of his novitiate. The father repented again of his consent, and detained his son nine months at Milan, during which time he used the most tender entreaties, and every other method to bring him from his purpose. He again removed him to Mantua, and thence to Castiglione: but finding his resolution invincible, left him at liberty, saying to him: “Dear son, your choice is a deep wound in my heart. I ever loved you, as you always deserved. In you I had founded the hopes of my family, but you tell me God calls you another way. Go therefore, in his name, whither you please, and may his blessing everywhere attend you.” Aloysius, having thanked him, withdrew, that he might not increase his grief by his presence, and betook himself to his prayers. His cession of the marquisate to his brother Ralph, with the reserve of two thousand crowns in ready money, and four hundred crowns a year for life, was ratified by the emperor, and the writings were delivered at Mantua, in November, 1585. The excessive grief and tears of his subjects and vassals at his departure, only drew from him these words: “That he sought nothing but the salvation of his soul, and exhorted them all to the same.” Arriving at Rome, he visited the churches and chief places of devotion, then kissed the feet of pope Sixtus V., and entered his novitiate at St. Andrew’s, on the 25th of November, 1585, not being completely eighteen years old. Being conducted to his cell, he entered it as a celestial paradise, in which he was to have no other employment than that of praising God without interruption; and exulting in his heart, he repeated with the prophet: This is my rest forever: here will I dwell, for I have chosen it.
The saint in his noviceship condemned himself as guilty of sloth if he did not in every religious duty surpass in fervor all his companions; he respected them all, and he behaved himself towards them as if he had been the last person in the family, and indeed such he always reputed himself. He loved and rejoiced most in the meanest and most contemptible employments. His mortifications, though great, were not so severe as he had practised in the world, because limited by obedience, which gave a merit to all his actions. He used to say that a religious state in this resembles a ship, in which they sail as fast who sit idle, as they who sweat at the oar in rowing. Yet such was the general mortification of his senses, that he seemed totally inattentive to exterior things, only inasmuch as they regarded God. He never took notice of the difference of villas where he had been, the order of the refectory in which he every day ate, or the rich ornaments of the chapels and altars where he prayed. He seemed entirely inattentive to the taste of what he ate, only he endeavored to avoid whatever seemed savory. He never listened to reports or to discourse about worldly matters: spoke very little, and never about himself, thinking himself justly deserving to be forgotten by the whole world, and to be made no account of in every thing. He was a capital enemy to any artifice or dissimulation, which he called the bane and canker of Christian simplicity. Nothing gave him so much mortification as the least marks of honor or distinction. It was his delight to carry a wallet through the streets of Rome begging from door to door, to serve the poor and the hospitals, or to sweep the kitchen, and carry away the filth; in which actions he usually had before his eyes Christ humbled for us. On holidays he used to catechise the children of poor laborers. He changed his new gilt breviary for an old one, and often did so in his habit and other things. His whole life seemed a continued prayer and he called holy meditation the short way to Christian perfection. He found in that exercise the greatest spiritual delights, and remained in it on his knees, as if he were motionless, in a posture of wonderful recollection and respect. It is not possible to describe the sweet raptures and abundant tears which often accompanied his devotion, especially in presence of the blessed eucharist, and after communicating. He spent the three first days after communion in thanksgiving for that inestimable favor; and the three following in languishing aspirations and desires to receive on the Sunday his Saviour, his God, his Physician, his King, and his Spouse: on the eve of his communion his mind was wholly taken up with the dignity and infinite importance and advantages of that great action, nor could he speak of any thing else. Such was the fire of his words whenever he spoke on that mystery of love, that it inflamed all who heard him. He made every day at least four regular visits to pray before the blessed sacrament. The passion of Christ was also a most tender object of his devotion. From his infancy he had chosen the Blessed Virgin for his special patroness and advocate. He had a singular devotion to the holy angels, especially his angel guardian. In the beginning of his noviceship he was tried by an extreme spiritual dryness and interior desolation of soul, which served perfectly to purify his heart, and was succeeded by the greatest heavenly consolations. He bore the pious death of his father with unshaken constancy, because he considered it and all other events purely in the view of the divine will and providence. It happened six weeks after Aloysius had taken the habit. From the day on which his son had left him to enter the society, the marquis had entirely devoted himself to the practice of perfect virtue and penance.
Humility and obedience were the young novice’s favorite virtues, and by them he gained a perfect mastery over himself. To appear poor, little, and contemptible, was his delight, and he rejoiced to see the last and worst portion in any thing fall to his share. He was never known guilty of the least transgression of the rule of silence or any other, and feared to arrive one moment too late at any duty. He would not, without the leave of his master, speak one word even to his kinsman, cardinal Roborei; nor would he ever stay with him so long as to fail one minute in any rule. It happened that the pious and learned Jerom Platus, while he was his master of novices, thinking his perpetual application to prayer and study prejudicial to his health, ordered him to spend, in conversing with others after dinner, no, only the hour allotted for all, but also the half hour longer which is allowed to those who dined at the second table. Father minister not knowing this order punished him for it, and obliged him publicly to confess his fault, which he underwent without offering any excuse. The minister learning afterwards how the matter was, admired very much his silence, but for his greater merit enjoined him another penalty for not telling him the order of his master. The saint bore in silence and joy the imputation and chastisement of the faults of any others, because this afforded him an opportunity of exercising patience, meekness, and humility. By a habit of continual application of his mind to God, attention at prayer seemed so easy and natural to him, that he told his superior, who put to him that question, that if all the involuntary distractions at his devotions during six months were joined together, they would not amount to the space of one Hail Mary. His health decaying, he was forbid to meditate or pray, except at regular times. This he found the hardest task of his whole life; so great a struggle did it cost him to resist the impulse with which his heart was carried towards God. For the recovery of his health he was sent to Naples, where he stayed half a year, and then returned to Rome. In that city, after completing his novitiate of two years, he made his religious vows on the 20th of November, 1587, and soon after received minor orders.
Aloysius had finished his logic while a page in the Spanish court, and his course of natural philosophy during his nine months’ stay at Milan. After this he commenced student in divinity under Gabriel Vasquez, and other celebrated professors. But a family contest obliged him to interrupt his studies. His uncle, Horatio Gonzaga, died without issue, and bequeathed by will his estate of Sulphurino to the duke of Mantua. Ralph, the saint’s brother, pleaded that the donation was invalid, the estate being a fief of the empire, which inalienably devolves on the next heir in blood, and he obtained a rescript of the emperor Maximilian in his favor. But the duke refused to acquiesce in this sentence; and the archduke Ferdinand and several other princes had in vain attempted to reconcile the two cousins. At length St. Aloysius was sent for to be the mediator of peace. He had then just finished his second year of divinity, and was at the Jesuits’ villa at Frescati during the vacation, when father Robert Bellarmin brought him an order from the general to repair to Mantua about this affair. A discreet lay-brother was appointed to be his companion, to whom a charge was given to take care of his health, with an order to Aloysius to obey him as to that particular. Most edifying were the examples of his profound humility mortification, love of poverty, and devotion, and incredible the fruits of his zeal, both on the road, and at Mantua, Castiglione, and other places where he went. Though both parties were exceedingly exasperated, no sooner did this angel of peace appear, than they were perfectly reconciled. The luke, though before much incensed, was entirely disarmed by the sight and moving discourse of the saint; he readily pardoned, and yielded up the estate to the marquis, who as easily consented to bury in oblivion all that had passed, and the two cousins made a sincere and strict alliance and friendship together. Many others who were at variance, or at law, were in the same manner made friends by the means of the saint’s friendly interposing. No enmity seemed able to withstand the spirit of meekness and charity which his words and whole deportment breathed. Great numbers were by him converted from sinful habits, and many brought to a profession of perfect virtue. His brother Ralph had fallen in love with a young gentlewoman, much inferior to him in birth, and had secretly married her before private witnesses, but durst not publish his marriage for fear of offending his uncle, Alphonsus Gonzaga, lord of Castle-Godfrey, whose heir he was to be. The saint represented to him that by such a conduct, notwithstanding his precaution, he offended God by the scandal he gave to his subjects and others, who looked upon his behavior as criminal. He, moreover, undertook to satisfy his uncle, mother, and other friends, and thus engaged him publicly to declare his marriage, and the uncle and others, through the saint’s mediation, took no offence at the alliance. Aloysius having happily restored peace among all his relations, and settled them in the practice of true virtue, by the direction of his superiors went to Milan on the 22d of March, 1590, there to pursue his theological studies. These he accompanied with his usual exercises of devotion, and all virtues, especially humility, to nourish and improve which in his heart, he embraced every kind of humiliation. He often begged to serve in the kitchen and refectory, and it was his delight to draw water for the cook, wash the dishes, cover the table, or sweep the scullery. While he was at Milan, one day in his morning prayer he was favored with a revelation, that he had only a short time to live. And by this heavenly visitation he found his mind wonderfully changed, and more than ever weaned from all transitory things. This favor he afterwards disclosed at Rome, in great simplicity, to F. Vincent Bruno and others. The general would not suffer him to finish his studies at Milan, but recalled him to Rome in November the same year, to perform there the fourth or last year of his theological course. The saint chose a dark and very small chamber over the staircase in the garret, with one window in the roof; nor had he in it any other furniture than a poor bed, a wooden chair, and a little stool to lay his books upon. He appeared even in the schools and cloisters quite absorbed in God, and often at table, or with his companions at recreation time after dinner, he fell into ecstasies, and appeared unable to contain the excessive heavenly joy with which his soul overflowed. He frequently spoke in raptures on the happiness of dying, the more speedily to enjoy God.
In 1591 an epidemical distemper swept off great multitudes in Rome. In this public distress the fathers of the society erected a new hospital, in which the general himself, with other assistants, served the sick. Aloysius obtained by earnest entreaties to be one of this number. He catechised and exhorted the poor patients, washed their feet, made their beds, changed their clothes, and performed, with wonderful assiduity and tenderness, the most painful and loathsome offices of the hospital. The distemper being pestilential and contagious, several of these fathers died martyrs of charity, and Aloysius fell sick. It was on the 3d of March, 1591, that he took to his bed: at which time he was overwhelmed with excessive joy at the thought that he was called to go to his God. This joy gave him afterwards a scruple whether it was not immoderate. But his confessor, who was the famous cardinal Bellarmin, comforted him, saying, that it is not an unusual grace to desire death, not out of impatience, but to be united to God. The pestilential fever in seven days became so violent, that the saint received the viaticum and extreme unction. However, he recovered; but from the relics of this distemper succeeded a hectic fever, which in three months reduced him to an excessive weakness. He studied to add continual mortifications to the pains of his disease, and rose in the night to pray before a crucifix, till being caught by the infirmarian, he was forbid doing so for the future; which direction he punctually obeyed. The physicians having ordered him and another sick brother to take a very bitter draught, the other drank it at once with the ordinary helps to qualify the bitterness of the taste; but Aloysius sipped it slowly, and as it were drop by drop, that he might have the longer and fuller taste of what was mortifying; nor did he give the least sign of perceiving any disagreeable taste. After speaking with father Bellarmin on the happiness of speedily enjoying God, he fell into a rapture through excess of inward delights, and it continued almost the whole night, which seemed to him in the morning to have been but one moment, as he told F. Bellarmin. It seems to have been in this ecstasy that he learned he should die on the Octave day of Corpus-Christi, which he often clearly foretold. In thanksgiving for his death being so near, he desired one to recite with him the Te Deum; with which request the other complied. To another he cried out, his heart exulting with joy,—“My father, we go rejoicing! we go rejoicing!” He said every evening the seven penitential psalms with another person, in great compunction. On the Octave day, he seemed better, and the rector had thoughts of sending him to Frescati. But he repeated still that he should die before next morning, and he received the viaticum and extreme-unction. At night he was thought to be in no immediate danger, and was left with two brothers to watch by him. These, about midnight, perceived on a sudden, by a wanness and violent sweat with which he was seized, that he was falling into his agony. His most usual aspirations during his illness were the ardent languishings of a soul aspiring to God, extracted from the psalms. After saying,—“Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” he frequently repeated the holy name of Jesus; with which sacred word he expired a little after midnight between the 20th and 21st days of June, the Octave of Corpus-Christi that year, 1591, being twenty-three years, three months, and eleven days old, of which he had lived five years and almost seven months in the society. He was buried in the church of the Annunciation, belonging to the Jesuits of the Roman college. A rich chapel being afterwards built in that church under his name, by the marquis Scipio Lancelotti, his relics were translated into it. St. Aloysius was beatified by Gregory XV. in 1621, and canonized by Benedict XIII. in 1726. Ceparius gives a history of many miracles wrought through the intercession and by the relics of this saint, several being cures of noblemen and eminent prelates. A much more ample history of his miracles may be read in Janning the Bollandist, in an appendix to the life of St. Aloysius.
When we see a young prince, the darling of his family and country, sacrifice nobility, sovereignty, riches, and pleasures, the more easily to secure the treasure of divine love, and of eternal happiness, how ought we to condemn our own sloth, who live as if heaven were to cost us nothing!
St. Ralph, Archbishop of Bourges, C.
He was of the royal blood of France, being son of the count of Cahors, and lord of Turenne. Making Christ his only inheritance, he took the monastic habit in 822; and was made archbishop of Bourges in 840. He founded seven monasteries, and was indefatigable in reforming the manners of his flock. For the direction of his clergy he compiled a book of canons under the title of Pastoral Instructions, published by Baluze in his miscellanies.1 He died on the 21st of June, 866. See Ado in Martyr. Mabillon, Act. Bened. t. 6, p. 184. Ceillier, t. 19, p. 133.
St. Meen, in Latin Mevennus, Also Melanus,
abbot in brittany
His eminent virtues, his wonderful miracles, his monastery, and his tomb famous for the devotion of the pilgrims who visit it, have rendered his name most illustrious among the saints in that country. In the legend of his life he is usually called Conard-Meen. He was born of a rich and noble family, in the province of Gwent in South Wales, and is said to have been related by the mother to Saint Magloire and St. Samson: he was at least a disciple of the latter, whom he accompanied into Brittany in France, and was employed by him in preaching to the people, of which commission he acquitted himself with admirable zeal and success. A certain count named Caduon having bestowed on him lands on each side of the river Meu, in order to found there a monastery, and Guerech I., count of Vannes, having also declared himself the protector of this religious undertaking, to which he became a munificent benefactor, St. Samson appointed St. Meen, about the year 550. This was the origin of the abbey of St. John Baptist of Gael, now called St. Meen’s, in the diocese of St. Malo, about nine leagues from Rennes. Such was the reputation of the sanctity of this holy abbot, and of the regularity of this house, that when Judicael, king of Domnone, renounced the world in the twenty-second year of his age, St. Meen had the honor of giving the monastic habit to his sovereign, probably about the year 616. The saint founded another monastery near the Loire, not far from Angers, which he peopled from that of Gaël, and which he often visited. Great numbers were moved by his example and exhortations to shun the troubled ocean of the world, covered with shipwrecks, by flying out of it, that they might steer a more secure course, and convey the goods they got in their voyage safe into port. St. Meen died at Gaël about the year 617. His tomb is frequented by crowds, and many wonderful cures are there wrought, especially of the itch and scab, and other like cutaneous distempers, to which a mineral well, which bears the name of this saint, and in which the patients bathe, seems greatly to contribute. His relics in the wars of the Normans were conveyed to the great abbey of St. Florent, a quarter of a league from Saumur; though a part remains at St. Meen’s. This abbey of St. Meen was converted into a seminary, and given to the Lazarists, or priests of the mission, in 1640. St. Meen is invoked in the English litany of the seventh century, and in the old missal used in England before the Conquest. The calendars of the chief dioceses of Brittany prescribe his festival to be kept with great solemnity on the 21st of June See Lobineau, Vies des SS. de Bretagne, p. 140.
St. Aaron, Abbot in Brittany
In the sixth century, when St. Malo came into France, Aaron was abbot of a monastery in an island separated from the city of Aleth in Armorica by an arm of the sea, which the tide at low water left dry twice a day. This holy man gave St. Malo a welcome reception, such as one of his character could not fail to meet with wherever virtue was esteemed. St. Aaron shared with that holy pastor the glory of his apostleship, and his feast is kept in that diocese with the solemnity of a Lesser Double on the 22d of June. A parish church in the diocese of St. Brieuc bears his name. The island in which his monastery stood was called from him the isle of Aaron, till, in 1150, John, surnamed de la Grille, bishop of Aleth, translated his see from that city into the church of St. Malo, in this island, which before belonged to a monastery there. Aleth was deserted by its inhabitants, and the town of St. Malo, which fills the whole island of Aaron, arose in its place. See Dom. Morice, Hist. de Bretagne, and Lobineau, Hist. de Bret et Vies des Saints, p. 120.
St. Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata, Martyr
The city of Samosata, capital of Comagene in Syria, now called Sempsat, was an ancient episcopal see under the metropolitan of Hieropolis. By an appointment of the divine providence, St. Eusebius was placed in this see at a time when most of the neighboring bishoprics were occupied by Arians, in 361. In the same year he was present in a council at Antioch, composed chiefly of Arians, while the emperor Constantius was in that city. St. Eusebius concurred strenuously to the election of St. Meletius, patriarch of Antioch, being well assured of his zeal for the orthodox faith. Such was the opinion which the Arians themselves entertained of Eusebius’s virtue, that though they knew him to be an irreconcilable enemy to their heresy, they placed an entire confidence in his probity. On this account, they intrusted in his hands the synodal act of the election of St. Meletius. A few days after, being provoked at the vigor with which Meletius preached the faith of the Nicene council in his first discourse to his people, they sought to set him aside, and at their instigation Constantius sent an officer to extort out of the hands of St. Eusebius the act of his election. The saint answered he could not surrender it without the consent of all the parties concerned in it. The officer threatened to cause his right hand to be cut off if he refused to comply with the emperor’s orders. The saint stretched out not only his right, but also his left hand, saying he might cut them both off: but that he would never concur to an unjust action. Both the officer and the emperor admired his heroic virtue, and highly commended an action which thwarted their favorite projects. For some time St. Eusebius refused not to assist at the councils and conferences of the Arians, in order to maintain the truth. But finding this conduct gave scandal to some, he broke off all commerce with thom in ecclesiastical deliberations after the council of Antioch in 363, in the reign of Jovian. In 370 he assisted at the election of St. Basil, archbishop of Cæsarea, and contracted a strict friendship with that great pillar of faith and virtue. So remarkable was the zeal of our saint, and so bright the lustre of his sanctity, that St. Gregory Nazianzen, in a letter which he wrote about that time, styles him the pillar of truth, the light of the world, the instrument of the favors of God on his people, and the support and glory of all the orthodox.
When the persecution of Valens began to rage, St. Eusebius not content to secure his own flock against the poison of heresy, he made several progresses through Syria, Phœnicia, and Palestine, disguised in the dress of an officer, to strengthen the Catholics in the faith, ordain priests where they were wanting, and assist the orthodox bishops in filling vacant sees with worthy pastors. His zeal gave every day some new stroke to the Arian party; so that in 374 Valens sent an order for his banishment into Thrace. The imperial messenger arrived at Samosata in the evening, and signified the emperor’s orders to the bishop, who begged he would keep it secret, saying, “If the people should be apprized, such is their zeal for the faith, that they would rise in arms against you, and your death might be laid to my charge.” The holy bishop celebrated the night office as usual, and when all were gone to rest, walked out with one trusty servant to the Euphrates, which runs under the walls of the city, where, going on board a small vessel, he fell down the river seventy miles to Zeugma. In the morning the people were in an uproar at what had happened, and in an instant the river was covered with boats to search him out. He was overtaken by a great number at Zeugma, who conjured him not to abandon them to the wolves. He was strongly affected, but urging the necessity of obeying exhorted them to confidence in God. They offered him money, slaves clothes, and all kinds of provisions; but he would accept very little, and commending his dear flock to God, pursued his journey to Thrace. The Arians intruded into his chair one Eunomius, not the famous heresiarch of that name, but a man of great moderation. Yet the people universally shunned him, the city-council and the magistrates above the rest; not one of the inhabitants, rich or poor, young or old, of the clergy or laity, would see him, and whether in the church, at home, or in public, he saw himself left alone. Disgusted at his situation, he withdrew and left the people to themselves. The heretics substituted in his place one Lucius, a violent man, who banished the deacon Evoltius to the desert of Oasis, beyond Egypt, a priest named Antiochus into a remote corner of Armenia, and others to other places. Yet he could not gain any over to his interest. The behavior of the people was the same to him as it had been to his predecessor. For an instance of which, it is mentioned, that as he passed one day through a public square where several children were at play, their ball hit the hoof of his mule, and as if it had been defiled, they threw it into the fire. The Goths plundered Thrace in 379, and, to escape their swords, St. Eusebius obtained leave to return to his church, but to crown his sufferings with martyrdom. He appeared no way broken or daunted by his banishment, but seemed more indefatigable than ever in his labors for the church. When the death of Valens had put an end to the persecution in 378, he travelled over great part of the country to procure Catholic bishops to be chosen where the sees were destitute. This he effected at Beræa, Hierapolis, and Cyrus. At Dolicha, a small episcopal city in Comagene, forty-one miles from Samosata, Maris was by his endeavors ordained bishop. The whole town being inhabited by obstinate Arians, St. Eusebius would attend him thither when he went to take possession of his church. An Arian woman seeing him pass in the street, threw a tile from the top of her house upon his head; of which wound he died a few days after, in 379 or 380. In his last moments, in imitation of his divine Master, he bound his friends by oath never to prosecute his murderer or her accomplices. He is honored by the Greeks on the 22d, by the Latins on the 21st of June. See Theodoret, l. 4, c. 13, l. 5, c. 4. St. Greg. Nazianz. ep. 28. Godeau. Eloges des Evêques Illustres, p. 178. Ceillier, t. 6, p. 433.
Saint Leufredus, in French Leufroi, Abbot
He was a native of the territory of Evreux, and performed his studies partly in the monastery of St. Taurinus at Evreux. Hearing the great sanctity of B. Sidonius, abbot near Rouen, much spoken of, he repaired to him, and received the monastic habit at his hands. By the advice of St. Ansbert, archbishop of Rouen, he returned to his own country, and on a spot two leagues from Evreux, upon the river Eure, where St. Owen had formerly erected a cross and a chapel, he built a monastery in honor of the Cross, which he called the Cross of St. Owen, but it is long since called the Cross of St. Leufroi. Fasting, watching, and prayer were the constant exercises of his whole life, especially during forty years that he governed his monastery.* He died happily after receiving the holy viaticum in 738 and was succeeded in the abbacy by his brother St. Agofroi. In the incursion of the Normans in the ninth century, the monks fled for refuge to the abbey of St. Germain-des-Prez at Paris, carrying with them the relics of St. Owen, St. Turiave, St. Leufroi, and St. Agofroi. When they returned, they left in gratitude for their entertainment those of St. Leufroi and St. Turiave, which still remain in that great abbey. St. Leufroi is named in the Roman Martyrology on the 21st of June, and honored with an office in the new Paris Breviary. See his anonymous life written in the ninth age with the remarks of Mabillon, sæc. 3, Ben. part 1, p. 582, also Usuard, the life of St. Owen, &c.
1 T. 6, Miscell. p. 155.
* This monastery of the Cross of St. Leufroi was anciently called by the old name of the village where it was built, Madric, in Latin Madriacense, and is possessed by old Benedictins.
Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 611-622.