September XXIV Saint Gerard, Bishop of Chonad, M.
Saint Gerard, Bishop of Chonad, M.
From his exact life in Surius, Bonfinius, Hist. Hung. Dec. 2, l. 1, 2. Fleury, t. 9. Gowget Mezangui and Roussel, Vies des Saints, 1730. Stilting, t. 6, Sept. p. 713. Mabillon, Act. Ben. sæc. 6, par. 1, p. 628.
a. d. 1046.
St. Gerard, the apostle of a large district in Hungary, was a Venetian, and born about the beginning of the eleventh century. He renounced early the enjoyments of the world, forsaking family and estate to consecrate himself to the service of God in a monastery. By taking up the yoke of our Lord from his youth he found it light, and bore it with constancy and joy. Walking always in the presence of God, and nourishing in his heart a spirit tender devotion by assiduous holy meditation and prayer, he was careful that his studies should never extinguish or impair it, or bring any prejudice to the humility and simplicity by which he studied daily to advance in Christian perfection. After some years, with the leave of his superiors, he undertook a pilgrimage to the holy sepulchre at Jerusalem. Passing through Hungary, he became known to the holy king St. Stephen, who was wonder, fully taken with his sincere piety, and with great earnestness persuaded him that God had only inspired him with the design of that pilgrimage, that he might assist, by his labors, the souls of so many in that country, who were perishing in their infidelity. Gerard, however, would by no means consent to stay at court, but built a little hermitage at Beel, where he passed seven years with one companion called Maur, in the constant practice of fasting and prayer. The king having settled the peace of his kingdom, he drew Gerard out of his solitude, and the saint preached the gospel with wonderful success. Not long after the good prince nominated him to the episcopal see of Chonad or Chzonad, a city eight leagues from Temeswar. Gerard considered nothing in this dignity but labors, crosses, and the hopes of martyrdom. The greatest part of the people were infidels, those who bore the name of Christians in this diocess were ignorant, brutish, and savage. Two-thirds of the inhabitants of the city of Chonad were idolators; yet the saint, in less than a year, made them all Christians. His labors were crowned with almost equal success in all the other parts of the diocess. The fatigues which he underwent were excessive, and the patience with which he bore all kinds of affronts was invincible. He commonly travelled on foot, but sometimes in a wagon: he always read or meditated on the road. He regulated everywhere all things that belonged to the divine service with the utmost care, and was solicitous that the least exterior ceremonies should be performed with great exactness and decency, and accompanied with a sincere spirit of religion. To this purpose he used to say, that men, especially the grosser part (which is always the more numerous), love to be helped in their devotion by the aid of their senses.
The example of our saint had a more powerful influence over the minds of the people than the most moving discourses. He was humble, modest, mortified in all his senses, and seemed to have perfectly subdued all his passions. This victory he gained by a strict watchfulness over himself. Once finding a sudden motion to anger rising in his breast, he immediately imposed upon himself a severe penance, asked pardon of the person who had injured him, and heaped upon him great favors. After spending the day in his apostolic labors, he employed part of the night in devotion, and sometimes in cutting down wood and other such actions for the service of the poor. All distressed persons he took under his particular care, and treated the sick with uncommon tenderness. He embraced lepers and persons afflicted with other loathsome diseases with the greatest joy and affection; often laid them in his own bed, and had their sores dressed in his own chamber. Such was his love of retirement, that he caused several small hermitages or cells to be built near the towns in the different parts of his diocess, and in these he used to take up his lodgings wherever he came in his travels about his diocess, avoiding to lie in cities, that, under the pretence of reposing himself in these solitary huts, he might indulge the heavenly pleasures of prayer and holy contemplation; which gave him fresh vigor in the discharge of his pastoral functions. He wore a rough hair shirt next his skin, and over it a coarse woollen coat.
The holy king St. Stephen seconded the zeal of the good bishop as long as he lived. But that prince’s nephew and successor Peter, a debauched and cruel prince, declared himself the persecutor of our paint: but was expelled by his own subjects in 1042, and Abas, a nobleman of a savage disposition, was placed on the throne. This tyrant soon gave the people reason to repent of their choice, putting to death all those noblemen whom he suspected not to have been in his interest. St. Stephen had established a custom that the crown should be presented to the king by some bishop on all great festivals. Abas gave notice to St. Gerard to come to court to perform that ceremony. The saint, regarding the exclusion of Peter as irregular, refused to pay the usurper that compliment, and foretold him that if he persisted in his crime God would soon put an end both to his life and reign. Other prelates, however, gave him the crown; but, two years after, the very persons who had placed him on the throne turned their arms against him, treated him as a rebel, and cut off his head on the scaffold. Peter was recalled, but two years after banished a second time. The crown was then offered to Andrew, son of Ladislas, cousin-german to St. Stephen, upon condition that he should restore idolatry, and extirpate the Christian religion. The ambitious prince made his army that promise. Hereupon Gerard and three other bishops set out for Alba Regalis, in order to divert the new king from this sacrilegious engagement.
When the four bishops were arrived at Giod near the Danube, St. Gerard, after celebrating mass, said to his companions: “We shall all suffer martyrdom to-day, except the bishop of Benetha.” They were advanced a little further, and going to cross the Danube, when they were set upon by a party of soldiers, under the command of duke Vatha, the most obstinate patron of idolatry, and the implacable enemy of the memory of St. Stephen. They attacked St. Gerard first with a shower of stones, and, exasperated at his meekness and patience, overturned his chariot, and dragged him on the ground. Whilst in their hands the saint raised himself on his knees, and prayed with the protomartyr St. Stephen: “Lord, lay not this to their charge; for they know not what they do.” He had scarce spoken these words when he was run through the body with a lance, and expired in a few minutes. Two of the other bishops, named Bezterd and Buld, shared the glory of martyrdom with him: but the new king coming up, rescued the fourth bishop out of the hands of the murderers. This prince afterward repressed idolatry, was successful in his wars against the Germans that invaded his dominions, and reigned with glory. St. Gerard’s martyrdom happened on the 24th of September, 1046. His body was first interred in a church of our Lady near the place where he suffered; but soon after removed to the cathedral of Chonad. He was declared a martyr by the pope, and his remains were taken up, and put in a rich shrine in the reign of St. Ladislas. At length the republic of Venice, by repeated importunate entreaties, obtained his relief of the king of Hungary, and with great solemnity translated them to their metropolis, where they are venerated in the church of our Lady of Murano.
The good pastor refuses no labor, and declines no danger for the good of souls. If the soil where his lot falls be barren, and he plants and waters without increase, he never loses patience, but redoubles his earnestness in his prayers and labors. He is equally secure of his own reward if he perseveres to the end; and can say to God, as St. Bernard remarks: “Thou, O Lord, wilt not less reward my pains, if I shall be found faithful to the end.” Zeal and tender charity give him fresh vigor, and draw floods of tears from his eyes for the souls which perish, and for the contempt of the infinite and gracious Lord of all things. Yet his courage is never damped, nor does he ever repine or disquiet himself. He is not authorized to curse the fig-tree which produces no fruit, but continues to dig about it, and to dung the earth, waiting to the end, repaying all injuries with kindness and prayers, and never weary with renewing his endeavors. Impatience and uneasiness in pastors never spring from zeal or charity; but from self-love, which seeks to please itself in the success of what it undertakes. The more deceitful this evil principle is, and the more difficult to be discovered, the more carefully must it be watched against. All sourness, discouragement, vexation, and disgust of mind are infallible signs that a mixture of this evil debases our intention. The pastor must imitate the treasures of God’s patience, goodness, and longsuffering. He must never abandon any sinner to whom God, the offended party, still offers mercy.
St. Germer or Geremar, Abbot
His parents, Rigobert and Aga, were of the prime nobility in the territory of Beauvais. He was born at their castle in the village Warandra, in the reign of king Clotaire; married a pious lady named Domana, and whilst yet a layman, built a monastery in honor of St. Peter, called the Island, which was afterward destroyed by the Normans, and is now an estate belonging to St. Germer’s abbey. Germer, by the advice of St. Owen, made his monastic profession in the monastery of Pental, in the territory of Rouen. He was soon after chosen abbot, but finding the monks averse to regularity, he left the abbacy, and led an anchoretical life in a cave near the river Seine five years and six months. His only son Amalbert, dying, was buried in St. Peter’s monastery. Germer, with the estate which reverted to him from his son’s death, founded the monastery of Fley or Flaviacum, now St. Germer’s, five leagues from Beauvais toward Rouen, in which he assembled a community of fervent monks, in 655. Having governed this house three years and a half, he happily died on the 24th of September, 658. His body was interred in the church of his abbey, which soon after took his name. His relics, for fear of the Norman plunderers, were conveyed secretly to Beauvais, where they are still kept in the cathedral, except the bones of one arm, which have been given back to St. Germer’s. In 1643 Aug. Potier, bishop of Beauvais, placed monks of the congregation of St. Maur in this abbey, and erected in it a great school for the humanity studies to the end of rhetoric. See Gallia Chr. Nova, t. 9, p. 788, Mabillon, Act. Bened., &c.
St. Rusticus, Commonly Called St. Rotiri
bishop of auvergne
Upon the death of St. Venerand, bishop of Auvergne, which happened the 24th of December, 423, there arose a sharp contest about the choice of a successor. But it is said that God signified his will in an extraordinary manner, in consequence of which the vacant see was conferred on Rusticus, a person remarkable for the sanctity of his manners. He was a native of the diocess, and had the administration of a parish there. This is all that with any certainty is known concerning his life. There were in this age two other bishops of the same name; one of Lyons, and the other of Narbonne. St. Rusticus of Auvergne died about the end of the reign of Valentinian III. He is mentioned on this day in the Roman Martyrologies. See St. Greg. of Tours, Hist. l. 3. c. 13, Baillet, &c.
St. Chuniald, or Conald, Priest
He was one of those eminent Scottish. or Irish missionaries who left their native country to carry the faith of Christ into Germany. He was for many years the constant companion of St. Rupert,* bishop of Saltzburg, in all his apostolical functions. He is mentioned in some Martyrologies on the 27th of February, but his feast is kept on the 24th of September, the day of the translation of his relics. See Colgan, Act. SS. p. 769.
St. Pacificus, of San Severino, C.
From authentic memoirs of his life published in Rome in 1786, entitled Compendio delia Vita del B. Pacifico.
[supplement to sadlier’s illustrated edition of butler’s lives of the saints.]
a. d. 1653–1721.
St. Pacificus was born at San Severino, in the year 1653. His parents, Antony Maria Divini and Maria Angela Bruni, were not less illustrious by their noble birth than by their virtuous life and the exact education of their children in the ways of piety and grace. He was baptized on the 1st of March, under the names of Charles Antony, which he retained until he entered the order of St. Francis. He began early to give indications of that exalted piety to which it pleased God to raise him. He showed no taste for the ordinary amusements of children, but spent his time in making little altars, and adorning them with the pictures of the saints, before which he was seen to pray for several hours. As he grew up, he increased in humility and devotion, and daily frequented the churches, assisted at the divine office, heard several masses, and listened attentively to the word of God delivered in sermons and catechetical discourses. But he did not allow these occupations to interfere with his studies, his attendance at school, and other duties, wherein he was so exact, that his masters were accustomed to point him out to his school-fellows as a perfect model of piety and obedience. So great was the respect inspired by his saintly conversation, that wherever he appeared, his companions instantly abandoned any light or improper discourses in which they had been engaged, and willingly received his reproofs, and listened to his earnest exhortations to piety and the fear of God.
His excellent parents, who had suffered many losses in their worldly substance, died while he was yet young, and left him to the care of his maternal uncle. He was a man of rough and severe disposition, harsh and disagreeable to all that approached him; and, utterly forgetting the soft and delicate manner of life to which his nephew had been accustomed, he employed him in the lowest and most humiliating domestic occupations, and even allowed him to be subject to the insolence and contemptuous treatment of his servants. But Charles fulfilled their commands with alacrity and cheerfulness, and patiently endured all their persecutions, remembering the sufferings of our blessed Jesus upon the cross. Nor did he refuse to carry burdens and comply with other humbling injunctions, in the sight of those who well remembered that in his parents’ life-time he had been used to be well clothed and carefully attended. He rejoiced in the low estimation in which he was held, and took advantage of the situation in which he was placed to collect the leavings and broken meat from his uncle’s table, for the poor who came thither for relief.
By this humble and saintly conduct, he rendered himself worthy of that divine grace which called him to a closer union with God. To dedicate himself to his service, he resolved, in his seventeenth year, after having taken counsel of his confessors and other spiritual directors, to retire wholly from the world, and secure his innocence by the severe mortification and solitude of a conventual life. Having diligently considered in which of the religious orders he could best comply with his ardent desire of following our blessed Redeemer in self-mortification and abasement, he humbly begged to be admitted into the strict order of minor observants of St. Francis. The fame of his sanctity was so well established, that he was joyfully received as a novice, and clothed with the habit in the convent of Forano, in the diocess of Osimo, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, in 1670, under the name of brother Pacificus. The year of his noviciate he distinguished by the most punctual discharge of the minutest obligations imposed by the severe rule of life he had embraced; and, not content with the ordinary prayer prescribed to novices, he spent all the time left at his own disposal in a chapel dedicated to St. Francis, within the enclosure of the noviciate. His resolution of abstaining from flesh meat was never violated, and he fasted every Saturday on bread and water. During the time of mental prayer, he remained immovably fixed in the contemplation of the heavenly mysteries, until the voice of his superior interrupted his meditation, and retiring from the choir, he returned to the chapel before-mentioned to continue his prayer. He never failed in the duties enjoined by the rule for the practice of humility and mortification.
In this manner, he displayed such purity, singleness and innocence of heart, that he was unanimously admitted to make his solemn profession on the anniversary of the feast whereon he had entered the order. In obedience to the will of his superiors, he applied himself to the study of philosophy and theology; but without allowing them to detach his heart from the love of prayer and constant union with God. It is not given to us to describe the earnest affection and profound humility wherewith he prepared to receive the sublime dignity of the priesthood. By many of the faithful who assisted at his first mass, he was observed to sigh and shed tears abundantly; and so ardent was his devotion towards this august sacrifice, that he never, save when prevented by illness, abstained from celebrating the holy mysteries, during which the bystanders were moved by his fervor to tears of compunction and piety.
When he had completed his course of studies, he was appointed to teach philosophy to his brethren; but feeling himself called to labor in the vineyard of the Lord, he obtained leave to resign his chair, and wholly devote himself to preaching and hearing the confessions of the faithful whom he treated with such a spirit of unction and mildness, that many were brought to God, and he was esteemed a sure guide to those that sat in darkness and he shadow of death. But the perfection of his virtue lay in the observance of every ordinary duty. Neither loss of sight nor an ulcer in his leg, with which he was affected, could prevent him from faithfully assisting with the res: of the community at the Matins and other prayers, by night as well as by day. Prostrating himself upon the ground, which he frequently kissed, the fervently adored the most holy Sacrament of the Altar, and was heard at times to exclaim, in the fulness of his heart, “My God and my all!” Upon the vigils preceding the festivals of the Church, especially those dedicated to our blessed Lady, he fasted on water and a small piece of bread, which he had kept for the week before exposed to the scorching heat of the sun. He went almost barefoot and without any covering on his legs, although the ulcers before-mentioned inspired compassion and horror in all who chanced to see them. Not a sigh, not a complaint ever escaped his lips; he cheerfully endured all in imitation of the most bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus, to whom be glory evermore! He sought the poorest and roughest habit, and the only ornaments of his cell were a crucifix, a breviary, and one or two pictures. His eyes were never raised from the ground, and his silence was seldom broken, lest his mind should be distracted from a continual sense of the presence of God; and he seldom spoke to any but his superior and director, save when his zeal urged him to encourage his brethren in fervor and perseverance. His charity would not allow him to entertain the slightest judgment to their prejudice, so that when the conduct of one was represented to him as a violation of the rule, he sweetly replied, “Who can tell what his motives may have been?”
The respect and admiration excited by his exemplary life, induced the brethren to elect him guardian or Superior of the Convent of Our Lady of Grace in his native city, an office which he was compelled, after much reluctance, to accept. His virtues now shone forth, as a bright and shining light to guide those under his care, to the imitation of his sedulous conformity with the rigorous discipline prescribed in that severe house, and of his fervent love of God. This and all his other virtues were built upon the solid foundation of a most lively faith; not consisting merely in that belief which the church teaches to be necessary for salvation, but rising to that clearer and more heavenly insight into the mysteries of faith, which, on earth, excites in the soul a more intimate conviction of their truth and beauty, and in the saints daily gathers new strength and vigor, until death unites them to God; when the veil, before which they have so long adored in profound awe, being withdrawn, their knowledge becomes intuitive, and the spark of faith is merged in the bright effulgence and clear vision of heaven. It stirred up in him such a full conviction of the divine mysteries, that he would gladly have shed his blood in attestation of their truth. His countenance brightened and he seemed out of himself, as often as he recited the Apostles’ or the Athanasian creed. His familiar discourses and his sermons illustrated the mysteries of faith; he exhorted his penitents to believe firmly all that the holy Church teacheth, and would tell them to make an act of faith in the holy tribunal of penance. When he chanced to find children playing in the cloisters, he taught them to recite acts of faith, contrition, and the Christian virtues; and meeting children tending flocks or herds in the country, he would enter into loving discourses with them, and instruct their simple minds in the doctrines and practices of religion. To those more advanced in age, he was wont to explain how faith without good works is dead, and withereth like a plant wanting moisture, and so produceth not fruits into eternal life.
He felt a burning zeal and desire that our holy faith, wherewith his soul was so deeply penetrated, should be made known to distant and barbarous nations, and he prayed earnestly to God for the victory of the defenders of Christendom over their Mahometan foes, in the fierce war that raged in those days between them. If his superiors would have consented, he would have flown upon wings of love to spread the knowledge of our holy faith in the most distant parts, for whenever he heard his brethren speak of the difficulties, dangers, and sufferings, to which missionaries are exposed among infidels, he would exclaim, with a countenance all on fire, “O that I could be placed in such a situation!” But, as he well knew that the grace he so ardently desired was denied him, he labored, by continual fastings and austerity, to purify his soul, and render himself more and more worthy of receiving the vivid impressions which the divine mysteries leave upon the heart of God’s chosen servants. He would have fasted every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, but his superior having restricted him to two days’ fast in the week, he cheerfully obeyed; although upon the last two days he never went down to the public meals, but one of the brethren placed in his cell two small pieces of bread, with a vessel containing less than a pint of water, to serve both for morning and evening; yet it was often found that he had not even touched them. But the flame of faith he nourished, with the fuel of constant and deep meditation upon the mysteries of our Saviour’s passion, in honor whereof he oftentimes said mass at the altar dedicated to Jesus crucified; and performed, moreover, the pious exercise of the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, and excited others to follow his example, and tread with him the rugged way to Calvary, by a contemplation of the twelve mysteries into which the exercise is divided.
When sickness confined him to his bed, he frequently rose up to go to the church, but was recalled by the voice of his superiors (to which he never failed in obedience), commanding him to remain in bed; where beating his breast, and giving vent to the overflowing feelings of his heart, he filled the bystanders with admiration and love of God. But most of all, in the august sacrifice of the mass, were his faith and reverence made manifest. His sighs were heard by all, and his tears flowed in copious streams. During the communion, and especially the receiving of the chalice, he felt his soul steeped in the delicious enjoyment of the food of angels; and afterwards, until he returned into the sacristy, his countenance, usually pale and wasted, was overspread with a lively flush. He trembled with sudden fear, as he ended the memento for the dead, through pity and compassion towards the souls who are enduring the dreadful torments of purgatory. It pleased God, on several occasions, to show to the world how acceptable to Him was the surpassing devotion of his servant during the unbloody sacrifice. Pacificus was wont to celebrate mass at a place called Cimarella, at some distance from his convent; and although his companion was obliged to dry his habit, which had been soaked with the rain and melting snow that had fallen during their journey thither, not a drop had touched him. He never allowed a day to pass without offering up the great victim of the new law, save during the last three years of his life, when blindness being added to his former deafness, he could no longer satisfy the cravings of his devotion: but he received the holy communion frequently, and heard each day all the masses that were celebrated in the conventual church. In like manner, his veneration for holy things was displayed in his zeal for God’s house, wherein he would sternly reprehend any violation of the respect due to it; and he taught all, both by word and example, with what respect the priests, who are the living temples of the Lord, are to be treated, as the seraphic St. Francis prescribes in his rule. Next to God, he entertained a most tender devotion to Our Blessed Lady, The Queen of Heaven, to whom he had recourse in all the necessities of his soul. He invoked her sweet name, and glorified the fulness of graces wherewith she is adorned, desiring that she might be praised, reverenced and invoked by all. He fasted rigorously on the vigils of her festivals; and on these days, his countenance, usually wan and pallid, became fresh and florid, remaining so until the following day. His affection was rewarded by Our Loving Mother; for he passed to eternal rest upon the 24th of September which is dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy. Pacificus felt a particular devotion towards his good angel, the chaste spouse of Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Francis of Asisium, whose custom of keeping seven lents during the year he faithfully followed, even in his old age, until his superiors commanded him to abandon it.
His faith was equalled by his constant and unwavering hope and trust in the mercies and graces of God. With what contempt did he look upon the things of this earth, vile and transitory as they are, and fix all his desires on heaven, exclaiming, “Heaven, heaven! The things of this world pass quickly away! Would that we knew what heaven means!” Men in their afflictions sought comfort from him, and he, with a heart overflowing with sympathy and sweetness, would raise his eyes to heaven, and tell them to have patience and to hope. He trusted in the intercession of his chief protectress, Mary, ever blessed St. Joseph, and his patrons; but, most of all, in the promises which God has made to his servants. It stirred up tender emotions in those who heard him exclaim, “Oh heaven! heaven!”—and, as the end of his life drew near, his expressions and affections increased daily in fervor and hope. On one occasion, during the month of July, 1721, the bishop of San Severino came to visit him: and, after having spent some time in pious conversation with him, was returning to his episcopal residence, when Pacificus suddenly rejoined him, exclaiming, “My lord,—heaven, heaven! and I shall soon follow you.” All present stood still in astonishment at these prophetic words, whose truth was soon proved, for the bishop died in fifteen days, and Pacificus within two months.
His confidence in God not only preserved him from sinking under the temptations to which his virtue was exposed from the malice of the devil, but God was pleased to make it a sure anchor of hope in the common wants and necessities of life. Thus, when the convent over which he presided was utterly unprovided with the means of subsistence, an unknown benefactor brought a considerable sum of money to the procurator, for the relief, he said, of the present wants of the convent of F. Pacificus. Sometimes the cook, finding all their store exhausted, ran to tell him that there was no dinner for the brethren: he calmly replied, “Shall we not eat?” well knowing that before the hour of dinner their benefactors would supply all that was necessary. On one occasion, the procurator told him, in a complaining tone, that their alms were exhausted; but he quietly answered, “Let us not despond, for God will not fail in the helps which His Divine Providence sends.” Scarcely were the words spoken, than an unknown person, from a distant place, presented himself to the procurator, and gave him a large alms, which sufficed for the wants of the convent for a long time.
Forasmuch as out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, the discourse and conversation of Pacificus were ever of the love of God. His boundless goodness was his constant theme; and he was accustomed to protest to all with whom he conversed, that he was resolved always to love God above everything created; to Him he referred all his thoughts and actions, and was often heard to exclaim, “Deus meus et omnia. Quis es tu dulcissime Jesu, et quis sum ego vermiculus terræ?” “My God and my all! Who art thou sweetest Jesus, and who am I, a poor worm of the earth?” The fire of heavenly charity produced a physical effect upon him—shooting sparkles of real light from his eyes; and so great was the warmth excited in his body, that he never approached the fire in the coldest winters, but kept his window open to moderate the heat which inwardly burned within his breast. He was filled with affliction and sorrow of heart as often as he reflected upon the injuries and insults of men against our loving Jesus; and many attested, after his death, the powerful effects which his exhortations to the love of God wrought upon their souls. In order not to interrupt his union with God, he always recited the rosary while passing through the streets or along the cloisters; and one of his brethren, whose cell was near his, hearing him repeat the Our Father aloud during the greater part of the night, advised him to take some rest; but he answered, “We must not caress the body;” and so saying he went on with his prayer. His companions were often edified and moved to devotion by hearing the fervent ejaculations and aspirations which he made to God; for, as he was deaf in the latter part of his life, he was obliged to raise his voice louder, that he himself might hear it: and once hearing the sound of music, he suddenly burst forth into the ejaculation, “O what will it be in heaven!” His love of God produced not a slavish dread of incurring the punishment of sin, but a filial affection and reverence towards his Heavenly Father, which would not allow him to commit the slightest offence that could be displeasing to him. He avoided sin through love of God, not through fear of chastisement; he performed His law in gladness of heart, for his hope rendered him secure of the infinite mercy and retribution of his Lord. In proportion to his love of God was the zeal which he displayed in bringing others to the like filial detestation of whatever could offend Him; and, most of all, during the time that he announced the divine word to the faithful, were his eloquence and energy directed to stir up in men a horror and dread of taking the holy name of God in vain; and many were by his means led to compunction and repentance, and the abandonment of this abominable vice. The love which he entertained towards God, was nourished by a perfect charity towards his neighbor. With what persuasive sweetness and solemn earnestness did he labor, in the holy sacrament of penance, to urge and encourage men to love God! With what solicitude did he convince them of the enormity of sin, and the delights and consolations of those whose heart belongs wholly to God! This, indeed, is true charity, and love of our neighbor,—which mourns over his faults as of they were our own,—which guides our brother into the right path,—and, compassionating his weakness and his relapses, leads him onwards to heaven. Where is there charity like unto that which seeks to unite all men in a bond of detestation of sin, and earnest striving after heaven? His penitents declared, upon oath, that they had never felt so much comfort and relief from the sacrament of penance, as when they confessed their sins to Pacificus. On one occasion, a man advanced in years came to his cell, and, kneeling down, requested him to hear his confession; but he told him to confess his sins first to Our crucified Saviour, and he would then give him absolution. Meanwhile, Pacificus took several turns about the room, saying his beads. The penitent again besought him to hear his confession: and the servant of God, after keeping him a few minutes longer, heard his confession, and showed him the enormity of his transgressions, exciting him to fresh sorrow, and resolution of avoiding them for the future; so that, detesting all his past sins, he began a new course of life, and completely abandoned his for mer evil habits. Even in this world, his charity and zeal for the extirpation of sin, and the kindling of perfect love in the hearts of all men, was displayed in the conversion of many abandoned sinners.
So great, indeed, was the tender affection of Pacificus towards his neighbors, whereby he sought to relieve their souls from the burden of sin, and heal the wounds and assuage the pain which it had caused, that all who were in affliction or tribulation, fled to him for comfort and help. He felt their misfortunes and miseries, as if they were his own, and strengthened them in suffering and resignation to the Divine will. He was commonly styled, “the loving father of the afflicted and sorrowful;” and men of all ranks, from the lowest to the highest, sought and obtained consolation from him. In the processes made for his beatification, are many attestations, that none ever had recourse to him without being eased and supported in their disquiet and anguish of mind.
But his practice of the corporal works of mercy almost exceeded the spiritual virtues which have been already described. Even before he entered the order of St. Francis, his charity to the poor had attracted them to his uncle’s house; but after his religious profession, he set no bounds to his commiseration and desire of assisting them. If his vow of poverty left him without the means of giving alms, he aided them by his prayers, and begged his friends to supply their wants. Not content with this, he often left his own food untouched,—taking only a few morsels of bread dipped in wine,—that it might be given to the poor, who are daily relieved at the door of the convents in Catholic countries. But, most of all, did his heart burn with the desire of freeing the souls, who are afflicted in purgatory, from their most cruel and bitter torments. He remembered that “it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins;” and therefore he cheerfully took upon himself to satisfy, both by prayer and mortification, some portion of the punishment which the souls of the members of the suffering Church are doomed to undergo. He offered up fervent prayers in their behalf, and every day recited for them the whole of the office for the dead; adding thereto corporal sufferings, through the vehemence of his desire to see them freed from their torments, and united to the beatific vision and enjoyment of God.
Moreover, he was often chosen to be the judge and umpire in the differences and dissensions of others, and by his means peace and harmony were restored between parties at variance. And so effectual were his exhortations and so lasting the reconciliations which he produced, that he was generally called “Pacificus,” that is, the peacemaker both in deed and name. Thus was he inflamed with the fire which Our Lord came to cast upon the earth, and thus was he a perfect imitator of the Blessed Jesus, who died for love.
While he attained to such perfection in those virtues which are common to all Christians, it cannot be supposed that he fell short in the practice of those peculiar virtues to which he had bound himself by his religious vows. His spirit of poverty led him to detest all that savored of worldly riches and ostentation, and to seek in his dress, and everything that could be called his own, whatever was poorest and most worn. But he remembered the saying of St. Bernard, paupertas mihi semper placuit, sordes verò nunquam; and out of respect to his priestly character, endeavored, as St. Bonaventure recommends, to unite this virtue with outward cleanliness and decency. While he was superior, he would never allow the brethren to go out on the appointed days, to beg more bread, as long as there was any remaining in the convent. Surpassing and wonderful, in like manner, was his pure, virginal chastity, for he would never permit any one to see any part of his body uncovered, or even to dress his ulcers, save once or twice, when he allowed Brother Vittorio, who was greatly in his confidence, to do it. With the same jealousy he kept a guard over his eyes, through which evil thoughts so often enter the mind. When he walked in the streets or in the cloisters, he drew his hood down over his face, in such a way, that some of his brethren could never see the color of his eyes; and for the same reason he would never converse with strangers, or even his own sister, for more than a few seconds.
Spiritual writers tell us, that obedience cannot exist, unless it be grounded upon humility; and therefore did Pacificus deem himself unworthy of the esteem of men, and endeavor on every occasion to avoid their praises, and seek to draw upon himself contempt; in a word, to attain this virtue in its fullest extent and perfection. His habit was always the oldest and most threadbare that he could find; in the convent he obeyed the orders of his very inferiors; in the refectory, he sat in the lowest place, although, as being senior, his place was next to the superior; and even while he was guardian, he could hardly be induced to sit in his proper place; he received harsh words, reproof, and sarcasms, without a murmur,—only raising his eyes to heaven, he would usually say, “Be it so for the love of God.” He used every artifice to hide his mortifications and cruel disciplines from others, and anxiously sought to conceal the supernatural powers which God had imparted to him.
Who can say with what severe mortifications and fasts he subdued his body? Besides fasting, as we have seen, three times in the week, until his superiors restricted him to Friday and Saturday, whereon he sometimes did not even taste a morsel of bread, or a drop of water, and the Lents of St. Francis, he made the little that he did eat a means of additional mortification, by mixing his food with ashes, as was attested by many who observed him attentively.
Besides the regular disciplines prescribed by rule three times in the week, he cruelly scourged himself thrice each day, with chains or cords, so as to fill all those with horror who heard the whistling of the lash, or saw the abundance of blood which he shed during the flagellation. Covered with hair-shirts, he undertook long journeys, over thorns and sharp stones, slept little, never approached the fire, and kept the window and door of his cell open, in the most rigorous winters, in order to hear the bell summoning him to the duties of the community. Thus did he keep his body subject to the spirit, and thus did he enter into glory, by sorrow and tribulation.
But from the description of these virtues, and the wonderful effects produced by them, we must turn to the closing scenes of his pure and spotless life. Besides being deprived of sight and hearing for several years, he had been all along afflicted with the violent pain and the suppuration of the ulcers in his legs, when on a sudden they closed of themselves; but the absorption of so much ulcerous matter in the blood produced a violent fever, which attacked him on the 16th of September, in 1721. He was well aware that his illness would terminate in his death, foretold by him, as we have seen, two months before, and, therefore, he endured it, with all its torment and suffering, with resignation and patience, blessing and praising God for His mercies, praying Him to give him the courage to undergo still greater agony and tribulation for His sake. He continued to repeat the acts of faith, hope, and charity, in the exercise of which his whole life had been engaged; but with what devotion, with what lively and fervent acts of humility, of faith, and religion and love, did he welcome the Lord of Glory, whom he had served so long and so faithfully, when he received him for the last time! His limbs had lost their vigor and action; but, gathering the little strength that remained, he was enabled to place himself upon his knees, and he recited in a weak but still audible voice, that most tender prayer of St. Bonaventure, which begins, “Sacrosanctæ, et Individuæ Trinitati;” and when, with those feelings of love and adoration, which no man can adequately describe, he had been comforted and strengthened with the bread of angels, he would fain have gone down to the church, as was his custom, to return thanks to God for having vouchsafed to visit him; but his superiors restrained him. Meanwhile, he ceased not giving praise and glory to God, and earnestly recommended himself to His infinite mercy; and, after some time, not being aware, through his defect in sight and hearing, of the presence of any one in his room, he rose from his bed, and placing himself devoutly on his knees, recited three Ave Marias, saying at the end, with singular earnestness, “Let these be, O my God, in satisfaction for my sins.” He would have prayed much longer, but his illness prevented him; and, as it became every moment more and more violent, the holy Sacrament of Extreme Unction was administered, which he received with the deepest feelings of faith and devotion. The physician then informed him that he had not much longer to live: he received the tidings with joy and gladness of heart, eagerly wishing to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. His brethren saw it was necessary to refresh his parched throat and mouth, and endeavored to make him swallow a few drops of some restorative; but, in spite of his desire to comply with their command, he could not succeed in swallowing a single drop. As, however, it was absolutely necessary that he should take it, the infirmarian bethought himself of a much more efficacious means, and presenting the restorative anew, told him to drink it in honor of Our blessed Lady, whose feast the Church celebrated upon that day. On hearing her most sweet name, he took fresh strength, and swallowed every drop of it, without the slightest difficulty, to the surprise of every one present.
On the eighth day, his superiors judged it advisable to give him the last absolution, and the indulgence, in articulo mortis, according to the custom of the order. He was again prevented from kneeling down during this solemn rite, but, to gratify his devotion, was allowed to remain sitting upon his bed; when, folding his arms in the form of a cross upon his breast, and casting his eyes towards heaven, he received the general absolution and indulgence. As his departure was evidently at hand, his companions were summoned to his cell, to recite for him the “Recommendation of the Soul to God.” Whilst his confessor was suggesting acts of resignation to the Divine will, he was observed to form the sign of the cross, and he endeavored to beat his breast, in spite of his extreme weakness. As he lay thus upon his right side, pressing a crucifix in his hand, and showing by the motion of his lips (for he had lost the use of speech) that he was making acts of faith and love, the brethren began the Recommendation of the Soul. At the words, “Profieiscere, anima Christiana,” “Go forth, O Christian soul,” he bowed his head, as if in obedience to his superior, who pronounced them; and, joining his hands, sweetly yielded up his soul to God, on the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, in the year seventeen hundred and twenty-one, of his age the sixty-sixth, fifty-one whereof had been spent in the order of St. Francis.
The cause of the beatification of the servant of God was brought before Benedict XIV. in 1752, and was by him referred to the Congregation of Rites in the following year. The Cardinal Duke of York was appointed reporter; and, under his auspices, and those of Monsignor Charles Erskine (afterwards Cardinal), Promotore della Fede, the decree for his beatification was issued by Pius VI. in 1785. He was solemnly canonized by Gregory XVI. on Trinity Sunday, May 25, 1839.
* According to Colgan, St. Rupert, who is honored on the 27th of March, was also a Scot from Ireland. The same author asserts that St. Conald was one of the twelve holy missionaries who accompanied St. Rupert, and that his relics were taken up by St. Virgilius, and exposed to public veneration at Saltsburg in 773.
Butler, Alban, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) III, 741-753.