The Golden Legend

The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints

TRANSLATED BY William Granger Ryan
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY Eamon Duffy
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 824
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7stkm
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    The Golden Legend
    Book Description:

    Depicting the lives of the saints in an array of factual and fictional stories,The Golden Legendwas perhaps the most widely read book, after the Bible, during the late Middle Ages. It was compiled around 1260 by Jacobus de Voragine, a scholarly friar and later archbishop of Genoa, whose purpose was to captivate, encourage, and edify the faithful, while preserving a vast store of information pertaining to the legends and traditions of the church. In this translation, the first in English of the complete text, William Granger Ryan captures the immediacy of this rich work, which offers an important guide for readers interested in medieval art and literature and, more generally, in popular religious culture.

    Arranged according to the order of saints' feast days, these fascinating stories are now combined into one volume. This edition also features an introduction by Eamon Duffy contextualizing the work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4205-6
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION TO THE 2012 EDITION (pp. xi-xx)
    Eamon Duffy

    TheLegenda Aurea, orGolden Legend, of Jacobus de Voragine was one of the most influential books of the later Middle Ages. It is a compendium of saints’ lives and of liturgical and doctrinal instruction, culled in the 1260s from a wide range of patristic and medieval sources. Its compiler, Blessed Jacobus de Voragine (the Latin form of Jacopo or Giacomo de Varrazze, ca. 1229–1298), intended his book as an aid for busy priests and preachers in need of a handy source of vivid anecdote, instruction, and edification to bulk out their sermons and catecheses.¹ Many such compilations were...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xxi-2)
  5. Prologue (pp. 3-4)

    Here begins the Prologue toReadings on the Saints, otherwise called theHistory of the Lombards, which was compiled by Brother Jacobus, Genoese, of the Order of Friars Preachers.

    The whole time-span of this present life comprises four distinct periods: the time of deviation or turning from the right way, the time of renewal or of being called back, the time of reconciliation, and the time of pilgrimage. The time of deviation began with Adam, or rather with his turning away from God, and lasted until Moses. The Church represents this period from Septuagesima to Easter, and the Book of...

  6. 1 The Advent of the Lord (pp. 4-12)

    The Lord’s advent is celebrated for four weeks to signify that his coming is fourfold: he came to us in the flesh, he comes into our hearts, he comes to us at death, and he will come to judge us. The fourth week is seldom completed, because the glory of the saints, which will be bestowed at the last coming, will never end. So it is, too, that the first responsory for the first Sunday of Advent, which includes theGloria Patri, has four verses corresponding to the aforesaid four comings; let the attentive reader figure out which verse best...

  7. 2 Saint Andrew, Apostle (pp. 13-21)

    Andrew is interpreted beautiful, or responding, or manly, fromander, which means male, a man; or Andrew, Andreas, is likeanthropos, i.e., man, fromana, above, andtropos, a turning. So Andrew was one who turned upward toward heavenly things and was lifted up to his Creator. He was beautiful in his life, responding in wise doctrine, manly in suffering, and raised up in glory. The presbyters and deacons of Achaia wrote an account of his martyrdom, which they had witnessed with their own eyes.

    Andrew and several other disciples were called by our Lord three times. The first time...

  8. 3 Saint Nicholas (pp. 21-27)

    The name Nicholas comes fromnicos, which means victory, andlaos, people; so Nicholas may be interpreted as meaning victory over a people, i.e., either victory over vices, which are many and mean, or as victory in the full sense, because Nicholas, by his way of life and his doctrine, taught the peoples to conquer sin and vice. Or the name is formed fromnicos, victory, andlaus, praise—so, victorious praise—or fromnitor, shining whiteness, andlaos, people, as meaning the bright cleanness of the people. Nicholas had in him that which makes for shining cleanness, since, according...

  9. 4 Saint Lucy, Virgin (pp. 27-29)

    Lucy comes fromlux, which means light. Light is beautiful to look upon; for, as Ambrose says, it is the nature of light that all grace is in its appearance. Light also radiates without being soiled; no matter how unclean may be the places where its beams penetrate, it is still clean. It goes in straight lines, without curvature, and traverses the greatest distances without losing its speed. Thus we are shown that the blessed virgin Lucy possessed the beauty of virginity without trace of corruption; that she radiated charity without any impure love; her progress toward God was straight...

  10. 5 Saint Thomas, Apostle (pp. 29-36)

    The name Thomas means abyss; or it means twofold, the Greek word for which isdidimus; or it comes fromthomos, which means a dividing or separating. Thomas is called abyss because he was granted insight into the depths of God’s being when Christ, in answer to his question, said: “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He is called twofold because he came to know the Lord’s resurrection in two ways—not only by sight, like the others, but by seeing and touching. He is called dividing or separating because he separated his heart from the...

  11. 6 The Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to the Flesh (pp. 37-43)

    The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh took place, according to some sources, 5,228 years after Adam, while others say 6,000 years, or, according to Eusebius of Caesarea in his chronicle, 5,199. Methodius seems to have arrived at the figure 6,000 by mystical rather than chronological calculation.

    In any case Octavian was the Roman emperor at the time. His first given name was Octavian: he was called Caesar after Julius Caesar whose nephew he was, Augustus because he augmented the state, Emperor to pay honor to his dignity by distinguishing him from the earlier kings, he being...

  12. 7 Saint Anastasia (pp. 43-44)

    The name Anastasia is derived fromana, meaning above, andstasis, meaning standing or stand; for the saint stood on high, raised above vice and sin to virtue.

    Anastasia was born into a noble Roman family; her father, Praetaxtatus, was a pagan, but her mother Faustina was Christian. Anastasia was raised in the Christian faith by her mother and Saint Chrysogonus. Given in marriage against her will to a young man named Publius, she feigned an enfeebling sickness and kept herself apart from him. Then he found out that she was visiting the Christians in prison and ministering to their...

  13. 8 Saint Stephen (pp. 45-50)

    The name Stephen—Stephanus in Latin—comes from the Greek word for crown—stephanos: in Hebrew the name means norm or rule. Stephen was the crown of the martyrs in the sense that he was the first martyr under the New Testament, as Abel was under the Old. He was a norm, i.e., an example or rule, showing others how to suffer for Christ, as well as how to act and live according to the truth, or how to pray for one’s enemies. Or Stephen (Stephanus) comes fromstrenue fans, speaking strenuously or with zeal, as the saint showed in...

  14. 9 Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist (pp. 50-55)

    John (Johannes) is interpreted grace of God, or one in whom is God’s grace, or one to whom a gift is given, or to whom a particular grace is given by God. By this we understand four privileges which God bestowed upon Saint John. The first is the special love of Christ for him. Christ loved John above the other apostles and gave him greater signs of love and familiar friendship. Hence he is called the grace of God, because to the Lord he was graced. Christ is also seen to have loved him more than Peter. But there is...

  15. 10 The Holy Innocents (pp. 56-59)

    The Holy Innocents are so called for three reasons—by reason of their life, of the death they suffered, and of the innocence they attained. They are called innocent because their life was in-nocent, i.e., not doing injury, since they never injured anyone: not God by disobedience, nor their neighobor by injustice, nor themselves by any sin. Therefore the Psalm says: “The innocent and the upright have adhered to me”; for they were innocent in their lives and upright in faith. They suffered innocently and unjustly; hence the Psalmist: “They have poured out [innocent] blood.” And by their martyrdom they...

  16. 11 Saint Thomas of Canterbury (pp. 59-62)

    Thomas means depth, or twofold, or cut down. He was profound in his humility, as is shown by his hair shirt and his washing the feet of the poor; twofold in his office, teaching the people by word and example; and cut down in his martyrdom.

    Thomas of Canterbury, while he was at the court of the king of England, saw things happening that were contrary to religion. He therefore left the court and took service with the archbishop of Canterbury, who made him his archdeacon. At the archbishop’s request, however, he accepted the office of chancellor to the king,...

  17. 12 Saint Silvester (pp. 62-71)

    Silvester is derived fromsile, which means light, andterra, earth, as though to say the light of the earth, i.e., the Church, which, like good earth, has fertility in good works, the blackness of humiliation, and the sweetness of devotion. Good earth is recognized by these three qualities, as Palladius says. Or the name comes fromsilva, forest, andtheos, God, because Saint Silvester drew savage, untaught, insensitive men to the faith. Or, as theGlossarysays, the name means verdant, devoted to plowing and planting, shaded, thickly wooded; and Silvester was verdant in his contemplation of heavenly things,...

  18. 13 The Circumcision of the Lord (pp. 71-78)

    The day of the Lord’s circumcision is noteworthy and solemn for four reasons: it is the octave of his birth, and it commemorates the imposition of a new and saving name, the shedding of his blood, and the seal of circumcision.

    First, it is the octave of the birth of Christ. If the octaves of other saints are solemn days, how much more solemn should the octave day of the Saint of saints be! Yet it does not seem that the Lord’s nativity should have an octave: his birth led to death, whereas the deaths of the saints have octaves...

  19. 14 The Epiphany of the Lord (pp. 78-84)

    On the feast day of the Lord’s epiphany four miracles are commemorated, and therefore the day has four different names. On this day the Magi adored Christ, John baptized him, he changed water into wine, and he fed five thousand men with five loaves.

    When Jesus was thirteen days old, the Magi, led by the star, came to him: therefore the day is called Epiphany, fromepi, which means above, andphanos, meaning an appearing, because then the star appeared from above, or the star, appearing from above, showed the Magi that Christ was the true God. On the same...

  20. 15 Saint Paul, Hermit (pp. 84-85)

    This Paul was the first hermit, as Jerome, who wrote his life, testifies. To escape the persecution of Decius he took refuge in a boundless desert, and there, unknown to men, he lived for sixty years in a cave.

    The emperor Decius had two names and was also known as Gallienus. His reign began in the year 256. Paul, seeing the tortures that Decius was inflicting on Christians, fled to the desert. At that time two young Christian men were apprehended. One of them had his whole body coated with honey and was exposed under a blazing sun to be...

  21. 16 Saint Remy (pp. 85-87)

    The name Remigius (Remy) comes fromremi, to feed, andgeos, earth, one who feeds earthlings with sound doctrine. Or the name comes fromremi, shepherd, andgyon, wrestling, one who tends his flock and wrestles. Remy fed his flock with the word of his preaching, the good example of his life, and the support of his prayer. Moreover, there are three kinds of arms—for defense, such as the shield, for attack, like the sword, and for protection, like the breastplate and the helmet. Remy struggled against the devil with the shield of faith, the sword of the word...

  22. 17 Saint Hilary (pp. 87-89)

    Hilary, or Hilarius, looks much likehilaris, hilarious, cheerful, because the saint was always cheerful in the service of God. Or the name is likealarius, which comes fromaltus, high, andares, virtue, because he was high in knowledge and virtuous in his life. Or the name is fromhyle, the primordial matter, which is obscure, and Hilary’s words, both spoken and written, were obscure and profound.

    Hilary, a native of the region of Aquitania, who eventually became bishop of the city of Poitiers, rose like the bright morning star among the other stars. At first he was married...

  23. 18 Saint Macarius (pp. 89-91)

    Macarius is derived frommacha, skillfulness, andares, virtue, or frommacha, beating, andrio, master. Saint Macarius was skillful in outwitting the deceits of the demons and virtuous in his life; he beat his body to tame it and was masterly in ruling his brother monks.

    Macarius the abbot, making his way one day across a vast desert, paused to sleep in a tomb where the bodies of pagans were buried, and pulled out one of the bodies to use as a pillow. The demons tried to frighten him, and one of them called to him in a woman’s...

  24. 19 Saint Felix (pp. 91-92)

    This saint is called Felixin Pincis, either from the place where he was buried, or because he is reputed to have been killed with styluses:pincais the word for stylus. The story is that Felix was a schoolmaster and was exceedingly strict with his pupils. He was also a Christian, and as he professed his faith openly, the pagans seized him and turned him over to the boys he taught; and they stabbed him to death with their styluses. The Church, however, seems to hold that he was a confessor, not a martyr.

    Whenever Felix was led before...

  25. 20 Saint Marcellus (pp. 92-93)

    Marcellus comes fromarcens malum, keeping evil away, or frommaria percellens, striking the seas, i.e., striking and beating back the adversities of life in the world. The world is likened to the sea, because as Chrysostom says in hisCommentary on Matthew, in the sea there is confusion of sound, constant fear, the image of death, tireless clashing of the waves, and never-ending change.

    Marcellus was supreme pontiff in Rome and reproached the emperor Maximian for his relentless cruelty to Christians. He celebrated the mass in the house of a Roman lady, which was consecrated as a church. The...

  26. 21 Saint Anthony (pp. 93-96)

    Anthony (Antonius) comes fromana, above, andtenens, holding, meaning one who holds on to higher things and despises worldly things. Saint Anthony despised the world because it is unclean, restless, transitory, deceptive, bitter. So Augustine says: “O sordid world, why are you so clamorous? Why do you mislead us? You want to hold us though you pass away: what would you do if you stayed? Whom would you not deceive with sweetness, you who, being bitter, lure with sweet foods?”

    Saint Anthony’s life was written by Saint Athanasius.

    When Anthony was twenty years old, he heard the following words...

  27. 22 Saint Fabian (pp. 96-97)

    Fabian (Fabianus) is likefabricans, building, and Fabian built heavenly bliss for himself, gaining it by a triple right—by adoption, by purchase, and by a fight well fought.

    Fabian was a citizen of the city of Rome. When the pope died and the people gathered to elect a successor, Fabian went along to see what the outcome would be. Lo and behold, a white dove came down upon his head, and the people, filled with wonder, elected him as supreme pontiff.

    Pope Damasus tells us that Pope Fabian sent seven deacons to all areas of the Church and assigned...

  28. 23 Saint Sebastian (pp. 97-101)

    Sebastian comes fromsequens, following,beatitudo, beatitude,astim, city, andana, above; therefore one who pursues the beatitude of the city on high, the city of supernal glory—in other words, one who acquires and possesses that city. Augustine says that this possession costs five payments: poverty pays for the kingdom, pain for joy, toil for rest, dishonor for glory, and death for life. Or Sebastian is derived frombastum, saddle; for Christ is the horseman, the Church the horse, Sebastian the saddle on which Christ rode to do battle in the Church and obtain the victory of many martyrs....

  29. 24 Saint Agnes, Virgin (pp. 101-104)

    The name Agnes comes fromagna, a lamb, because Agnes was as meek and humble as a lamb. Or her name comes from the Greek wordagnos, pious, because she was pious and compassionate; or fromagnoscendo, knowing, because she knew the way of truth. Truth, according to Augustine, is opposed to vanity and falseness and doubting, all of which she avoided by the virtue of truth that was hers.

    Agnes was a virgin most sensible and wise, as Ambrose, who wrote the story of her martyrdom, attests. When she was thirteen years old, she lost death and found life....

  30. 25 Saint Vincent (pp. 105-108)

    The name Vincent may be interpreted as burning up vice, or as conquering fires, or as holding on to victory. Saint Vincent did indeed burn up vices, getting rid of them by mortification of the flesh; he conquered the fires of torture by dauntless endurance of pain and held on to victory over the world by despising it. He conquered three things that were in the world, namely, false errors, impure loves, and worldly fears, which he overcame by wisdom, purity, and constancy. In this regard Augustine says: “The martyrdoms of the saints have taught and do teach us how...

  31. 26 Saint Basil, Bishop (pp. 108-113)

    Basil was a venerable bishop and an eminent doctor of the Church. His life was written by Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium.

    Basil’s great holiness was made manifest in a vision granted to a hermit named Ephrem, who, being rapt in ecstasy, saw a column of fire the tip of which touched heaven, and heard a voice from above saying: “Basil is as great as the immense column you see before you.” Ephrem therefore went into the city on the feast of the Epiphany because he wanted to look upon this great man. When he saw the bishop clothed in shining...

  32. 27 Saint John the Almsgiver (pp. 113-118)

    John the Almsgiver held the office of patriarch of Alexandria. One night while he was at prayer, he saw in a vision a very beautiful maiden standing by him, wearing a crown of olive leaves. Seeing her he was astonished and asked her who she was. “I am Pity,” she said, “and it is I that brought the Son of God down from heaven. Take me for your spouse and all will be well with you.” John saw that the olive crown represented pity and compassion, and from that day on he became so compassionate that he was calledEleymon,...

  33. 28 The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle (pp. 119-121)

    Saint Paul’s conversion took place in the same year during which Christ suffered and Stephen was stoned, counting the year not in the normal way from January to December, but simply as a space of twelve months; for Christ suffered on the 25th day of March and Stephen was stoned in the same year on the 3d day of August, while Paul was converted on the 25th day of January.

    Why is Paul’s conversion celebrated, while that of other saints is not? Three reasons are usually given for this. The first is the example that Paul set: no sinner, no...

  34. 29 Saint Paula (pp. 121-126)

    Paula belonged to the high Roman nobility. Saint Jerome wrote her life as follows.¹

    If all the members of my body were turned into tongues and all the skills of the human voice were applied to the task, I still could say nothing worthy of the virtues of the holy and venerable Paula. She was noble by birth but far more noble by her sanctity, powerful earlier by reason of her wealth but later more renowned for her poverty; and I call to witness Jesus and the holy angels, and particularly her own angel, the companion and guardian of this...

  35. 30 Saint Julian (pp. 126-131)

    Julian, Julianus, begins likejubilus, jubilant, andanameans upward; so Julian is close tojubilans, one who strives upward toward heaven with jubilation. Or the name comes fromJulius, one who begins, andanus, old man, because in God’s service Julian was old in his long-suffering, but one who began by knowing himself.

    Julian was bishop of Le Mans. It is said that he was Simon the Leper, whom Christ cured of leprosy and who invited the Lord to a festal meal. After Christ’s ascension the apostles ordained Julian as bishop of Le Mans. He was renowned for his...

  36. 31 Septuagesima (pp. 132-133)

    Septuagesima designates the time of deviation or turning away from God, Sexagesima the time of widowhood, Quinquagesima the time of pardon, Quadragesima, or Lent, the time for spiritual penance. Septuagesima begins on the Sunday on which the introitCircumdederunt me gemitus mortis¹ is sung, and ends on the Saturday after Easter.

    Septuagesima was established for three reasons, as we learn from Master John Beleth’sSumma de officiis. The first reason was to make compensation. The holy fathers had decreed that in order to pay due reverence to the day of the Lord’s ascension, on which day our human nature rose...

  37. 32 Sexagesima (pp. 134-135)

    Sexagesima begins on the Sunday when the introitExsurge,quare obdormis Domine¹ is sung, and ends on the Wednesday after Easter. It was instituted as a compensation, a sign, and a representation.

    First, as a compensation: Pope Melchiades and Saint Silvester decreed that two meals should be eaten every Saturday, for fear that due to abstinence from food on Friday, which is a fast day throughout the year, man’s constitution would be weakened. To compensate for the Saturdays of this season, therefore, the popes added a week before Lent and called it Sexagesima.

    Second, as a sign: Sexagesima (sixtieth day)...

  38. 33 Quinquagesima (pp. 135-136)

    Quinquagesima lasts from the Sunday on which the introitEsto mihi in Deum protectorem¹ is sung until Easter Sunday. It was instituted as a completion, a sign, and a representation.

    As a completion: we ought to fast for forty days as Christ did, but in Lent there are only thirty-six fast days because there is no fasting on Sundays. Sundays are exempted both to mark our joy and reverence for the Lord’s resurrection, and to follow the example of Christ, who on the day of his rising from the dead took food twice—once when he came in to the...

  39. 34 Quadragesima (pp. 137-138)

    For Quadragesima, the first Sunday of Lent, the introitInvocavit me¹ is sung. The Church, weighed down with so many tribulations, had cried out: “The sorrows of death surrounded me,” and afterwards, having caught her breath, had called for help, saying: “Arise, O Lord” and “Be unto me a God, a protector.” Now she shows that she has been heard, saying: “He has cried to me and I have heard him.” Note, however, that Lent has 42 days, including the Sundays, but when six Sundays are taken out, only 36 days of fast are left. This number of days amounts...

  40. 35 The Ember Day Fasts (pp. 139-140)

    The ember day, or four-season, fasts were instituted by Pope Callistus and are observed four times a year, following the four seasons of the year.

    There are many reasons for this practice. The first is that spring is warm and humid, summer hot and dry, autumn cool and dry, winter cold and wet. Therefore we fast in the spring to control the harmful fluid of voluptuousness in us; in summer, to allay the noxious heat of avarice; in autumn, to temper the aridity of pride; in winter, to overcome the coldness of malice and lack of faith.

    The second reason...

  41. 36 Saint Ignatius (pp. 140-143)

    The name Ignatius comes fromignem patiens, which means being afire with love of God.

    Ignatius was a disciple of Saint John and bishop of Antioch. We read that he wrote a letter to the Blessed Virgin in these terms: “To Mary the Christ-bearer, her Ignatius. You ought to strengthen and console me, a neophyte and disciple of your John, from whom I have learned many things about your Jesus, things wondrous to tell, and I am dumbfounded at hearing them. My heart’s desire is to be assured about these things that I have heard, by you who were always...

  42. 37 The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (pp. 143-151)

    The purification of the Virgin Mary took place forty days after the birth of Jesus. This feast has traditionally been known by three names—Purification, Hypopanti, and Candlemas.

    The feast is called Purification because on the fortieth day after her Son’s birth the blessed Virgin came to the Temple in order to be purified according to the custom prescribed by the Law, although she was not bound by that Law. The twelfth chapter of Leviticus prescribed that a woman who had received seed and borne a male child would be unclean for seven days and must abstain from association with...

  43. 38 Saint Blaise (pp. 151-153)

    Blaise (Blasius) is likeblandus, bland, or is formed frombela, meaning habit or disposition, andsyor, small; for the saint was bland through the sweetness of his discourse, virtuous by habit, and small by the humility of his way of life.

    Blaise set a powerful example of gentleness and holiness, and the Christians in Sebaste, a city in Cappadocia, elected him to be their bishop; but because Diocletian’s persecution was raging, Blaise, though now a bishop, retired to a cave and there led the life of a hermit. Birds brought him food, and wild animals flocked to him and...

  44. 39 Saint Agatha, Virgin (pp. 154-157)

    Agatha comes fromagios, which means holy, andtheos, God—hence saint of God. According to Chrysostom, there are three requirements for sainthood, and Agatha was perfect in all three—namely, cleanness of heart, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and abundance of good works. Or the name comes froma, which means without,geos, earth, andtheos, God—therefore a goddess, as it were, without earth, i.e., without love of earthly things. Or it comes fromaga, speaking, andthau, completion, and Agatha spoke completely and perfectly, as is clear from her answers. Or again fromagath, servitude, and...

  45. 40 Saint Vaast (pp. 157-158)

    Vedastus, the Latin form of Vaast, comes fromvere, truly,dans, giving, andaestus, heat, and the saint truly gave himself the heat of affliction and penance. Or the name may come fromveh, woe, anddistans, distant, because eternal woe was distant from him. The damned will say “woe!” continually—woe! because I have offended God, woe! because I did the devil’s will, woe! that I was born, woe! that I cannot die, woe! because I am so sorely tormented, woe! because I shall never be set free.

    Vaast was ordained bishop of Arras by Saint Remy. When he...

  46. 41 Saint Amand (pp. 158-159)

    The name Amand means lovable, and the name fitted the man, for he had three qualities that make a person lovable. First, he was friendly toward others; Prov. 18:24: “A man amiable in society will be more friendly than a brother.” Second, he was honorable in his conduct, as it is said of Esther (Esther 2:15): “She was agreeable and amiable in the sight of all.” Third, he was upright and virtuous; 2 Sam. 1:23: “Saul and Jonathan were lovely, and comely in their life.”

    Amand, the son of noble parents, entered a monastery. While he was walking in the...

  47. 42 Saint Valentine (pp. 159-160)

    The name Valentine, in LatinValentinus, is made up ofvalorem, value, andtenens, holding; and Saint Valentine held on to—persevered in—holiness. Or the name is likevalens tiro, valiant soldier of Christ. A valiant soldier is one who has never fallen, who strikes hard, defends himself bravely, and conquers decisively. Thus Valentine never failed by shunning martyrdom, he struck hard by putting down idolatry, he defended his faith by confessing it, he conquered by suffering. Valentine was a venerable priest, whom the emperor Claudius summoned before him. “What is this, Valentine?” he asked. “Why do you not...

  48. 43 Saint Juliana (pp. 160-161)

    Juliana was betrothed to Eulogius, the prefect of Nicomedia, but refused to become his wife unless he accepted the faith of Christ. Her father therefore commanded that she be stripped and soundly beaten, then handed her over to the prefect. Eulogius said to her: “My dear Juliana, why have you played false with me, rejecting me this way?” She answered: “If you will adore my God, I will consent, otherwise I will never be yours!” “I can’t do that, dear lady,” the prefect replied, “because the emperor would have me beheaded.” Juliana: “If you are so afraid of a mortal...

  49. 44 The Chair of Saint Peter (pp. 162-166)

    There are three kinds of “chair”—the royal chair, or throne, 2 Sam. 23:8: “David sitting in the chair, etc.”; the priestly chair, i Kings 1:9: “Now Eli the priest was sitting on a stool before the door of the temple of the Lord”; and the magisterial or professorial chair, Matt. 23:1: “The scribes and the Pharisees have sat on the chair of Moses.” Peter sat on the royal chair because he was first among all kings; on the priestly chair because he was the shepherd of all clerics; and on the magisterial chair because he was the teacher of...

  50. 45 Saint Matthias, Apostle (pp. 166-171)

    The Hebrew name Matthias means given by God, or gift of God, or it can mean humble or small. Saint Matthias was given by God when God chose him out of the world and gave him a place among the seventy-two disciples. He was a gift of God when, being elected by lot, he won the name of apostle. He was small in that he always preserved true humility. Humility (as Ambrose says) is threefold. There is first the humility that is imposed from without on a person, who is then said to be humiliated; second, the humility of reflection,...

  51. 46 Saint Gregory (pp. 171-184)

    The name Gregory (Gregorius) is formed fromgrex, flock, andgore, which means to preach or to say, and Saint Gregory was preacher to his flock. Or the name resemblesegregarius, fromegregius, outstanding, andgore; and Gregory was an outstanding preacher and doctor. Or Gregorius, in our language, suggests vigilance, watchfulness; and the saint watched over himself, over God, and over his flock—over himself by virtuous living, over God by inward contemplation, over the flock by assiduous preaching—and in these three ways he merited the vision of God. So Augustine says in his bookDe Ordine: “He...

  52. 47 Saint Longinus (pp. 184-184)

    Longinus was the centurion who with other soldiers stood by the Lord’s cross, and who by Pilate’s order pierced Christ’s side with a spear. Seeing the signs that accompanied his death, the darkness and the earthquake, Longinus believed in Christ. Yet according to some accounts, what did most to convince him was that, age and infirmity having left him almost blind, the blood that ran down the shaft of the spear touched his eyes and at once he saw clearly.

    Longinus then quit the military career and received instruction from the apostles at Caesarea of Cappadocia. He devoted the next...

  53. 48 Saint Sophia and Her Three Daughters (pp. 185-186)

    This is the legend of the holy martyrs Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope, and Charity.¹ Note that the principal temple in Constantinople is named after Saint Sophia, whose name means Wisdom.

    Saint Sophia wisely brought up her three daughters in the fear of God. The first daughter was eleven years old, the second ten, and the third eight when she came to Rome, where every Sunday she visited the churches and won over many women to Christ. For this reason she and her daughters were charged before Emperor Hadrian. The beauty of the three girls so charmed him...

  54. 49 Saint Benedict (pp. 186-193)

    Benedict, whose name means blessed, was so called because he blessed many, or because he had many blessings, or again because all spoke well (bene dicere) of him, or because he merited eternal blessings. His life was written by Saint Gregory.

    Benedict was a native of the province of Nursia. He was sent to Rome as a child for his liberal studies, but while still young he abandoned schooling and decided to retire to the desert. His nurse, who loved him dearly, followed him to a place called Effide. Once she borrowed a sieve from a neighbor to sift some...

  55. 50 Saint Patrick (pp. 193-196)

    Patrick lived about a.d. 280. Once he was preaching to the king of the Scots about Christ’s passion, standing before him and leaning on the staff that he held in his hand. By accident he put the sharp point of the staff on the king’s foot and so pierced the foot. The king thought that the holy bishop had done this deliberately and that he himself could not receive the faith of Christ otherwise than by suffering like this for Christ, so he bore the pain patiently. Marveling at this, the saint prayed and healed the king’s foot. He also...

  56. 51 The Annunciation of the Lord (pp. 196-202)

    The feast is so named because on this day the coming of the Son of God was announced by an angel. It was fitting that the Annunciation should precede the Incarnation, and this for three reasons. The first is that the order of reparation should correspond to the order of transgression or deviation. Therefore since the devil tempted the woman to lead her to doubt, through doubt to consent, and through consent to sinning, so the angel brought the message to the Virgin by the announcement to prompt her to believing, through believing to consent, and through consent to the...

  57. 52 Saint Timothy (pp. 202-203)

    The feast of Saint Timothy is celebrated at Rome, to which city Timothy came from Antioch in the pontificate of Pope Melchiades and was appointed by the priest Silvester, who later became the bishop of the city, to perform functions which at that time the popes themselves were afraid to carry out. Silvester not only welcomed him to his house but, putting fear aside, praised his way of life and his teaching. Timothy preached the truth of Christ for a year and three months and made many converts, and then, being worthy of martyrdom, was captured by the pagan populace...

  58. 53 The Passion of the Lord (pp. 203-215)

    The passion of Christ was bitter in its pains, scornful in the mockery it laid upon him, and fruitful in its manifold benefits.

    The pain of the passion was of five kinds. The first was its shamefulness. It was shameful because it happened in a place of shame, namely, on Calvary, where malefactors were punished. The mode was shameful, because he was condemned to a most ignominious death, the cross being the instrument of punishment for thieves. Yet, shameful as it then was, the cross is now a sign of unbounded glory, as Augustine says: “The cross, which was the...

  59. 54 The Resurrection of the Lord (pp. 216-224)

    Christ’s resurrection took place on the third day after his passion. Concerning the resurrection there are seven questions that must be considered. First, how is it true to say that the Lord lay in the tomb for three days and three nights and rose on the third day? Second, why did he not come to life immediately after dying instead of waiting until the third day? Third, how he rose. Fourth, why he hurried his rising rather than wait for the general resurrection. Fifth, why he rose. Sixth, how many times he appeared after the resurrection. Seventh, how he brought...

  60. 55 Saint Secundus (pp. 225-226)

    Secundus resemblesse condens, which means establishing oneself, i.e., composing oneself by integrity of morals. Or the name is likesecundans, i.e.,obsecundans, complying with; so, complying with the commands of the Lord. Or the name is formed fromsecum dux, commander of oneself. Saint Secundus was his own commander, because he controlled sensuality by reason and directed his senses to the performance of all good works. Orsecundus, the second, refers toprimus, the first, for there are two roads that lead to eternal life, the first by lamenting in penance, the second by martyrdom. The precious martyr Secundus...

  61. 56 Saint Mary of Egypt (pp. 227-229)

    Mary the Egyptian, who is called the Sinner, led a most austere life in the desert for forty-seven years, beginning about the year of the Lord 270 in the time of Claudius. A priest named Zozimus crossed the Jordan and began to wander through the broad forest, hoping to find some holy father there, and saw a figure walking about naked, the body blackened and burned by the fiery sun. It was Mary the Egyptian. She immediately took flight, and Zozimus ran after her as fast as he could. She said to him: “Father Zozimus, why are you pursuing me?...

  62. 57 Saint Ambrose (pp. 229-237)

    The name Ambrose comes fromambra, amber, which is a fragrant, precious substance. Ambrose was precious to the Church and spread a pleasing fragrance both in his speech and in his actions. Or Ambrose is derived fromambraandsyos, which means God, he being, as it were, the amber of God, because through him God diffused fragrance everywhere, as amber does; for Ambrose was and is the good odor of Christ in every place. Or the name comes fromambor, which means father of light, andsior, small, because he was a father in begetting many spiritual children; he...

  63. 58 Saint George (pp. 238-242)

    The name George is derived fromgeos, meaning earth, andorge, meaning to work; hence one who works the earth, namely, his own flesh. Now Augustine writes in his bookOn the Holy Trinitythat good earth is found high on the mountains, in the temperate climate of the hills, and in level ground: the first bears good grass, the second, grapes, and the third, the fruits of the fields. Thus blessed George was on the heights because he disdained base things and so had the fresh green of purity; he was temperate by his prudence and so shared the...

  64. 59 Saint Mark, Evangelist (pp. 242-248)

    Marcus, the Latin form of Mark, is interpreted: sublime by mandate, or certain, or bent over, or bitter. Mark the evangelist was sublime by mandate by reason of the perfection of his life: he observed not only the common commands but the sublime ones, such as the counsels. He was certain because he was sure about the doctrine of his gospel: he handed down the doctrine of his gospel as certain doctrine inasmuch as he had learned it from Saint Peter, his master. He was bent over in his profound humility, for it was due to his humility that he...

  65. 60 Saint Marcellinus, Pope (pp. 248-249)

    Marcellinus ruled the Church of Rome for nine years and four months. By order of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian he was taken prisoner and brought forward to offer sacrifice. At first he refused and was threatened with various kinds of torture, and for fear of the threatened suffering he put down two grains of incense in sacrifice to the gods. This gave great joy to the infidels but caused the faithful immense sadness. However, under a weak head strong members rise up and make little of the threats of princes; so the faithful came to the pope and reproached him...

  66. 61 Saint Vitalis (pp. 249-250)

    Vitalis could be fromvivens talis, living such or living the same as, because Saint Vitalis lived outwardly in his works such as he was inwardly in his heart. Or the name comes fromvita, life, or the word is formed fromvivens alis, i.e., shielding oneself with the wings of the virtues. The saint was like one of the animals of God that Ezechiel saw, having four wings—the wing of hope, by which he flew to heaven, the wing of love, by which he flew to God, the wing of fear, by which he flew to hell, and...

  67. 62 A Virgin of Antioch (pp. 250-254)

    There was a certain virgin in Antioch whose story Ambrose set forth in the second book of hisDe Virginibus, as follows.

    In recent times there was a virgin in Antioch who shrank from being seen in public. But the more she avoided the eyes of the lustful, the more she enkindled their desire. Beauty that is heard about but not seen is the more desired, due to two stimuli, erotic love and knowledge, since nothing displeasing meets the eye, and beauty known about is imagined as all the more pleasing. The eye is not exploring in order to judge,...

  68. 63 Saint Peter Martyr (pp. 254-266)

    The name Petrus, Peter, is interpreted as knowing or recognizing, or as taking off one’s shoes; or Peter comes frompetros, firm. Hence three privileges possessed by Saint Peter are indicated. He was an outstanding preacher and therefore is called knowing, because he had perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and, in preaching, recognized what met the needs of each hearer. He was a most pure virgin and so is called one who takes off his shoes, because he removed and put off all earthly love from the feet of his affections and inclinations: in that way he was virgin not...

  69. 64 Saint Fabian (pp. 266-266)

    Saint Fabian ruled the Church of Rome for many years and finally suffered martyrdom in the reign of Decius. At his election as bishop of the city of Rome the Spirit, appearing in the form of a dove, was seen by many. Fabian ordered accounts of the passions of the martyrs, which are not carefully preserved by notaries, to be collected, and put in writing. He also had many basilicas built at the martyrs’ tombs, and dedicated them himself. He established the practice of burning the old chrism and consecrating fresh chrism every year on Holy Thursday. Look for more...

  70. 65 Saint Philip, Apostle (pp. 267-268)

    Philippus, the Latin form of Philip, can be interpreted asos lampadis, mouth of a lamp, or asos manuum, mouth of hands; or it is composed ofphilos, which means love, andyper, above. The apostle is called mouth of a lamp because of his luminous preaching, mouth of hands because of his tireless work, and lover of the things above because of his heavenly contemplation.

    After Philip the apostle had preached throughout Scythia for twenty years, the pagans laid hold of him and thrust him before a statue of Mars to make him sacrifice. Then suddenly a huge...

  71. 66 Saint Apollonia (pp. 268-269)

    During the reign of the emperor Decius a savage persecution broke out in Alexandria against the servants of God; but a man named Divinus, a wretch of the demons, anticipated the ruler’s edict and stirred up the superstitious rabble against the servants of the same Christ, and the mob, thoroughly aroused, thirsted for nothing less than the blood of the pious. Their first captives were dedicated religious, both men and women. Some of them they tore limb from limb, hacking them to pieces. They mutilated the faces of others and put their eyes out with pointed sticks, and threw them...

  72. 67 Saint James, Apostle (pp. 269-277)

    Jacobus, the Latin form of James, is interpreted as one who causes to fall, or trips someone who is in a hurry, or as one who prepares. Or Jacobus comes fromJa, a name of God, andcobar, which means burden or weight. Or again, as if the name were Jacopus, it might come fromjaculum, lance, andcope, a cutting, so one cut down with lances. James therefore was one who brought the world to a fall by his contempt for it, he tripped up the devil who is always in a hurry, and he prepared his body for...

  73. 68 The Finding of the Holy Cross (pp. 277-284)

    This feast is named for the finding of the holy cross because, it is said, the cross was found on this day. It had been found earlier by Adam’s son Seth in the earthly paradise, as we shall see below, by Solomon in Lebanon, by the queen of Sheba in Solomon’s temple, by the Jews in the water of the pond; and on this day it was found by Helena on Mount Calvary.

    The finding of the holy cross occurred more than 200 years after the Lord’s resurrection. We read in theGospel of Nicodemusthat when Adam became infirm,...

  74. 69 Saint John before the Latin Gate (pp. 284-285)

    While John the apostle and evangelist was preaching at Ephesus, he was taken prisoner by the proconsul and invited to sacrifice to the gods. He refused and was remanded to prison, and a letter was sent to Emperor Domitian that described John as guilty of great sacrileges, namely, of despising the gods and of worshiping a crucified man. By Domitian’s order he was brought to Rome, and all his hair was cut off in mockery. Then at the city portal called the Latin Gate he was plunged into a caldron of hot oil over a blazing fire, but felt no...

  75. 70 The Greater and Lesser Litanies (pp. 285-289)

    The litanies occur twice in the year. The first time is on the feast of Saint Mark, and this is called the Greater Litany. The second, or Lesser Litany, falls on the three days before the feast of the Lord’s ascension into heaven. The word “litany” means prayer, supplication, rogation.

    The first litany has three names: Greater Litany, Septiform Procession, and Black Crosses. It is called the Greater Litany for three reasons: the first, the one who instituted it, namely, Pope Gregory the Great; the second, the place where it was instituted, namely, Rome, mistress and head of the world...

  76. 71 Saint Boniface, Martyr (pp. 289-291)

    Saint Boniface¹ suffered martyrdom under Emperors Diocletian and Maximian in the city of Tarsus but was buried at Rome on the road called the Via Latina.

    Boniface was the chief steward in charge of the properties of a noble lady named Aglaë. The two lived in illicit union, but in time, touched by divine grace, they took counsel and decided that Boniface should go in search of the bodies of some martyrs. Their hope was that if they served and paid honor to the holy martyrs by venerating their relics, they might obtain salvation through the prayers of these saints....

  77. 72 The Ascension of the Lord (pp. 291-298)

    The Lord’s ascension occurred forty days after his resurrection. Concerning this event seven questions are to be considered—where he ascended from; why he did not ascend immediately after the resurrection but waited forty days; in what manner he ascended; with whom he ascended; by what merit he ascended; where he ascended to; and why he ascended.

    On the first point, note that he rose to heaven from the Mount of Olives, out toward Bethany. This mountain, following another translation, was also called the Mount of Three Lights, because from the west the light from the Temple fell upon it...

  78. 73 The Holy Spirit (pp. 299-308)

    On this day of Pentecost, as sacred history testifies in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit was sent upon the apostles in tongues of fire. About this sending or coming eight points are to be considered: first, by whom the Spirit was sent; second, in how many ways he is or was sent; third, the time at which he was sent; fourth, how many times he was sent; fifth, how he was sent; sixth, upon whom he was sent; seventh, for what reasons he was sent; eighth, what led to his being sent.

    On the first point, let...

  79. 74 Saints Gordianus and Epimachus (pp. 308-309)

    Gordianus comes fromgeos, which means dogma or house, anddyan, which means bright; hence a bright house in which God dwelt. Thus Augustine says in the bookThe City of God: “A good house is one in which the parts fit well together, and which is spacious and full of light.” So Saint Gordianus was well disposed by maintaining harmony, spacious through charity, and filled with the light of truth. Epimachus comes fromepi, above, andmachin, king, so a high king; or fromepi, above, andmachos, fight, so a fighter for the things above.

    Gordianus was a...

  80. 75 Saints Nereus and Achilleus (pp. 309-310)

    Nereus is interpreted counsel of light, or it is derived fromnereth, i.e., never guilty. Saint Nereus was a counsel of light by his preaching of virginity; he was a lamp in his virtuous everyday life; he was hasty in his fervor for heaven, andnereus, i.e., never guilty, in the purity of his conscience. Achilleus comes fromachi, which means my brother, andlesa, salvation, as the saint was the salvation of his brothers. The passions of these two saints were written by Euthices, Victorinus, and Macro, servants of Christ.

    Nereus and Achilleus were the eunuchs in charge of...

  81. 76 Saint Pancratius (pp. 311-313)

    Pancratius¹ comes frompan, meaning all or the whole,gratus, pleasing, andcitius, faster, so the whole more quickly pleasing, because Saint Pancratius was pleasing to God quickly, in his childhood. Or, as theGlossarysays,pancrasmeans booty, apancranariusis one who is beaten with scourges,pancrasis a varicolored precious stone. So Saint Pancratius robbed a booty of captives, was subjected to the scourges of torture, and was varicolored by the variety of his virtues.

    Pancratius was born of parents belonging to the high nobility. He was bereaved of father and mother while in Phrygia, and was...

  82. 77 Saint Urban (pp. 314-315)

    Urban comes fromurbanitas, and Saint Urban was an urbane man. Or the name comes fromur, which means light or fire, andbanal, which means response; and Urban was a light in his honorable conduct, a fire through his ardent love, and a response through his teaching. He was a beacon or a light because light is agreeable to look at, immaterial in its essence, heavenly in its source, and useful and helpful in its action. So this saint was agreeable in his relations with people, immaterial in his contempt for the world, heavenly in his contemplation, and useful...

  83. 78 Saint Petronilla (pp. 315-315)

    Petronilla, whose life was written by Marcellus, was the daughter of Saint Peter the apostle. She was very beautiful, and therefore by her father’s will she suffered continually from fever. The disciples were at table one day with Peter, and Titus said to him: “You have cured all sorts of illnesses, why do you leave Petronilla so sick?” “Because it’s for her own good,” Peter replied. “But lest it be thought that I said that because it was impossible for me to cure her,” he turned and said to her, “Get up right away, Petronilla, and wait on us!” When...

  84. 79 Saint Peter the Exorcist (pp. 316-317)

    Peter the Exorcist was held in prison by the jailer Archemius. The daughter of Archemius was possessed of a demon and he often complained about this to Peter, who told him that if he believed in Christ, his daughter would be freed of the demon at once. Archemius said: “I wonder how it is that your Lord will be able to free my daughter but cannot free you from suffering for him as you are doing!” Peter answered: “My God has the power to set me free, but his will is that by way of a transitory passion we arrive...

  85. 80 Saints Primus and Felicianus (pp. 317-318)

    Primus means highest and great. Felicianus is derived fromfelixandanus, meaning a happy old man. Saint Primus was called highest and great because of the dignity he gained by suffering martyrdom, of the power he displayed by performing miracles, of the holiness of his perfect life, and of the happiness he has in the glorious fulfillment of his life. Saint Felicianus was called an old man not only because he lived to a great age but on account of his venerable dignity, his mature wisdom, and the sobriety of his way of life.

    Primus and Felicianus were denounced...

  86. 81 Saint Barnabas, Apostle (pp. 318-321)

    Barnabas is interpreted as son of one arriving, or son of consolation, or son of a prophet, or son who encloses. Saint Barnabas is called “son” four times because of his fourfold sonship: the Scriptures call him son by reason of his birth, his instruction, his imitation, and his adoption. He was reborn in Christ through baptism and instructed by the Gospel; he imitated Christ by his martyrdom and was by him adopted through being rewarded in heaven. This fourfold sonship applied to Barnabas himself. With regard to others he was one who arrived, consoled, prophesied, and enclosed. He arrived...

  87. 82 Saints Vitus and Modestus (pp. 322-323)

    The name Vitus comes fromvita, life. Augustine distinguishes three kinds of life: the active; the leisurely, which pertains to spiritual leisure or quiet; and the contemplative, which combines the other two. These three kinds of life were in Saint Vitus. Again, Vitus is close tovirtus, and Vitus was a virtuous man.

    The name Modestus has the sense of standing in the middle, the middle being virtue, for virtue, as a middle, stands between two extremes, which are vices. The extremes of prudence are craftiness and foolishness; of temperance, overindulgence of carnal desires and excessive self-mortification; of fortitude, cowardice...

  88. 83 Saint Quiricus and His Mother Saint Julitta (pp. 323-324)

    The name Quiricus comes fromquaerens arcum, seeking a bow, or fromchisil, which means fortitude, andcus, black; hence strong in virtue and black by humility. Or the name comes fromquiris, javelin, or fromquiriles, seat. Saint Quiricus¹ was a bow, i.e., curved in his humility and in the torments of his passion. He was black in his low estimate of himself, a javelin in his conquest of the enemy, a seat because God dwelt in him. All this, which his age denied him, was supplied in him by the grace of God.

    Julitta is likejuvans vita,...

  89. 84 Saint Marina, Virgin (pp. 324-325)

    The virgin Marina was her father’s only child. When he was widowed and entered a monastery, he changed his daughter’s attire and dressed her as a male. He then asked the abbot and the monks to admit his only son, and, when they agreed, Marina was received as a monk and was called Brother Marinus by all. “Marinus” then began to live the religious life and to observe strict obedience. When he was twenty-seven years old and the father felt the approach of death, he called his daughter, encouraged her to remain firm in her resolution, and ordered her never...

  90. 85 Saints Gervasius and Protasius (pp. 326-328)

    Gervasius comes fromgerar, sacred, andvas, vase; or fromgena, a stranger, one not a dweller, andsyor, small. So, Gervasius was sacred by his meritorious life, a vase as a receptacle of virtues, a stranger by contempt for the world, small by his humble estimate of himself.

    Protasius comes fromprotos, first, andsyos, God or godly, or fromprocul, at a distance, andstasis, position. This Protasius was first by his dignity, godly through his love, distant from any attachment to the world.

    Ambrose found their passion written in a small book placed at their head.

    Gervasius...

  91. 86 The Birth of Saint John the Baptist (pp. 328-336)

    John the Baptist has many titles. He is called prophet, friend of the bridegroom, lamp, angel, voice, Elijah, baptizer of the Savior, herald of the judge, and forerunner of the King. Each of these titles denotes a particular prerogative of John: the title of prophet, his prerogative of foreknowledge; the title of friend of the bridegroom, his prerogative of loving and being loved; burning light, his prerogative of sanctity; angel, his prerogative of virginity; voice, his prerogative of humility; Elijah, his prerogative of fervor; baptizer, the wonderful honor of baptizing the Lord; herald, the prerogative of preaching; and forerunner, the...

  92. 87 Saints John and Paul (pp. 336-338)

    John and Paul were high officials in the household of Constantia, the daughter of Emperor Constantine. At the time the Scythians were invading Dacia and Thrace, and Gallicanus, commander of the Roman army, was about to lead his troops against them. Gallicanus demanded that Constantia be given to him in marriage in return for his leadership in the war, and the chief men of Rome urged the emperor to agree. The father, however, was saddened, because he knew that his daughter, after she was cured by Saint Agnes, had made a vow of virginity and would rather die than consent...

  93. 88 Saint Leo, Pope (pp. 339-339)

    We read in the book of theMiracles of the Blessed Virginthat one day when Pope Leo was offering mass in the church of Saint Mary Major and was distributing communion to the faithful, a woman kissed his hand, and he experienced a violent temptation of the flesh. The man of God, taking cruel vengeance on himself that same day, secretly cut off the hand that had scandalized him, and threw it away. In time the people began to murmur at the pope for not celebrating the divine mysteries as usual. Then Leo turned to the Blessed Virgin and...

  94. 89 Saint Peter, Apostle (pp. 340-350)

    Peter had three names. First, he was calledSimon Bar-Jona.Simonis interpreted as obedient, or as accepting sadness;Bar-Jonaas son of the dove, sinceBarmeans son in Syriac, andJonameans dove in Hebrew. Peter indeed was obedient when Christ called him: at a single word of command he obeyed the Lord. He accepted sadness when, having denied Christ, he went outside and wept bitterly. He was a son of the dove because his whole intention was to serve God in simplicity. Secondly, he was calledCephas, which is interpreted head, or rock, or speaking forcefully: head,...

  95. 90 Saint Paul, Apostle (pp. 350-364)

    The name Paul, or Paulus, is interpreted to mean mouth of a trumpet, or their mouth, or wonderfully chosen, or miracle of election. Or Paulus comes frompausa, which in Hebrew means quiet or repose, and in Latin means a moderate man. These meanings denote six privileges that Paul possessed more than others do. The first is the privilege of fruitful speech, because he preached the Gospel from Illyria to Jerusalem and therefore is said to be the mouth of a trumpet. Secondly, his love of others was visceral and made him say: “Who is weak, and I am not...

  96. 91 The Seven Brothers, Sons of Saint Felicity (pp. 364-365)

    Saint Felicity had seven sons, whose names were Januarius, Felix, Philip, Silvanus, Alexander, Vitalis, and Martial. By order of Emperor Antoninus, Publius the prefect summoned all of them, together with their mother, to appear before him, and tried to persuade the mother to spare herself and her sons. Her answer was: “I can neither be seduced by your blandishments nor frightened by your threats, for my security is from the Holy Spirit who is with me; and alive I will withstand you, and will vanquish you completely when you kill me!” Then, turning to her sons, she said: “My sons,...

  97. 92 Saint Theodora (pp. 365-368)

    Theodora, a woman of noble rank, married to a wealthy, God-fearing man, lived in Alexandria in the time of Emperor Zeno. The devil, envious of Theodora’s holiness, stirred up lust for her in another rich man, who sent her many messages and gifts in order to induce her to assent to him; but she rebuffed the messengers and spurned the gifts. He bothered her so much, however, that she had no peace of mind and her health began to suffer. Finally he sent a certain sorceress to her, who urged her forcefully to have pity on this man and to...

  98. 93 Saint Margaret (pp. 368-370)

    The name Margaret is also the name of a precious jewel calledmargarita, pearl, which is shining white, small, and powerful. So Saint Margaret was shining white by her virginity, small by humility, and powerful in the performance of miracles. The power of the pearl is said to work against effusion of blood and against the passions of the heart, and to effect the strengthening of the spirit. Thus blessed Margaret had power over the effusion of her blood by her constancy, since she was most constant in her martyrdom. She had power over the heart’s passions, i.e., in conquering...

  99. 94 Saint Alexis (pp. 371-374)

    The name Alexis is composed ofa, which means much or very, andlexis, which means word. Alexis therefore was very powerful in the word of God.

    Alexis was the son of Euphemianus, a member of the highest Roman nobility who was in the first rank at the emperor’s court. Three thousand slaves wearing golden girdles and silk clothing waited on him. As a high officer in the city Euphemianus was temperate in the exercise of his authority. Moreover, every day he had three tables set up in his house for the poor and for orphans, widows, and strangers in...

  100. 95 Saint Praxedes (pp. 374-374)

    Praxedes was sister to blessed Pudentiana, and they were sisters of Saints Donatus and Timothy, who were instructed in the faith by the apostles. At a time when persecution was raging, they buried the bodies of many Christians. They also distributed all their goods to the poor. Finally they fell asleep in the Lord about the year of the Lord 165, in the reign of Emperors Marcus and Antoninus II....

  101. 96 Saint Mary Magdalene (pp. 374-383)

    The name Mary, or Maria, is interpreted asamarum mare, bitter sea, or as illuminator or illuminated. These three meanings are accepted as standing for three shares or parts, of which Mary made the best choices, namely, the part of penance, the part of inward contemplation, and the part of heavenly glory. This threefold share is what the Lord meant when he said: “Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” The first part will not be taken away because of its end or purpose, which is the attainment of holiness. The second part...

  102. 97 Saint Apollinaris (pp. 383-385)

    The saint’s name is formed of the wordspollens, which means powerful, andares, meaning virtue; and Apollinaris was powerful in virtue. Or the name comes frompollo, admirable, andnaris, by which discretion is understood; and it indicates a man of admirable discretion. Or the name is formed froma, meaning without,polluo, pollute, andares, virtue, and Apollinaris was a man virtuous and unpolluted by vices.

    Apollinaris was a disciple of the apostle Peter and by him was sent from Rome to Ravenna, where he cured the wife of a tribune and baptized her, along with her husband...

  103. 98 Saint Christina (pp. 386-388)

    Saint Christina’s name suggestschrismate uncta, anointed with chrism. She had the balm of good odor in her relationships with others, and the oil of devotion in her mind and benediction in her speech.¹

    Christina was born of parents of the highest rank, at Tyro in Italy. Her father shut her up with twelve waiting women in a tower, where she had silver and gold idols with her. She was very beautiful and many sought her in marriage, but her parents would give her to none of her suitors because they wanted her to remain in the service of the...

  104. 99 Saint James the Greater (pp. 389-396)

    The apostle James was called James of Zebedee, James brother of John,Boanerges, i.e., son of thunder, and James the Greater. He is called James of Zebedee, namely, the son of Zebedee, not only because he was his son in the flesh but also by the interpretation of the name.Zebedaeusis interpreted as giving or given, and blessed James gave himself to Christ through the martyrdom of death and was given to us by God as a spiritual patron. He is called James the brother of John because he was his brother not only in the flesh but in...

  105. 100 Saint Christopher (pp. 396-400)

    Before Christopher was baptized, he was called Reprobus, meaning outcast, but afterwards he was called Christophoros, the Christ-bearer. He bore Christ in four ways, namely, on his shoulders when he carried him across the river, in his body by mortification, in his mind by devotion, and in his mouth by confessing Christ and preaching him.

    Christopher was a Canaanite by birth, a man of prodigious size—he was twelve feet tall—and fearsome of visage. According to some accounts of his life it happened one day, when he was in the presence of a certain Canaanite king, that the idea...

  106. 101 The Seven Sleepers (pp. 401-404)

    The Seven Sleepers were natives of the city of Ephesus. The emperor Decius, who decreed the persecution of Christians, came to Ephesus and gave orders to build temples in the center of the city, so that all the people might join him in worshiping the false gods. He further ordered that all Christians were to be rounded up and put in chains, either to sacrifice to the gods or to die; and the Christians in Ephesus were so afraid of the threatened punishments that friends betrayed friends, fathers their sons, and sons their fathers.

    In the city there were seven...

  107. 102 Saints Nazarius and Celsus (pp. 404-407)

    Nazarius is interpreted to mean consecrated, or clean, or separated, or flowering, or guarding. In man five things are required, namely, thought, affection, intention, action, and speech. A man should be holy in his thought, clean in affection, straight in intention, just in action, and moderate in speech. All these virtues were in Saint Nazarius. He was holy in his thought and therefore is called consecrated, clean in his affections and is called clean. He was straight in intention and is called separated, for it is the intention that separates works: if the eye is sound, the whole body will...

  108. 103 Saint Felix, Pope (pp. 408-408)

    Felix was elected and ordained pope to fill the place of Pope Liberius, who had refused to approve the Arian heresy and had been exiled by Constantius, son of Constantine, and remained in exile for three years. For this reason the clergy of Rome, with the approval and consent of Liberius, ordained Felix to fill the latter’s place. Felix then convoked a council of forty-eight bishops, before whom he condemned Emperor Constantius, and two priests who sided with him, as Arian heretics. This angered Constantius, who deposed Felix from his episcopacy, and reinstated Liberius on condition that the latter be...

  109. 104 Saints Simplicius and Faustinus (pp. 408-409)

    Simplicius and Faustinus were brothers. In Rome, under Emperor Diocletian, they refused to offer sacrifice and endured many kinds of torture. Finally they were sentenced and beheaded, and their bodies were thrown into the Tiber. Their sister, whose name was Beatrice, recovered their bodies from the river and gave them honorable burial. The prefect Lucretius and his vicar, who coveted their estate, had Beatrice arrested and ordered her to sacrifice to the idols. This she refused to do, and Lucretius commanded her slaves to suffocate her by night. The virgin Lucia got possession of her body and buried her beside...

  110. 105 Saint Martha (pp. 409-412)

    Martha, who was Christ’s hostess, was of royal lineage. Her father was named Syrus, and her mother, Eucharia. Her father was governor of Syria and many maritime lands. By inheritance through her mother she possessed three towns, namely Magdalum, and the two Bethanys, as well as parts of Jerusalem. Nowhere do we read that she had a husband or ever lived intimately with men. This noble hostess waited on the Lord and wanted her sister to do likewise, because, as she saw it, the whole world would not be enough to serve so great a guest.

    After the Lord’s ascension,...

  111. 106 Saints Abdon and Sennen (pp. 412-412)

    Abdon and Sennen suffered martyrdom under the emperor Decius. When Decius had conquered Babylonia and other provinces, he found some Christians in these regions, brought them to the town of Cordoba, and put them to death with various tortures. Two officials of that area, whose names were Abdon and Sennen, took the martyrs’ bodies and buried them. When the two were denounced and brought before Decius, he had them bound with chains and brought to Rome with him. There, in the presence of the emperor and the Senate, they were ordered either to sacrifice and receive their freedom and goods,...

  112. 107 Saint Germain, Bishop (pp. 413-416)

    The name Germanus, or Germain, is formed ofgermen, seed, andana, above, hence a seed from above. Three things are found in the sprouting seed, namely, a natural warmth, a nourishing fluid, and a generative power. Saint Germain is called, as it were, a germinating seed, because in him there was warmth in the fervor of his love, fluid in the richness of his devotion, and generative power in the power of his preaching, by which he begot many in faith and morals.

    His life was written by the priest Constantine and addressed to Saint Censurius, bishop of Auxerre....

  113. 108 Saint Eusebius (pp. 416-418)

    The name Eusebius is composed ofeu, which means good, andsebe, which means eloquent or standing. Oreusebiuscan mean good worship. The saint had goodness in his constant effort to sanctify himself, and eloquence in his defense of the faith; he stood firm when he faced martyrdom, and offered good worship in his reverence for God.

    Eusebius lived a virginal life even when he was still a catechumen, and received both baptism and his name from Pope Eusebius. At his baptism the hands of angels were seen lifting him from the sacred font. A certain lady, captivated by...

  114. 109 The Holy Maccabees (pp. 419-419)

    The Maccabees were seven brothers who, with their venerable mother and the priest Eleazar, refused to eat pork flesh and were subjected to unheard-of tortures, as is told in full detail in the second Book of Maccabees.

    It is worthy of note that the Eastern Church celebrates the feasts of saints of both the Old and the New Testaments. The Western Church, on the other hand, does not celebrate feasts of saints of the Old Testament, on the ground that they descended into hell—exceptions being made for the Holy Innocents, in each of whom Christ was put to death,...

  115. 110 Saint Peter in Chains (pp. 420-425)

    The feast called (in English)¹ “Saint Peter in Chains” is thought to have been established for four reasons: to commemorate Peter’s liberation, in memory of Alexander’s liberation, to commemorate the destruction of a pagan rite, and to obtain release from spiritual bondage.

    Firstly, the feast commemorates Saint Peter’s liberation. We read in theScholastic Historythat Herod Agrippa went to Rome and became the close friend of Caius, grandson of the emperor Tiberius.² One day when Herod was riding in a chariot with Caius, he raised his hands to heaven and said to his friend: “Would that I might see...

  116. 111 Saint Stephen, Pope (pp. 425-425)

    Pope Stephen converted a great many pagans by his work and example, and buried the bodies of many holy martyrs. For this double reason Emperors Valerianus and Gallienus, in a.d. 260, launched a relentless search for him and his clerics, either to compel them to sacrifice to the idols or to punish them with torture and death. The emperors also issued an edict to the effect that anyone who exposed their whereabouts could take over all their property. Ten of Stephen’s clerics were apprehended and beheaded without a hearing. The following day Pope Stephen was captured and led to the...

  117. 112 The Finding of Saint Stephen, the First Martyr (pp. 426-430)

    We are told that the body of Stephen the Protomartyr was found in the year a.d. 417, in the reign of the emperor Honorius. The whole story of the finding of his body includes its transfer and its being united with the body of Saint Laurence.

    The finding came about as follows. In the territory of Jerusalem there was a priest named Lucian, whom Gennadius numbered among illustrious men and who wrote the present account. One Friday evening he went to bed and was half-asleep when there appeared to him an aged man, tall, comely of feature, richly bearded, wearing...

  118. 113 Saint Dominic (pp. 430-444)

    Dominic, or Dominicus, is likeDomini custos, the guardian of the Lord, ora Domino custoditus, guarded by the Lord; or the name may be interpreted according to the etymology of the worddominus. Dominic is therefore called the guardian of the Lord in three ways. With regard to God, he guarded the Lord’s honor. With regard to his neighbor, he guarded the Lord’s vineyard or his flock. With regard to himself, he minded the Lord’s will and kept his commandments. He is called Dominic as being guarded by the Lord because God guarded him in each of his states...

  119. 114 Saint Sixtus (pp. 444-445)

    Sixtus comes fromSios, meaning God, andstatus, state or condition; hence, divine state. Or it comes fromsisto,sistis, the verb that means to stand; hence Sixtus was one who stood fixed and firm in faith, or suffering, or doing good.

    Pope Sixtus, an Athenian by birth, began as a philosopher, but later became a disciple of Christ and was elected supreme pontiff. With two of his deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, he was brought before the emperor Decius. The emperor, failing to persuade him to change his mind, had him led to the temple of Mars to offer sacrifice...

  120. 115 Saint Donatus (pp. 445-447)

    Donatus comes froma Deo natus, born of God, and this birth is threefold—by rebirth, by infusion of grace, and by glorification, hence a threefold generation by the Spirit or by God. For when saints die, it is then that they are said to be born, so the demise of a saint is not called death but birthday. A child strives to be born, so as to have more room to live in, more food to feed on, a freer air to breathe, and light to see by. And because saints issue from the womb of Mother Church through...

  121. 116 Saint Cyriacus and His Companions (pp. 447-448)

    Cyriacus, who was ordained a deacon by Pope Marcellus, was apprehended with his companions and brought before Maximian, who ordered them to dig and carry the earth on their shoulders at a place where a public bath was under construction. There they found the aged Saint Saturninus, and Cyriacus and Sisinnius helped him with the carrying. Finally Cyriacus was put in prison, and the prefect called for his presence. Apronianus was leading him in when suddenly a voice coming with light from heaven said: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you!” Apronianus believed, had himself...

  122. 117 Saint Laurence, Martyr (pp. 449-460)

    Laurence, or Laurentius, comes fromlauream tenens, holder of a laurel wreath, because in the past victors or winners were crowned with laurel wreaths. The laurel tree is symbolic of victory, being delightful for its continuous greenness, and having a pleasant odor and powerful efficacy. So blessed Laurence is named for the laurel because he won victory in his martyrdom, which moved the emperor Decius, astonished, to say: “I really think we are already defeated.” He had greenness in the cleanness and purity of his heart, whence he said: “My night has no darkness.” He had a lasting odor of...

  123. 118 Saint Hippolytus and His Companions (pp. 460-463)

    The name Hippolytus comes fromhyper, above, andlitos, stone or rock; hence one who is founded on rock, the rock being Christ. Or the name comes frominandpolis, city, and the word is equivalent topolitus, polished, refined. Saint Hippolytus was indeed well founded on Christ the rock by his constancy and firmness, was in the city on high by desire and eagerness, and was polished and made smooth by the bitterness of the torments he endured.

    After he buried Saint Laurence’s body, Hippolytus went back to his house, gave the peace to his servants, men and...

  124. 119 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (pp. 463-483)

    The manner of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is related in a small apocryphal book attributed to John the Evangelist. In this book we read that after the apostles had gone off to various regions of the world to preach the Gospel, the Blessed Virgin dwelt in a house close by Mount Sion. As long as she lived, she diligently and devoutly visited all the places sacred to the memory of her Son—where he had been baptized, had fasted, had prayed, had suffered, died, and been buried, had risen and ascended into heaven. According to what Epiphanius...

  125. 120 Saint Bernard (pp. 484-493)

    Bernard, Bernardus, comes fromber, a well or spring, andnardus, nard, which, as theGlosson the Canticle of Canticles¹ says, is an herb humble, warm in nature, and sweet-smelling. Saint Bernard was warm in his fervent love, humble in his dealings with others, a spring in the outflow of his doctrine, a well in the depth of his knowledge, and sweet-smelling in the fragrance of his good renown.

    His life was written by William, abbot of Saint Thierry, an associate of Saint Bernard, and by Arnold, abbot of Bonneval.

    Bernard was born in Burgundy at the castle of...

  126. 121 Saint Timothy (pp. 494-494)

    Timothy (Timotheus) might come fromtimorem tenens, holding fear, or fromtimor and theos, God, hence fear of God. That fear is aroused in every holy man, as Gregory says, when he considers where he has been, where he will be, where he is, and where he is not: where he was, because in sin; where he will be, in judgment; where he is, in misery; where he is not, in glory.

    Timothy was severely tortured by the prefect of the city of Rome under Nero. His open wounds were sprinkled with quicklime, but amid these tortures he gave thanks...

  127. 122 Saint Symphorian (pp. 494-495)

    The name Symphorian is formed fromsymphonia, symphony. The saint indeed, was like a musical instrument, emitting a harmony of virtues. In this instrument, however, there were three qualities. A musical instrument, as Averrhoës says, should be of hard material in order to resonate, mellow in order to hold the note, and wide to give breadth of sound. Thus Symphorian was hard to himself in his austerity, mellow toward others in his gentleness, and wide in the broad reach of his charity.

    Symphorian was a native of Autun. When he was still an adolescent, he was so serious in his...

  128. 123 Saint Bartholomew (pp. 495-502)

    Bartholomew (Bartholomeus) is interpreted as son of one who suspends the waters, or son of one who suspends himself. The name comes frombar, which means son,tholos, height, andmoys, water. So Bartholomew is the son of one who holds the waters on high, i.e., a son of God, who lifts up the minds of the doctors so that they may pour down the waters of their teaching. The name is not Hebrew but Syriac. The first interpretation indicates three kinds of suspension found in Bartholomew. He was suspended in the sense that he was lifted above love of...

  129. 124 Saint Augustine (pp. 502-518)

    Augustine received his name either on account of his high dignity or because of the fervor of his love, or again due to the etymology of the name. He wasaugustinusby his high rank, because, as Augustus the emperor had excelled above all kings, so Augustine, as Remy says, surpasses all doctors. Other doctors are compared to the stars: “They that instruct many to justice [shall shine] as stars for all eternity.”¹ But Augustine is compared to the sun, as is clear from the epistle that is sung in his honor, since “as the sun when it shines, so...

  130. 125 The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (pp. 518-526)

    The feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, as we find in the bookDe mitrali officio, was instituted in celebration of four events. The first is the beheading itself, the second, the collection and cremation of the saint’s bones,¹ the third the finding of his head, the fourth, the translation of one of his fingers and the dedication of a church in his honor.

    First, then, the feast celebrates John’s beheading, which came about in the following way. We have from theScholastic Historythat Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great, was on his way to Rome...

  131. 126 Saints Felix and Adauctus (pp. 526-526)

    Felix, a priest, and his brother, also named Felix and also a priest, were brought before Diocletian and Maximian. The older of the two was led to the temple of Serapis to offer sacrifice there, but he blew into the face of the statue, which fell to pieces immediately. He was taken to a statue of Mercury and blew on it with the same result. For a third trial he faced a statue of Diana, and down it came. He was tortured on the rack and then, for a fourth time, led to a sacrilegious tree, there to offer sacrifice....

  132. 127 Saints Savinian and Savina (pp. 527-529)

    Savinian and Savina¹ were the children of Savinus, a member of the high nobility but a pagan, who fathered Savinian by his first wife and Savina by his second, and derived their names from his own.

    Somewhere Savinian read the verse: “Thou shalt sprinkle me, Lord, and I shall be cleansed; thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow,”² and wondered what it meant but could not understand it. He went into his bedroom and sat in sackcloth and ashes, saying that he would prefer to die rather than to live and not understand the meaning...

  133. 128 Saint Lupus (pp. 530-531)

    Lupus, a native of Orléans, came of royal stock and shone with all the virtues. He was elected archbishop of Sens and distributed almost all he had to the poor. One day he had invited more people than usual to his table, and the wine ran short. Lupus said to the steward: “I believe that God, who feeds the ravens, will fill up our charity.” At that moment a messenger came and announced that a hundred casks of wine stood outside the door.

    All the members of his official family censured him severely, claiming that he was much too fond...

  134. 129 Saint Mamertinus (pp. 531-532)

    While still a pagan, Mamertinus once was worshiping the idols when he lost one of his eyes and one of his hands became paralyzed. He thought he had offended his gods, and went to the temple to placate them. On the way he met a monk named Savinus, who asked him the cause of his affliction. He answered: “I have offended my gods and am on my way to pray to them, that what they have taken away in anger they may restore to me in kindness.” Savinus: “You are mistaken, brother, if you think the demons are gods. Go...

  135. 130 Saint Giles (pp. 533-535)

    Aegidius is the Latin form of the name Giles.Aegidiusis formed froma, meaning without,geos, earth, anddyan, brilliant or godlike. Saint Giles was without the earth by his disdain for earthly things, brilliant by the light of his knowledge, and godlike by the love that causes the lover to be like the beloved.

    Giles, or Aegidius, was born in Athens of royal stock and was instructed in the sacred writings from childhood. One day as he was on his way to church, he came upon a sick man lying beside the road and asking for an alms....

  136. 131 The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (pp. 535-544)

    The glorious Virgin Mary took her origin from the tribe of Judah and the royal stock of David. Matthew and Luke do not set forth the lineage of Mary but that of Joseph—who had nothing to do with the conception of Christ—because the usage of the sacred writers is said to have been to weave the series of generations of males, not of females. It is perfectly true, nevertheless, that the Blessed Virgin descended from the lineage of David: this is obvious because, as Scripture often testifies, Christ was born of the seed of David. Since, therefore, Christ...

  137. 132 Saints Cornelius and Cyprian (pp. 544-545)

    Cornelius is interpreted as one who understands circumcision. Pope Cornelius understood circumcision and, understanding it, lived cut off from all superfluous, though permitted, goods, and even from necessary ones. Or the name comes fromcornu, horn, andleos, people, hence the horn, or fortitude, of the people. Cyprian comes fromCyprus, which means mixture, andana, above; or it comes fromCyprus, meaning sadness or inheritance. Saint Cyprian had a supernal mixture of grace and virtue, sadness for sins, and an inheritance of heavenly joys.

    Pope Cornelius, successor to Saint Fabian, was sent into exile with his clergy by Decius...

  138. 133 Saint Lambert (pp. 545-546)

    Lambert was noble by birth and more noble by the holiness of his life. From his earliest years he was instructed in letters. He was so beloved for his sanctity that he was considered worthy to succeed Theodard, who had been his teacher, as bishop of Maastricht. King Childeric had great affection for him and always treated him as the dearest of all the bishops. There were those who envied him, and their malice increased, though without reason, until they drove him out of his see and deprived him of the honors due him. In his place they installed Feramund...

  139. 134 Saint Adrian and His Companions (pp. 546-550)

    Adrian suffered martyrdom in the reign of the emperor Maximian. When Maximian was offering sacrifice to the idols in the city of Nicomedia, he issued an order that all the citizens should hunt out the Christians; whereupon, either for love of the promised money or for fear of punishment, neighbors informed on neighbors and relatives delivered their own kinsmen to the torture. Thus thirty-three Christians, captured by the pursuers, were brought before the king,¹ who said to them: “Have you not heard of the punishments we have decreed against Christians?” They answered: “Yes, we’ve heard, and we’ve laughed at the...

  140. 135 Saints Gorgonius and Dorotheus (pp. 550-550)

    Gorgonius and Dorotheus held high office in Diocletian’s palace at Nicomedia, but gave up their rank in order to follow their King more freely and made it clear to all that they were Christians. The emperor was very displeased by this news. He found it hard to accept the loss of men of their quality, raised in the palace as they had been, and distinguished for their nobility of blood and of behavior. But neither threats nor blandishments could change their commitment to the faith, so they were stretched on the rack, their flesh was torn with whips and iron...

  141. 136 Saints Protus and Hyacinthus (pp. 551-553)

    Protus and Hyacinthus were personal slaves to Eugenia and were her companions in the study of philosophy. She was the daughter of Philip, who belonged to the highest Roman nobility. He was appointed by the Senate to be prefect of Alexandria, and took with him his wife Claudia, his sons Avitus and Sergius, and his daughter Eugenia. In time Eugenia knew all there was to know in the liberal arts and letters, and Protus and Hyancinthus, who had studied with her, were proficient in all branches of knowledge.

    When Eugenia was fifteen years old, Aquilinus, the son of the consul...

  142. 137 The Exaltation of the Holy Cross (pp. 554-559)

    This feast is called the Exaltation of the Holy Cross because on this day the faith and the holy cross were raised to the heights.

    It should be noted that before Christ’s passion the wood of the cross was a cheap wood, because crosses used for crucifixions were made of cheap wood. It was an unfruitful wood, because no matter how many such trees were planted on the mount of Calvary, the wood gave no fruit. It was an ignoble wood, because it was used for the execution of criminals; a wood of darkness, because it was dark and without...

  143. 138 Saint John Chrysostom (pp. 559-567)

    John, surnamed Chrysostom, the Golden-mouthed, a native of Antioch, was the son of Secundus and Anthusa, both of whom were of noble descent. TheTripartite Historygives a full account of his life, his ancestry, his character, and the persecutions he suffered.

    John early engaged in the study of philosophy but later gave that up to devote himself entirely to the sacred writings. He was ordained a priest and was considered too severe because of his zeal for chastity. He was blunt rather than gentle, and, because of his concern for doing the right thing at the moment, was incapable...

  144. 139 Saint Euphemia (pp. 567-569)

    The name Euphemia comes fromeu, which means good, andfemina, woman. A good woman is helpful, righteous, and pleasing, because goodness implies these three qualities. Thus Saint Euphemia was helpful in her relations with others, righteous by her virtuous way of life, and pleasing to God by her contemplation of heavenly mysteries. Oreuphemiahas the same meaning aseuphonia, sweet sound, and sweet sound is produced in three ways, namely, by the voice in singing, by the stroke of the hand, as in playing the harp, and by blowing, as in the organ. Saint Euphemia made sweet sound...

  145. 140 Saint Matthew, Apostle (pp. 569-574)

    Matthew had two names, Matthew and Levi. Matthew (Matthaeus) is interpreted as hasty gift, or as giver of counsel. Or the name comes frommagnus, great, andtheos, God, hence great unto God, or frommanus, hand, andtheos, hence the hand of God. Saint Matthew was a hasty gift by his speedy conversion, the giver of counsel by his salutary preaching, great unto God by the perfection of his life, and the hand of God by the writing of his gospel. Levi is interpreted as taken up, or attached, or added to, or placed with. The saint was taken...

  146. 141 Saint Maurice and His Companions (pp. 574-578)

    Maurice (Mauritius) comes frommari, meaning the sea or bitter,cis, which means vomiting or hard, andus, a counselor or one who hastens. Or the name comes frommauron, which, according to Isidore, is the Greek word for black. Saint Maurice had bitterness from dwelling in misery and being put far from his native land; he vomited in the sense that he rejected everything superfluous; he was hard and firm in bearing the torments of his martyrdom; he was a counselor in the exhortation he addressed to his troops; he was one who hastened by his fervor and the...

  147. 142 Saint Justina, Virgin (pp. 578-581)

    The name Justina is derived fromjustitia, justice; and Saint Justina showed her justice by giving to every person what was due to the person—to God, obedience; to the prelate her superior, reverence; to her equals, harmonious relations; to her inferiors, instruction; to her enemies, patience; to the poor and afflicted, compassion and help; to herself, holiness; and to her neighbor, love.

    The virgin Justina was born in Antioch, the daughter of a pagan priest. Sitting at her window every day, she listened to the deacon Proclus reading the Gospel and in time was converted by him. Her mother...

  148. 143 Saints Cosmas and Damian (pp. 582-584)

    The name Cosmas comes fromcosmos, which means form or adorned. Or, according to Isidore,cosmosis the Greek word for clean, as is the Latin wordmundus. Saint Cosmas was a form, an example to others; he was adorned with good virtues and clean of all vices. Damianus, or Damian, is derived fromdama, a humble, gentle beast, or the name comes fromdogma, doctrine, andana, above, or fromdamum, which is sacrifice. Or Damianus is equivalent toDomini manus, the hand of the Lord. Saint Damian was mild of manner, had supernal doctrine in his preaching, was...

  149. 144 Saint Fursey, Bishop (pp. 584-586)

    Fursey, a bishop, whose story Bede is believed to have written, reached his final hour after a life that shone with every virtue and goodness. As he was about to breathe his last, he saw in a vision two angels coming to him to carry his soul to heaven, and a third, armed with a shining shield and a gleaming sword, going ahead of him. Then he heard demons shouting: “We must go first and stir up wars in his path!” As these went ahead, they turned around and hurled fiery darts at him, but the leading angel caught them...

  150. 145 Saint Michael, Archangel (pp. 587-597)

    Michael is interpreted as meaning “Who is like to God?” and it is said that when something requiring wondrous powers is to be done, Michael is sent, so that from his name and by his action it is given to be understood that no one can do what God alone can do: for that reason many works of wondrous power are attributed to Michael. Thus, as Daniel testifies, in the time of the Antichrist Michael will rise up and stand forth as defender and protector of the elect. He it was who fought with the dragon and his angels and...

  151. 146 Saint Jerome (pp. 597-602)

    Jerome (Hieronymus in Latin) comes fromgerar, holy, andnemus, a grove—hence a holy grove—ornoma, a law. Therefore in his legend the saint’s name is interpreted as sacred law. He was holy, i.e., firm, or clean, or wet with blood, or set apart for sacred use, as the temple vessels were said to be holy because they were kept apart for sacred uses. Jerome was holy, which is to say firm in doing good, by his long-suffering perseverance. He was clean in his mind through his purity, and wet with blood through his meditation on the Lord’s...

  152. 147 Saint Remy (pp. 602-604)

    Remy (or Remi) is the English form of the Latin name Remigius, and this name is derived fromremigo, a pilot, or fromremi, oars, the implements by which a boat is moved, andgyon, a grappling or struggle. Saint Remy piloted the Church away from the danger of shipwreck, moved it to the gates of heaven, and struggled for it against the wiles of the devil.

    We are told that Remy, who was the bishop of Rheims, converted King Clovis and the Frankish nation to Christ. The king’s wife was named Clothilda. She was a devout Christian and strove...

  153. 148 Saint Leger (pp. 604-605)

    Leger (or Leodegar) was known for his virtuous life and was considered worthy to be made bishop of Autun. When King Clothar died and the care of the kingdom weighed heavily on Leger, by the will of God and with the consent of the princes he promoted Childeric, Clothar’s adolescent brother, as the one fully suited to be king. Ebroin¹ wanted to secure the throne for Theoderic, Childeric’s brother, not for the good of the realm but because Ebroin himself had been deposed from power, was hated by all, and feared the hostility of the king and the princes. Because...

  154. 149 Saint Francis (pp. 606-616)

    Francis was born in Assisi, he was first named John but later was called Francis. It appears that there were several reasons for this change of names. The first was to call attention to a miracle, because he is known to have received miraculously from God the power to speak in the French language. Hence we read in his legend that whenever he was filled with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, he burst out with ardent words in French. The second reason was to make his mission manifest: his legend says that divine providence conferred this name upon him,...

  155. 150 Saint Pelagia (pp. 616-618)

    Pelagia was first among the women in the city of Antioch—first in possessions and wealth, and in beauty of form. She was also ostentatious and vain in her bearing, and licentious in mind and body.

    One day she was promenading through the city with a maximum of display: one could see nothing on her but gold and silver and precious stones, and, as she passed, the air was filled with the aroma of a variety of perfumes. Ahead of her and following her went a retinue of youths and maidens, likewise richly adorned. She was seen by a holy...

  156. 151 Saint Margaret (pp. 618-619)

    Margaret, also called Pelagius, was a very beautiful woman, a virgin, rich and of noble birth. She was raised by her parents and taught to live virtuously with such solicitous care, and such were her integrity and modesty that she took every means to avoid being seen by men. The time came when a young man of the nobility sought her hand in marriage, and both her parents consented. Everything was prepared for the wedding with lavish expenditure for elegance and pleasure. The wedding day arrived, and the young gallants and winsome maidens, and the whole nobility of the city,...

  157. 152 Saint Thais, Courtesan (pp. 620-621)

    Thais the courtesan, as we read inLives of the Fathers, was a woman of such beauty that for her many men sold all they possessed and were reduced to penury. Her lovers, driven by jealousy, frequently fought each other at the woman’s door and covered the threshold with the blood of young men.

    When news of this came to the ears of Abba Paphnutius, he put on layman’s clothes, provided himself with some money, and went in search of Thais in a certain Egyptian city. Finding her, he offered her the money as the price of sinning. She took...

  158. 153 Saints Dionysius, Rusticus, and Eleutherius (pp. 622-627)

    Dionysius¹ is interpreted as one who flies forcefully; or the name may come fromdyo, two, andnisus, elevation, hence a raising up in two forms, namely, in the body and in the soul. Or the name is derived fromDiana, Venus, the goddess of beauty, andsyos, god, hence beautiful to God. Or, as some think, the name comes fromdionysia, which (as Isidore says) is a kind of black gem that is effective against drunkenness. Saint Dionysius, or Denis, was indeed one who fled forcefully from the world by perfect renunciation, who was raised up by his contemplation...

  159. 154 Saint Callistus (pp. 628-629)

    Pope Callistus suffered martyrdom in a.d. 222, under Emperor Alexander. At that time a fire was sent by God and reduced the higher part of the city of Rome to ashes, and the left hand of a gold statue of Jove was melted away. Then all the priests went to Alexander and demanded that the angry gods be placated by sacrifices. They were offering sacrifice on a calm morning—it was Jove’s day¹—when lightning struck from heaven. Four priests of the idols died, Jove’s altar was reduced to rubble, and the sun turned so dark that the populace of...

  160. 155 Saint Leonard (pp. 629-632)

    Leonardus means the perfume of the people, fromleos, people, andnardus, which is a sweet-smelling herb; and Leonard drew people to himself by the sweet odor of his good renown. Or the name comes fromlegens ardua, one who chooses the hard tasks; or again, it comes fromleo, the lion. The lion has four characteristics. He has fortitude, and this fortitude is (as Isidore says) in his breast and in his head. So Saint Leonard had fortitude in his heart by the curbing of evil thoughts, and in his head by his tireless contemplation of the things of...

  161. 156 Saint Luke, Evangelist (pp. 633-640)

    Luke, Lucas in Latin, is interpreted as rising up, or elevating; or the name comes fromlux, light. Saint Luke was one rising above love of the world and elevating himself to the love of God. He was the light of the world in that he shed light on the whole universe: “You are the light of the world.”¹ The light of the world is the sun itself, and this light has sublimity in its place: “The sun when it riseth to the world in the high places of God.”² The light is sweet to look upon: “Light is sweet...

  162. 157 Saints Chrysanthus and Daria (pp. 641-642)

    Chrysanthus, the son of Polimius, a man of high rank and distinction, had been instructed in the Christian faith and had become a Christian. His father could not persuade him to return to the worship of idols, so he had him locked up in a room, and put five damsels in with him to seduce him with their amorous wiles. Chrysanthus, however, prayed God not to let him be overwhelmed by that wild beast, namely, carnal concupiscence. What then happened was that the aforesaid damsels fell into a deep sleep and could take neither food nor drink; but when they...

  163. 158 The Eleven Thousand Virgins (pp. 642-646)

    The martyrdom of the eleven thousand virgins came about in the following way. In Britain there was a most Christian king named Notus or Maurus, who had a daughter called Ursula. Ursula was distinguished for her virtuous life, her wisdom, and her beauty, and her fame took wing and spread far and wide. The king of Anglia, who had great power and had subjected many nations to his rule, heard of this virgin’s renown and declared that he would be very happy to have her married to his one and only son. The young man agreed warmly to this proposal....

  164. 159 Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles (pp. 646-651)

    Simon means obedient, or one who bears sadness. This Simon had two surnames; he was called Simon Zelotes, the Zealot, and Simon the Cananean, after Cana of Galilee, where the Lord changed water into wine. Zelotes is the equivalent of Cana, becausecanameans zeal. Simon was obedient with regard to the commandments by acting in accordance with them; he bore the sadness of the afflicted by his compassion; he had zeal for souls by his constant fervor.

    Jude (Judas) is interpreted as confessing, or glorious, or it comes fromjubilum dans, one who gives jubilation. Jude was a confessor...

  165. 160 Saint Quentin (pp. 651-652)

    Quentin, noble by birth and a Roman citizen, went to the city of Amiens and performed many miracles there. By order of Maximian, prefect of the city, he was taken prisoner and beaten until the executioners fainted from their exertions. Then he was jailed, but an angel set him free, and he went to the center of the city and preached to the people. Arrested again, he was stretched on the rack until his veins burst, then was whipped with raw thongs, then had boiling oil, pitch, and grease poured over his wounds. All this he bore patiently, meanwhile mocking...

  166. 161 Saint Eustace (pp. 652-657)

    Eustace was first called Placidus. He was the commanding general of Emperor Trajan’s armies. Though a worshiper of idols, he was assiduous in doing works of mercy, and his wife was his partner both in worship and in good works. They had two sons, and their father saw to it that the boys were trained in a manner befitting their high station.

    Placidus’s constant care for those in need merited him the light of grace that led him to the way of truth. One day when he was hunting, he came upon a herd of deer, among which one stag...

  167. 162 All Saints (pp. 658-666)

    The Feast of All Saints was instituted for four purposes. The first was connected with the dedication of a certain temple; the second was to supply for the omission of many saints from the calendar; the third was to atone for neglect in honoring the saints; the fourth was to make it easier to obtain the favors for which we pray.

    The feast was indeed instituted in connection with the dedication of a certain temple. When the Romans were masters of the whole world, they built a very large temple, in the middle of which they set up their idol....

  168. 163 The Commemoration of All Souls (pp. 666-676)

    The commemoration of all the faithful departed was instituted in order that those who have no special suffrages offered for them may be helped by this general memorial, as was demonstrated in the revelation already described.¹ Peter Damian says that Saint Odilo, abbot of Cluny, learned that voices and howls of demons were heard near a volcano in Sicily, and that the souls of the dead were being snatched from the demons’ grasp by the power of alms and prayers. The abbot ordered that after the feast of All Saints a commemoration of the dead be made in his monasteries....

  169. 164 The Four Crowned Martyrs (pp. 676-677)

    The four crowned martyrs were Severus, Severianus, Carpophorus, and Victorinus, who, by order of Emperor Diocletian, were beaten to death with leaded scourges. The names of these four were not known at the time but were learned through the Lord’s revelation after many years had passed. Then it was decreed that they should be commemorated following the names of five other martyrs, namely, Claudius, Castorius, Symphorian, Nicostratus, and Simplicius, who had suffered two years after the martyrdom of the above-named four.

    These five saints were all skilled in the art of sculpture and refused to fashion an idol for Diocletian...

  170. 165 Saint Theodore (pp. 677-677)

    Theodore suffered martyrdom in the city of the Marmanites, under Diocletian and Maximian. When the judge ordered him to offer sacrifice and to return to the army, Theodore replied: “I am a soldier in the service of my God and of his Son Jesus Christ!” The judge: “So your god has a son?” Theodore: “Yes!” The judge: “Might we know him?” Theodore: “Indeed you can know him and come to him!”

    Theodore was granted a delay to prepare to offer sacrifice. Instead he entered the temple of the Mother of the Gods by night, set fire to the temple, and...

  171. 166 Saint Martin, Bishop (pp. 678-686)

    Martinus is likeMartem tenens, one who makes war, namely, against vice and sin; or the name is likemartyrum unus, one of the martyrs, because Martin was a martyr at least by desire and by his practice of mortification. Or the name is interpreted as one who angers or provokes or dominates; and Martin, by the merit of his holiness, angered the devil and made him envious, provoked God to be merciful, and dominated his body by continuous penances. Reason, or the spirit, ought to dominate the flesh, as Dionysius says in his letter to Demophilus, just as a...

  172. 167 Saint Brice (pp. 687-688)

    Brice, one of Saint Martin’s deacons, had no respect for the saint and heaped abuse upon him. Once when a beggar was looking for Martin, Brice told him: “If you’re looking for that madman, look upwards! He’s the one who like a fool is always looking toward heaven!” When the poor man had obtained what he needed from Martin, the holy man called Brice and said to him: “Do I look like a raving fool to you, Brice?” Brice was ashamed and denied that he had said anything like that, but Martin answered: ”Was not my ear at your mouth...

  173. 168 Saint Elizabeth (pp. 688-704)

    The name Elizabeth is interpreted as meaning My God has known, or the seventh of my God, or the satiety of my God. Elizabeth was called by a name meaning My God has known because God knew her, in other words, God observed her with pleasure and approved her, i.e., infused her with the knowledge of himself. Secondly, Elizabeth means the seventh of my God. Saint Elizabeth had the seventh of God, either because she practiced the seven works of mercy; or because she now is in the seventh age, the age of those who are at rest, and is...

  174. 169 Saint Cecilia (pp. 704-709)

    The name Cecilia may come fromcoeli lilia, lily of heaven, or fromcaecitate carens, lacking blindness, or fromcaecis via, road for the blind, or fromcoelumandlya, a woman who works for heaven. Or the name may be derived fromcoelumandlaos, people. For Saint Cecilia was a heavenly lily by the modesty of her virginity. She is called a lily because of her shining cleanness, her clear conscience, and the aroma of her good renown. She was a road for the blind by giving good example, a heaven through her continual contemplation, and a worker...

  175. 170 Saint Clement (pp. 709-718)

    The name Clemens comes fromcleos, which means glory, andmens, mind. Saint Clement had a glorious mind, in other words a mind cleansed of all stain, adorned with every virtue, and now graced with the fullness of happiness. This happiness, as Augustine says in his bookOn the Trinity, consists in this, that in heaven our being will not be subject to death, nor our knowing to error, nor our love to resistance. Or the name comes fromclementia, clemency, and the saint was a very clement man. Or, as theGlosstells us,clemensmeans mild, just, mature,...

  176. 171 Saint Chrysogonus (pp. 719-720)

    Chrysogonus was in prison by order of Emperor Diocletian, and Saint Anastasia provided for his needs. Then Anastasia’s husband put her in very strict confinement, and she wrote the following letter to Chrysogonus, who had instructed her in the faith: “Anastasia to Chrysogonus, holy confessor of Christ. I have taken upon myself the yoke of a godless husband, whose bed, God pitying me, I have avoided by feigning illness, and day and night I walk in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. My husband has used my patrimony to gain prominence, but he is squandering it in unworthy ways...

  177. 172 Saint Catherine (pp. 720-727)

    Catherine conies fromcatha, which means total, andruina, ruin; hence “total ruin.” The devil’s building was totally demolished in Saint Catherine: the edifice of pride by her humility, that of carnal concupiscence by the virginity which she preserved, and that of worldly greed, because she despised all worldly goods. Or Catherine’s name may be taken forcatenula, a small chain, for by her good works she fashioned a chain for herself by which she climbed to heaven. This chain or ladder has four steps, which are innocence of action, cleanness of heart, contempt for vanity, and speaking of the...

  178. 173 Saints Saturninus, Perpetua, Felicity, and Their Companions (pp. 728-729)

    Saturninus was ordained bishop by disciples of the apostles and sent to the city of Toulouse. When he arrived and the demons ceased to give responses, one of the pagans said that unless Saturninus was killed, they would obtain nothing from their gods. They therefore apprehended Saturninus, and, when he refused to sacrifice, tied him to a bull’s legs and drove the animal from the highest point of the capitol, precipitating him down the steps to the bottom. Thus Saturninus, with his skull shattered and his brains spilled out, happily consummated his martyrdom. Two women gathered his body and hid...

  179. 174 Saint James the Dismembered (pp. 729-732)

    Saint James, called the Dismembered because of the way he was martyred, was noble by birth and yet more noble by his faith. He was a native of the city of Elape in the land of the Persians, born of most Christian parents and wedded to a most Christian wife. To the king of the Persians he was well known, and stood first among his peers. It happened, however, that he was misled by the prince and his close friendship with him, and was induced to worship the idols. When his mother and his wife found this out, they wrote...

  180. 175 Saint Pastor (pp. 733-735)

    Saint Pastor lived in the desert for many years, mortifying himself by rigorous abstinence. When his mother wished to see him and his brothers and they would not allow it, she watched for the day and suddenly stood in front of them as they went toward the church, but they turned from her and went back into the monastery, closing the door in her face. She stood at the door, wept aloud, and called to them. Pastor came and said to her through the door: “What are you shouting about, old woman?” She heard his voice and called out still...

  181. 176 Saint John, Abbot (pp. 735-736)

    Episius had been living in the desert for forty years, and Abbot John asked him how much progress he had made during those years. He replied: “From the day I began to live as a solitary, the sun has never seen me eating.” John responded: “Nor me angry!”

    In the same book¹ and on a similar note we read that when Bishop Epiphanius set meat before Abbot Hilarion, Hilarion said: “Pardon me, but from the day I took this habit I have never eaten anything slain.” To this the bishop replied: “From the day I received this habit, I have...

  182. 177 Saint Moses, Abbot (pp. 736-737)

    A monk asked Abbot Moses for a saying he might live by, and Moses said: “Sit in your cell and it will teach you all there is to know!” When an aged, infirm monk wanted to go to Egypt so as not to be a burden to his brothers, Moses said to him: “Don’t go, because you’ll fall into fornication.” The old man was disappointed and said: “My body is dead, and you say such things to me!” So he went to Egypt and there a young woman, a virgin, piously took care of him. When he recovered his strength,...

  183. 178 Saint Arsenius, Abbot (pp. 737-739)

    Arsenius was still living in his ancestral palace, and prayed to be directed toward salvation. As he prayed, he heard a voice saying: “Flee away from men and you will be saved.” He therefore embraced the monastic life. Then, as he prayed, he heard: “Arsenius, get away, keep silence!”

    Regarding this need for quiet, we read in this same book¹ that there were three brothers who had become monks, and one of them chose to make peace among the quarrelsome, the second to visit the sick, and the third to lead a quiet life in solitude. The first did what...

  184. 179 Saint Agathon, Abbot (pp. 740-741)

    Abbot Agathon put a pebble in his mouth and kept it there for three years, until he learned to keep silence.

    Another monk, upon joining the community, said to himself: “Be like the ass! The ass is flogged but says nothing, suffers maltreatment and does not respond. Do likewise!”

    Another monk, when ordered away from the table, made no response and went. Later he was asked about this and said: “I have fixed it in my heart that I am no better than a dog. When the dog is chased, he goes outside!”

    Agathon was asked what virtue involved the...

  185. 180 Saints Barlaam and Josaphat (pp. 741-752)

    Barlaam’s history was studiously compiled by John of Damascus. Barlaam, by God’s grace working in him, converted King Josaphat to the Christian faith. At a time when all India was teeming with Christians and monks, a certain very powerful king named Avennir came to power and persecuted the Christians, and especially the monks. Then it happened that a noble, who was a friend of the king and ranked highest in the royal entourage, was moved by divine grace to leave the palace and enter a monastic order. When the king heard of this, his anger was aroused. He had the...

  186. 181 Saint Pelagius, Pope The History of the Lombards (pp. 753-770)

    Pope Pelagius was a very holy man who fulfilled his office in a praiseworthy manner, finally going to his eternal reward full of good works. This Pelagius was the first pope of that name, not the immediate predecessor of Pope Saint Gregory. John III succeeded Pelagius I, Benedict I followed John, then came Pelagius II, then Gregory I.

    It was during the reign of Pelagius I that the Longobards, or Lombards, came into Italy; and because many do not know the history of this people, I have decided to insert their story here as Paul, the historian of the Lombards,...

  187. 182 The Dedication of a Church (pp. 771-782)

    The dedication of a church is celebrated by the Church among the other feast days of the year; and since a church or temple is not only a material thing but a spiritual one, we must here briefly treat of the dedication of this twofold temple. With regard to the dedication of the material temple, three things are to be seen, namely, why it is dedicated or consecrated, how it is consecrated, and by whom it is profaned. And since in the church two things are consecrated, namely, the altar and the temple itself, we must first see why the...

  188. INDEX (pp. 783-788)
  189. Back Matter (pp. 789-789)

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