FEASTS OF MAY
Saints Philip and James, Apostles
Philip was born in Bethsaida, and was one of the twelve Apostles that were first called by Christ our Lord. It was from Philip that Nathaniel learned that the Messias who was promised in the Law had come; and by him also he was led to our Lord. We have a clear proof of the familiarity wherewith Philip was treated by Christ, in the fact that the Gentiles addressed themselves to this Apostle when they wished to see the Savior. Again when our Lord was about to feed the multitude in the desert, be spoke to Philip. and said: "whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" After having received the Holy Ghost, he went into Scythia, which was the country allotted to him, wherein to preach the Gospel; and converted almost the entire people to the Christian faith. Having finally reached Hieropolis in Phrygia, he was crucified there for the name of Christ, and then stoned to death on the Kalends of May (May 1). The Christians buried his body in the same place. It was afterwards taken to Rome, and, together with the body of the Apostle St James, was placed in the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles.
James, the brother of the Lord, was called the Just. From his childhood he never drank wine or strong drink; he abstained from flesh meat: he never cut his hair, or used oil to anoint his limbs, or took a bath. He was the only one permitted to enter the holy of holies. His garments were of linen. So assiduous was he in prayer, that the skin of his knees was as hard as that af a camel. After Christ's ascension, the apostles made him bishop of Jerusalem; and it was to him that the prince of the Apostles sent the news of his having been delivered out of prison by an angel. A dispute having arisen in the Council of Jerusalem concerning the Mosaic Law and circumcision, James sided with Peter, and in a speech which he made to the brethren, proved the vocation of the Gentiles, and said that the absent brethren were to be told not to impose the yoke of the Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles. It is of him that the Apostle speaks in his Epistle to the Galatians, when he says: "But of the other Apostles, I saw none, saving James, the brother of the Lord."
Such was James' holy life, that people used to strive with each other to touch the hem of his garment. At the age of ninety-six years -- of which he had spent thirty governing the Church of Jerusalem in the most saintly manner -- as he was one day preaching, with great courage, Christ the Son of God, he was attacked by stones being thrown at him; after which he was taken to the highest part of the temple, and cast head long down. His legs were broken by the fall; and as he was lying half dead upon the ground, he raised up his hands towards heaven and thus prayed for his executioners: "Forgive them, O Lord! for they know not what they do." While thus praying, he received a blow on the head with a fuller's club, and gave up his soul to God, in the seventh year of Nero's reign. He was buried near the Temple from which he had been thrown down. He wrote a Letter, which is one of the seven Catholic Epistles.
Saint Athanasius, Bishop & Doctor
Breviary ex Guéranger
Athanasius, the stern defender of the Catholic Faith, was born in Alexandria. He was made deacon by Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, whom he succeeded. He accompanied that prelate to the Council of Nicæa, where, having refuted the impious doctrine of Arius, he became such an object of hatred to the Arians, that from that time forward they never ceased to lay snares for him. Thus, at a Council held at Tyre, at which the majority of bishops were Arians, the party suborned a wretched woman, who was to accuse Athanasius that when lodging in her house he had offered violence to her. Athanasius was accordingly brought before the Council. One of his priests, by name Timothy, went in with him, and pretending that he was Athanasius, said to the woman, "Do you claim that I lodged with thee? That I violated thee?" Quite boldly she answered, "Yes, thou art the one!" Affirming this falsehood with an oath, she besought the judges to avenge her, and punish so great a crime. Her fraud being discovered, the impudent woman was banished from the Council.
The Arians also spread the word that Athanasius had murdered a certain bishop Arsenius. Having put Arsenius in confinement, they brought forward the hand of a dead man, saying that it was that of Arsenius, and that Athanasius had cut it off for purposes of witchcraft. But Arsenius, having made his escape during the night, presented himself before the Council, and exposed the malice of Athanasius' enemies. But even this they attributed to the magical skill of Athanasius, and continued to plot his death. The succeeded in having him banished to Treves in Gaul. During the reign of the emperor Constantius, who was on the Arian side, Athanasius had to endure the most violent storms and sufferings, and to wander from country to country. He was driven several times from his see, but was restored at one time through the authority of Pope Julius, at another time by the help of the emperor Constans (Constantius' brother), at another time by the decrees of the Councils of Sardica and Jerusalem. During all this time the Arians relented not in their fury against him; their hatred of him was unremitting; and he avoided being murdered only by hiding in a dry well for five years, where he was fed by a friend, the only one to know the place of his concealment.
Constantius died and was succeeded by Julian the Apostate, who allowed the exiled bishops to return to their respective sees. Athanasius returned to Alexandria, where he was received with the highest honors. Not long after, however, he was obliged to flee persecution by Julian, which was instigated by the Arians. On one occasion, being pursued by the Emperor's agents, who had been ordered to put him to death, the Saint ordered the boat in which he was escaping to put about. As soon as he met his persecutors, they asked him if Athanasius were anywhere near. He answered honestly that he was not far off. While they sailed in one direction, he returned to Alexandria in the opposite, remaining hidden there until the death of the Apostate. Another tempest erupted, requiring him to hide himself for four months in his father's sepulchre. Miraculously having escaped all danger, he died peacefully in his bed at Alexandria during the reign of the emperor Valens. His life and death were honored by great miracles. He wrote several admirable treatises on practical piety, as well as on the dogmas of the Catholic Faith. He governed the Church at Alexandria, during troubled times, for forty six years.
The Finding of the Holy Cross
Breviary ex Guéranger
After the great victory gained over Maxentius by the emperor Constantine, under the standard of our Lord's Cross, which had been miraculously shown to him, Helen, his mother, was told in a dream to repair to Jerusalem and search for the true Cross. Upon her arrival, she ordered to be taken down a marble statue of Venus, which had been erected by the pagans some hundred and eighty years before, in order that all memory of our Lord's Passion might be obliterated. She did the same service for the place where reposed the Savior's crib, as also for the site of the Resurrection: removing from the former an idol of Adonis, and from the latter an idol of Jupiter.
The place where the Cross was supposed to be, having been excavated, three crosses were discovered at a great depth below the surface; and with them, though not attached, the title that had been fastened to our Lord's Cross. The doubt as to which of the three crosses the title belonged was removed by a miracle. After having prayed to God, Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, applied each of the crosses to a woman who was afflicted with a dangerous malady. The first two produced no result; the third was then applied, and the woman was restored to perfect health.
The holy Cross being thus found, Helen built a magnificent church in Jerusalem, in which she placed a portion of the Cross, enshrined in a silver case: the remaining part she took to her son Constantine, and it was put in the church called Holy Cross in Jerusalem, which was built on the site of the Sessorian palace. She also took to her son the nails wherewith the most holy body of Jesus Christ had been fastened to the Cross. Constantine passed a law that from that time forward a cross should never be used as an instrument of punishment; and thus, what hitherto had been an object of reproach and derision, became one of veneration and glory.
Saint Pius V, Pope and Confessor
Pius was born at Bosco in Lombardy, though his parents were of the Ghisleri, a noble family at Bologna. He entered the Order of Preachers at the age of fourteen. He was remarkable for his patience, deep humility, great mortifications, love of prayer and religious discipline, and most ardent zeal fro God's honor. He applied himself to the study of Philosophy and Theology, and taught these subjects for many years in a manner which brought him universal praise. He preached the word of God fruitfully in many places. He held the position of Inquisitor courageously for a long period, risking his life to preserve a number of cities from the then prevalent heresy.
Paul IV, esteeming his great virtues made him bishop of Nepi and Sutri, two years later numbering him among the Cardinal Priests of the Roman Church. Transferred to the Church of Mondavi in Piedmont by Pius IV, and finding many abuses, he made a visitation of the entire diocese. Having put all things in order, he returned to Rome where he was entrusted with matters of the gravest importance; all of which he transacted with an apostolic impartiality and firmness. At the death of Pius IV, he was, contrary to everyone's expectation, chosen Pope. With the exception of his outward garb, he changed nothing of his manner of life. He showed great virtue in his unremitting zeal for the propagation of the Faith, untiring efforts for the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, assiduous vigilance against error, unfailing charity in relieving the necessities of the poor, and invincible courage in vindicating the rights of the Apostolic See. He carried out the decrees of the Council of Trent, bringing about the revision of the Breviary, publication of a universal Catechism, and the extension of the Roman rite of Mass to the churches of the west.
A powerful fleet having been equipped at Lepanto against Selim, the proud sultan of the Turks, the Pontiff won the battle, not so much by arms as by prayers. By divine revelation, he knew of the victory the moment it was won, and announced it to his household. While preparing for a new expedition against the Turks, he fell dangerously ill, suffering the most excruciating pains with great patience. In his last hour he received the Sacraments according to the Christian practice, and calmly gave his soul into the hands of God during 1572, the sixty-eighth year of his live, after a pontificate of six years, three months and twenty four days. His body is honored by the devout veneration of the faithful in the church of Saint Mary Major. Through his intercession, many miracles have been wrought by God; which being authenticated, he was numbered among the saints by Pope Clement XI.
Saint John Before the Latin Gate
Breviary ex Guéranger
Salome one day presented her two sons to Jesus, and with a mother's ambition asked Him to grant them the highest places in His kingdom. The Savior, in His reply spoke of the chalice which He Himself had to drink, and foretold that these two disciples would also drink of it. The elder, James the Great, was the first to give his Master this proof of his love. But it was on this day that John, the younger brother, offered his life in testimony of Jesus' divinity. During the reign of Domitian, John, the august founder of the seven churches of Asia appeared before the tribunal of pagan Rome. He was convicted of having propagated the worship of a Jew who had been crucified under Pontius Pilate. He was therefore sentenced to an ignominious and cruel death. A huge cauldron of boiling oil was prepared in front of the Latin Gate. The sentence ordered that John be plunged into this bath. After cruelly scourging him, the executioners threw the old man into the cauldron. But the boiling liquid lost all its heat, the apostle felt no pain; indeed, felt rejuvenated by the plunge. Sentence having been carried out, John was banished to Island of Patmos, where, in the Apocalypse, God would bid him record the future of the Church, even to the end of time.
Apparition of Saint Michael
Breviary ex Guéranger
That the blessed Archangel Michael has often appeared to men is attested both by the authority of sacred Scripture and by the ancient tradition of the saints. Hence, the memory of these apparitions is commemorated in divers places. As, heretofore, Michael was honored by the Synagogue of the Jews as guardian and patron, so is he now by the Church of God. A celebrated apparition of the Archangel took place under the pontificate of Gelasius I in Apulia, on the top of Monte Gargano, at the foot of which lies the town of Siponto.
A bull, belonging to a man who lived on the mountain, having strayed from the heard, was found after much searching caught fast in the mouth of a cave. One of the pursuers shot an arrow in order to rouse the animal by a wound; but the arrow rebounding, struck him that had sent it. This circumstance excited so much fear in the bystanders, and in them that heard of it, that no one dared go near the cave. The inhabitants of Siponto therefore consulted the bishop, who answered that in order to know God's will they must spend three days in fasting and prayer.
At the end of the three days, the Archangel Michael intimated to the bishop that the place was under his protection, and that what had happened was an indication of His will that God should be worshipped there, in honor of Himself and the angels. Whereupon the bishop repaired to the cave together with his people. They found it to be shaped like a church and began to use it for the celebration of divine service. Many miracles were afterwards wrought there. Not long after Pope Boniface dedicated the church in honor of Saint Michael in the great Circus of Rome, on the third of the Kalends of October (September 29), the day on which the Church celebrates the memory of all the angels. But today's feast is kept in commemoration of the apparition of Michael the Archangel.
Note that in some places the Office is said in honor of
Saint Lucia Filippini, Virgin
From Butler's Lives
Born in 1672 at Tarquinia in Tuscany, about sixty miles from Rome, Lucia was left an orphan at an early age, and when she was still quite young, her seriousness of purpose, her great piety and remarkable gifts brought her to the attention of the bishop of the diocese, Cardinal Marcantonio Barbarigo, who pursuaded her to come to Montefiascone to take part in an educational institute for training teachers which he had established in that city under the direction of religious. No pupil could have shown more aptitude than Sister Lucia. The work prospered as new schools for girls opened and educational centers multiplied in all directions. In 1707, at the direction of Pope Clement XI, she came to Rome and there founded the first school of her institute, the Mæstre Pie, in the Via delle Chiavi d'Oro. Large numbers of children came, far exceeding the available accommodations. Many began to call her the "Mæstra santa" (the holy schoolmistress). Her strength was not equal to her enthusiasm, though, causing her to remain ill for almost six years and to die a holy death on the feast of the Annunciation in 1732, the day she herself had predicted. Lucia Filippini was canonized in 1930.
Our Lady of Fatima
On Sunday, the 13th of May 1917, in the mountain village of Fatima, Portugal, about 90 miles north of Lisbon, Lucy dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta, drove their sheep to pasture as they did every day of the week. They took them about a mile from their homes to a barren place called the Cova da Iria. Suddenly, amid flashes of lightning, a beautiful lady, dressed in white and gold, appeared to be standing atop a small holm-oak tree. She addressed them, "I have come from heaven, and want you to come here at this same time on the thirteenth day of each month from now until October. Then I will tell you who I am and what I want." The lady appeared again in June, and in July, when she promised a public miracle in October in order to establish her heavenly origin. In August, the children were detained by the anticlerical Provincial Administrator, but some 18,000 people came to the Cova, and many reported a heavy clap of thunder and a brilliant flash of lightning out of a clear sky. In September the crowd increased to 30,000, and while the lady divulged details of the October miracle to the children, the onlookers saw a globe of light slowly cross the horizon until it enveloped the children and the tree. In October, on a rain soaked day, at about noon, an enormous crowd saw the sun dance wildly in the sky, change to every color of the spectrum, and begin to plummet rapidly toward the earth. All of this while the children were treated to a vision of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Many of the bystanders, including reporters for the secular and often anti-religious newspapers reported this Miracle of the Sun. Rain soaked ground, rain soaked clothing, and rain soaked people found themselves to be dry. All throughout the apparitions of Our Lady, the message was consistent: modern man must change his ways, giving up the things of the world for the things of God, praying and doing penance; the only alternative to the devil, war, and damnation is God, peace, and salvation. In 1927, the Sacred Congregation of Rites permitted the offering of the votive Mass of Our Lady of the Rosary at the Cova. On October 13, 1930, after detailed examination of the facts, Dom José Alves Correia da Silva, bishop of Leiria, declared "as worthy of credence the visions of the children in Cova da Iria, Parish of Fatima, of [his] diocese, on the days between the 13th of May and October, 1917" and decided to "permit officially the devotion of Our Lady of Fatima.
Saint Boniface, Martyr
Breviary ex Guéranger
Boniface was a citizen of Rome who became involved in an improper relationship with a noble Roman matron named Aglaë. He was filled with such shame on account of this immoral conduct that by way of penance he devoted himself to searching out and burying the bodies of martyrs. In one of his travels he left his companions; and finding, on arriving at Tarsus, that many were being put to divers tortures for the Christian Faith, he approached them, kissed their chains, and did all in his power to urge them to bear patiently the short labor of sufferings which were to be followed by eternal rest. For this he was seized and his flesh was torn by iron hooks. Sharp reeds were also thrust up his finger-nails, and melted lead was poured into his mouth. His only exclamation in the midst of these tortures was, "I give Thee thanks, Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God!" He was then put head foremost into a cauldron of boiling pitch; and when he was taken out and found to be unhurt, the judge, in a fit of anger, ordered him to be beheaded. During his execution a great earthquake was felt; whereupon many of the pagans were converted to the Faith of Christ our Lord. On the day following, his companions who were in search of him, were told that he had suffered martyrdom. They bought his body for five hundred pieces of silver; and having embalmed and shrouded it, they had him taken to Rome. All this was made known by an angel to Aglaë, who had also devoted herself to penance and good works. She therefore went to meet the martyr's relics. She built a church which was named after the Saint, and in which he was buried on the Nones of June (the 5th). The Martyr's soul passed into heaven on the day before the Ides of May (the 14th) at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, under the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian.
Saint Godric, Confessor
From Butler's Lives
Godric was born of very poor parents at Walpole in Norfolk, and in his youth earned a living by peddling in the neighboring villages. His travels increased until he pursued a seafaring career, which lasted some sixteen years. At one time he visited Lindisfarne and was deeply impressed with the account of the life and character of Saint Cuthbert, whom he ever afterwards regarded with special veneration. He undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, newly liberated by the Crusades, and on his homeward journey visited Compostella. Returning to England he was employed as steward to a wealthy Norfolk landowner, but left his employ in a dispute over dealing fairly with the neighboring peasants. He went to the shrine of Saint Giles in Provence, and, in the company of his mother, who travelled barefooted, to the holy city of Rome. He returned to England, to the wilds of Durham, were he learned the Psalter and placed himself under the instruction of the hermit ’lric for two years When ’lric died, Godric returned a second time to Jerusalem, where he received a vision of an English hermitage destined for his final days. He found this hermitage in the midst of Bishop Flambard's hunting park on the river Wear, three miles from Durham. He lived in a silence and seclusion broken only by the priest sent from Durham Abbey to offer Mass, and by occasional talks with strangers sent by the Prior to be edified by Godric's conversation. He possessed the gift of prophecy and a knowledge of distant events. He foretold the death of Bishop William of Durham, and the exile, return, and martyrdom of Saint Thomas … Becket, whom he had never met. He often beheld scenes taking place far away, breaking off conversations to pray for vessels in imminent danger of shipwreck. He knew beforehand the date of his own death which occurred on May 21, 1170 after sixty years in his hermitage.
Saint Rita of Cascia, Widow
From Butler's Lives
In the year 1381 there was born in a peasant home at Roccaporena in the central Apennines a little girl who, as an exemplary daughter, wife, and religious, was destined to attain to great heights of holiness in this life, and afterwards to merit from countless grateful souls by her intercession in Heaven the title of "the saint of the impossible and the advocate of desperate cases." The child of her parents' old age, Rita showed from her earliest years an extraordinary degree of piety and love of prayer. She wished to enter the Augustinian convent at Cascia, but obediently submitted to her parents' decision that she marry.
Her husband proved to be brutal, dissolute, and so violent that his temper was the terror of the neighborhood. For eighteen years, with great patience and gentleness, Rita bore with his insults and infidelities. With breaking heart she watched her sons come under their father's evil influence, shedding many tears for them in secret and praying for them without ceasing. But eventually, there came a day when her husband's conscience was touched, so that he begged her forgiveness for all the suffering her had caused her: but shortly afterwards he was carried home dead, covered with wounds. Whether he had been the aggressor or the victim of a vendetta she never knew. Her sons swore to avenge their father, and in agony she prayed that they might die rather than commit murder. Her payer was answered by a fatal illness that they contracted, and from which they both died forgiving and forgiven.
With considerable difficulty, and a relaxation of the rule, Rita entered the convent at Cascia, receiving the habit in 1413. In the convent, she was the same model of humility and submission that she was as a wife. She obeyed unquestioningly, was charitable toward others, and austere with herself. Many were healed of illness and many returned to the practice of the faith through her prayers. She had a special devotion to the sufferings of our Lord, the contemplation of which would sometimes send her into ecstasy. During a sermon on the Crown of Thorns, heard in 1441, while absorbed in prayer, she became acutely conscious of pain; as of a thorn which had detached itself from the crucifix and imbedded itself in her forehead, causing a suppurating wound. Except for a remission in 1450 as she attended the Jubilee in Rome together with her sisters, the offensiveness of the wound obliged her to live practically as a recluse. She died on May 22, 1457, with perfect resignation after a wasting illness. Her body remained incorrupt until modern times.
Saint Ivo of Chartres, Bishop
From Butler's Lives
To the order of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine the Church in the eleventh century was indebted for one of the most venerated of her episcopal rulers. Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, was born in the territory of Beauvais and studied theology under the celebrated Lanfranc in the abbey of Bec. After occupying a canonry at Nesles in Picardy, he took the habit at the monastery of Saint-Quentin, a house of regular canons, where he was appointed to lecture on theology, canon law, and the Holy Scriptures. Afterwards, Ivo ruled as superior for fourteen years, during the course of which he raised the house to a high pitch of discipline and learning, so that he was constantly being called upon by bishops and princes to send his canons to other places either to reform ancient chapters or to found new ones.
When, in the year 1091, Geoffrey, Bishop of Chartres, was deposed for simony and other misdemeanors, the clergy and people demanded Ivo for their bishop. He was very unwilling to emerge from his retirement, but Blessed Urban II confirmed his election and Ivo set out for Capua, where he was consecrated by the Pope, who subsequently checked the efforts of Richerius, Archbishop of Sens, to reinstate Geoffrey. Scarcely was Ivo firmly established in his see than he found himself required to oppose the will of his sovereign. King Philip I had become so enamored of Bertrada, the third wife of Fulk of Anjou, that he determined to marry her and to divorce his wife Bertha, in spite of the fact that she had bourne him two children. Ivo absented himself from the wedding ceremony at which the Bishop of Senlis presided; for which Ivo was imprisoned, his revenues seized, and his lands plundered. However, as support for Ivo was virtually universal, and Ivo's loyalty to the king's legitimate authority was beyond question, he was released. While in custody he foiled a plot against Philip, and when Philip's true wife died, Ivo strongly recommended his absolution by the Pope. Though he was devoted to the Holy See, Ivo maintained a sufficient degree of independence to enable him to act as mediator in the dispute over investitures, and to protest openly against the greed of certain Roman legates and the simony of members of the papal court.
On December 23, 1116, Ivo died after governing his see for twenty-three years. He was a voluminous writer and many of his works have survived. He undertook a collection of papal and conciliar letters, and canons accepted by the fathers. We also have 24 sermons and 288 letters which shed an interesting light on contemporary history and ecclesiastical discipline.
Our Lady, Help of Christians
Breviary ex Guéranger
The faithful have frequently witnessed miraculous interventions which prove that the Mother of God is ever ready with her help to repel the enemies of religion. It was on this account that, after the signal victory gained by the Christians over the Turks at Lepanto through the intercession of the most blessed Virgin, the holy Pope Saint Pius V ordered that to the other titles given to the Queen of Heaven in the Litany of Lorretto, there should be added this of Help of Christians. But one of the most memorable proofs of her protection, and one which may be regarded as an incontestable miracle, is that which happened during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII. By the intrigues and armed violence of certain impious men, the Pontiff had been driven from the Apostolic See of Peter, and was kept in close confinemrnt mainly at Savona, for upwards of five years. During this period, by a persecution unheard of in any previous age, every possiblem means was resorted to in order to prevent his governing the Church of God. When lo! suddenly and to the surprise of men, he was restored to the Pontifical Throne, to the great joy, and it might almost be said, with the concurrence of the whole world. The same thing happened also a second time when a fresh disturbance arose and compelled him to leave Rome, and go with the Sacred College of Cardinals, into Liguria. Here again, the storm that threatened great destruction was appeased by a most prompt interference of God's providence, and the Pontiff's return to Rome filled Christendom with new joy. Before returning, however, he would carry out an intention which his captivity had hitherto prevented him from doing: with his own hand he placed a golden crown on the celebrated statue of the Mother of God that was venerated at Savona under the title of Mother of Mercy. The same sovereign Pontiff, Pius VII, who was so thoroughly acquainted with every circumstance of these events, rightly attributed their happy issue to the intercession of the most holy Mother of God, whose powerful help he himself had earnestly besought, besides urging all the faithful to obtain it through their prayers. He therefore instituted a solemn feast of the same Virgin Mother under the title of Help of Christians. It was to be kept every year on the twenty-fourth of May, the anniversary of his own most happy return to Rome. He also sanctioned a proper Office for this feast, in order that the remembrance of so great a favor might ever be vividly on the minds of the faithful, and secure the thanksgiving it deserved.
Saint Felix, Pope & Martyr
Breviary ex Guéranger
Felix, a Roman by birth, and son of Constantius, governed the Church during the reign of the emperor Aurelian. He decreed that the Mass should be celebrated upon the shrines and tombs of the martyrs. He held two ordinations in December, and made nine priests, five deacons, and five bishops for divers places. He was crowned with martyrdom, and was buried on the Aurelian Way in a basilica which he himself had built and dedicated. He reigned two years, four months, and twenty-nine days.
Saint Ferdinand III, King of Castile & Confessor
Breviary ex Guéranger
Ferdinand III, king of Castile and Leon, to whom, for now four centuries, the title of saint has been given both by clergy and laity, exhibited so much prudence in his youthful years that his mother, Berengaria, queen of Castile, who had educated him in a very holy manner, resigned her kingdom in his favor. Scarcely had Ferdinand assumed the government than he displayed conspicuously all the virtues becoming a king: magnanimity, clemency, justice, and above all, zeal for Catholic faith and worship, which he ardently defended and propagated. He mainly showed this by forbidding heretics to settle in his states. He also gave proofs of it by building, endowing, and dedicating to Christian worship, churches in Cordova, Jaen, Seville, and other cities rescued from the Moorish yoke. He restored with holy and royal munificence, the cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos, and other cities.
At the same time he levied powerful armies in the kingdom of Castile and Leon, which he inherited from his father Alfonso; and, each year, gave battle to the Saracens, the enemies of the Christian religion. The great means by which this most holy king secured victory in every engagement were the prayers he offered up to God: he used also to chastise his body with disciplines and a rough hair-shirt, with the intentions of propitiating God. By so doing, he gained extraordinary victories over the mighty armies of the Moors. After taking possession of Jaen, Cordova, and Murcia, and making a tributary of the kingdom of Granada, he restored many cities to the Christian religion and to Spain. He led his victorious standard before Seville, the capitol, of Baeza, being, as it is related, urged thereto by Saint Isidore, who had formerly been bishop of that city, and who appeared to him in a vision. Historians also relate that he was miraculously aided during that siege, and in the following manner: The Mahometans had stretched an iron chain across the Guadalquivir in order to block the passage. Suddenly there arose a violent wind, and one of the royal ships was, by the king's order, sent against the chain, which was thus broken, and with so much violence that it was carried far on, and bore down a bridge of boats. The Moors lost all their hope and surrendered the city.
Ferdinand attributed all these victories to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose image he always had in his camp, and honored with much devotion. Having taken Seville, his first thoughts were directed to religion. He immediately caused the Mosque of the Saracens to be purified and dedicated as a Christian Church, having with a princely and pious generosity provided it with a richly endowed archiepiscopal benefice, and also with a well appointed college of canons and dignitaries. Moreover, he built several other churches and monasteries in the same city. While engaged in these holy works, he was making preparations to pass over the Africa, there to crush the Mahometan empire; but he was called to the kingdom of heaven. When his last hour came, he fastened a cord around his neck, prostrated on the ground, and, shedding tears, adored the Blessed Sacrament which was brought to him as Viaticum. Having received It in admirable dispositions of reverence, humility, and faith, he slept in the Lord. His body, which has remained incorrupt for six centuries, is buried in a tomb of extraordinary richness in the Cathedral church of Seville.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen
"From the mouth of the Most High I came forth, the firstborn before all creatures. I made a never-failing light arise in heaven, and mistlike I covered the earth. In the highest heavens did I dwell, my throne on a pillar of cloud. The vault of heaven I compassed alone, through the deep abyss I wandered. Over the waves of the sea I walked, over all the land I stood, over every people and nation I held sway. And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low.
Lesson ii: Ibid: 14-16
"Before all ages, in the beginning, he created me, and through all ages I shall not cease to be. In the holy dwelling place I ministered before Him, and in Sion I fixed my abode. Thus in the chosen city He has given me rest, in Jerusalem is my domain. I have struck root among the glorious people, in the portion of the Lord, His heritage, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints.
Lesson iii: Ibid: 24-30
"I am the mother of fair love and of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come to me, all ye that yearn for me and be filled with my fruits; you will remember me as sweeter than honey, better to have than the honeycomb. As age follows age, the memory of me will endure. He who eats of me will hunger still, he who drinks of me will thirst for more; he who obeys me will not be put to shame, he who serves me will never fail; he who makes me known will have life everlasting.
If we follow St. John Damascene, St. Athanasius, and others, are we not forced to call Mary "Queen," since her father David receives the highest praise in Scripture as a renowned king, and her Son as the King of kings and Lord of lords, reigning forever? She is Queen moreover when compared with the saints who reign like kings in the heavenly kingdom, co-heirs with Christ, the great King, placed on the same throne with Him, as the Scripture says. And as Queen she is second to none of the elect, but in dignity is raised so high above both Angels and men that nothing can be higher or holier than she, who alone has the same Son as God the Father, and who sees above her only God and Christ, and below her all creatures other than herself.
The great Athanasius said clearly: Mary is not only the Mother of God, but also can be properly and truly called Queen and Lady, since in fact the Christ who was born of the Virgin Mother is God and Lord and also King. It is to this queen, therefore, that the Psalmists words are applied, "The Queen takes her place at Thy right hand in garments of Gold." Thus Mary is rightly called Queen, not only of heaven, but also of the heavens, as the Mother of the King of Angels, and as the Bride and beloved of the King of Heavens. O Mary, most august Queen and faithful Mother, to whom no one prays in vain who prays devoutly, and to whom all mortal men are bound by the enduring memory of so many benefits, again and again reverently I beseech thee to accepat and be pleased with every evidence of my devotion to thee, to value the poor gift I offer according to the zeal with which it is offered, and to recommend it to thine all-powerful Son.
From the documents of ancient Christianity, from the prayers of the liturgy, from the innate religious sense of the Christian people, from works of art, from all sides We gather witnesses which assert that the Virgin Mother of God excels in queenly dignity. And We have set forth the reasons which sacred theology deduces from the treasury of devine faith to confirm the same truth. All these witnesses form a sort of chorus, proclaiming far and wide the supreme queenly honor granted to the Mother of God and man, who is above all created things and "exalted over the choirs of Angels to reign in heaven." Thus it is that after mature and thoughtful consideration We have been persuaded that great benefits would flow to the Church if, like a light that illumines more brightly when placed on its stand, this solidly proved truth were to shine out more clearly for all; and so, by Our Apostolic Authority, we decree and institute the feast of Mary, Queen, which is to be celebrated every year on May 31st throughout the world.
A homily of St. Bonaventure, Bishop.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mother of the great King by reason of a noble kind of conception according to the message given her by the Angel. "Behold," he said, "thou shalt conceive and shall bring forth a Son"; and again, "The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father, and He shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." This is as if to say in so many words, "Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son who is King, eternally reigning on the royal throne, and becasue of this thou wilt reign as the Mother of the King, and as Queen thou wilt be seated on the royal throne." For if it becomes a son to give honor to his mother, it is also fitting that he share his royal throne with her; and so the Virgin Mary, because she conceived Him on whose thigh was written, "King of kings and Lord of lords," was Queen not only of earth but also of heaven as soon as she conceived the Son of God. This is indicated in the Apocalypse where it says, "A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."
Mary the Queen outshines all others in glory, as the Prophet clearly shows in the Psalm which particularly concerns Christ and the Virgin Mary. It first says of Christ, "Thy throne, O God, stands forever and ever," and shortly thereafter of the Virgin, "The queen takes her place at Thy right hand," that is, in the position of highest blessedness, for it refers to glory.of soul. The Psalm continuse, "In garments of gold," by which is meant the clothing of glorious immortality which was proper to the Virgin in her Assumption. For it could not be that the garment that clothed Christ, the garment completely sanctified on earth by the incarnate Word, should be the food of worms. As it was fitting for Christ to grant the fullness of grace to His Mother at her Conception, so it was fitting that He grant her the fullness of glory at her Assumption. And so, we are to hold that the Virgin, glorious in soul and body, is enthroned next to her Son.
Mary the Queen is also the distributer of grace. This is indicated in the book of Esther in the passage, "The little spring which grew into a river and was turned into a light and into the sun." The Virgin Mary, under the type of Esther, is compared to the out-pouring of a spring and of light, because of the diffusion of graces for two uses, that is, for action and for contemplation. For the grace of God, which is a healing for the human race, descends to us through her as if through an aqueduct, since the dispensing of grace is attributed to the Virgin not as to its beginning, but because of her position through merit. By position the Virgin Mary is a most excellent Queen towards her people: she obtains forgiveness, overcomes strife, distributes grace; and thereby she leads them to glory.