Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Saint John a San Facundo, or of Sahagún


The kingdom which the Apostles have mission to establish upon earth is a reign of peace. Such was the promise pledged by Heaven to earth, on that glorious night wherein was given to us the Emmanuel. And on that other night which witnessed our Lord’s last farewell at the Supper, did not the Man-God base the New Testament upon the double legacy which he bequeathed to his Church, of his sacred Body and Blood, and of this peace announced of yore by Bethlehem’s angels? Yea, a peace unknown till then, here below; a peace all his own, because as he said, it proceeds from him, but still is not himself; this gift substantial and divine is no other than the Holy Ghost in person! Like to some sacred leaven, this peace has been spread amongst us during these Pentecostal days. Men and nations alike have felt the sacred influence. Man at strife with heaven and divided against himself was indeed justly punished for his insubordination to God by the ascendency of the senses in his revolted flesh; but he now sees harmony once again established in his own being, and his appeased God treating as a son the obstinate rebel of former days. The sons of the Most High are to form a new people, stretching their confines unto earth’s furthest bounds. Seated in the beauty of peace, to use the prophet’s expression, this blessed race shall see all nations flocking to its midst, and shall draw down, here below, the good will of heaven, so exquisitely imaged therein.

Whereas formerly nations were constantly at strife, and wreaking vengeance in many a bloody combat that knew no end but in the extermination of the vanquished, once baptized, they recognize each other as sisters, according to the filiation of the Father who is in heaven. Faithful subjects of the one Pacific King, they yield themselves up to the Holy Ghost that he may soften their manners; and if, perforce, war, the result of sin, must needs sometimes come, woefully reminding man of the consequences of the fall, this inevitable scourge will, at least henceforth have some law besides that of might. The right of nations, the right of every Christian who rejects all that savors of pagan antiquity, the faith of treaties, the arbitration of the Vicar of Christ, supreme controller of the consciences of kings, these and only these, can eliminate occasions of bloody discord. Thus there were to be ages in which the “peace of God,” or the “truce of God,” or a thousand such loving artifices of the common mother, would prevail to restrict the number of years and of days, wherein the sword might be allowed to remain unsheathed against human life; were these limits out-stepped the transgressor’s blade would be snapped in twain by the power of the spiritual sword, more dreaded, in those days, than warrior’s steel. Such the potency of the Gospel’s might, that even in these present days of universal decadence, respect for a disarmed foe imposes itself as law on the hottest adversary, so that after a battle, victors and vanquished meeting like brothers, lavish the same cares both corporal and spiritual, on the wounded of either camp;: such the persistent energy of the supernatural leaven which has been working progressive transformation in mankind for eighteen hundred years, and is even still acting upon those who would fain deny its power!

He whom we are honoring today is one of the most glorious instruments of this marvelous conduct of divine Providence. Heaven-born peace mingles her placid ray with the brilliant aureola that wreathes his brow. A noble son of Catholic Spain, he knew how to prepare the future glory of his country, as well as any mailed hero that laid Moor prostrate in the dust. Just as the eight hundred years’ crusade that drove the crescent from Iberian soil, was closing, and the several kingdoms of this magnanimous land were blending together under one scepter, this lowly hermit of Saint Augustine was laying within hearts the foundation of that powerful unity which would inaugurate the glories of Spain’s sixteenth century. When he first appeared, rivalries engendered too easily by a false point of honor, in a nation armed to the teeth, sullied the fair land of Spain with the blood of her sons, slain by Christian hands. As he now stands before us receiving the Church’s homage, we behold discord at his feet, overthrown and vanquished by his defenseless hand.

Let us read this precious life as related in the Liturgy.

Joannem, Sahaguni in Hispania nobili genere natum, parentes cum diu prole caruissent, piis operibus et orantionibus a Deo impetrarunt. Ab ineunte ætate egregium fituræ sanctitatis specimen dedit: nam e loco superiori ad cæteros pueros crebro verba faciebat, quibus eos ad virtutem et Dei cultum hortabatur, eorumque dissidia componebat. In patria monachis sancti Facundi ordinis sancti Benedicti, primis litterarum rudimentis imbuendus traditur: dum iis operam daret, curavit pater ut parochus ecclesiam administraret: quod munus juvenis nullis rationibus adduci potuit ut retineret. Inter familiares episcopi Burgensis adscriptus, ob spectatam ipsius probitatem intimus ei fuit, ab eoque presbyter et canonicus factus, multis beneficiis auctus est. Sed, relicta aula episcopi, ut Deo quietius serviret, omnibus ecclesiæ proventibus abdicatis, se cuidam sacello addixit, ubi Sacrum quotidie faciebat, ac de rebus divinis magna cum auditorum ædificatione frequenter concionabatur.

John was born at Sahagún in Spain, of a noble race; his parents after long childlessness, obtained him from God by prayers and good works. From his earliest years he gave clear signs of his after holiness of life: for he was used to climb up upon a high place, to preach to the other little boys, and to exhort them to be good and to be attentive to the public service of God, and he made it his work, to reconcile their quarrels. In his native place, he was given in charge to the monks of the Order of Saint Benedict of San Facundo to be taught the first elements of learning. While he was thus busied, his father obtained for him the benefice of the Parish, but no inducements could persuade him to keep this preferment. He became one of the household of the Bishop of Burgos, and that Prelate seeing his uprightness, took him into his counsels, ordained him Priest, and made him a Canon, heaping many kindnesses upon him. However, that he might serve God the more quietly, he left the Bishop’s palace, resigned all his Church income, and betook him to a certain chapel where he celebrated the Holy Mass every day, and oftentimes preached concerning the things of God, with great profit to all that heard him.

Postea studiorum causa Salmanticam profectus, in celebre collegium divi Bartholomæi cooptatus, sacerdotis munus ita exercuit, ut simul optatis studiis incumberet, et in sacris etiam concionibus assidue versaretur. Cum vero in gravissimum morbum incidisset, arctioris disciplinæ voto se obstrinxit, quod ut redderet, cum prius cuidam pauperi pene nudo ex duabus, quas tantum habebat vestes, meliorem dedisset, ad cœnobium sancti Augustini severiori disciplina tum maxime florens se contulit: in quo admissus, obedientia, animi demissione, vigiliis ac oratione provestiores antiebat. Treclinii cura cum ipsi demandata esset, vini doliolum, ipso attingente, omnibus monachis per annum abunde suffecit. Exacto tyrocinii anno, præfecti jussu munus concionandi suscepit. Salmanticæ id temporis adeo cruentis factionibus divina humanaque omnia permixto erant, ut singulis propemodum horis cædes fierent, et omnium ordinum ac præsertim nobilium sanguine non viæ solum et fora, sed templa etiam redundarent.

He went later on, to Salamanca to study, and there being taken in to the celebrated college of Saint Bartholomew, performed his priestly office in such sort, that he was at once constant to study, the present object of his desire, and yet assiduous to the duty of preaching. Here he had a severe illness, and vowed to embrace a sterner way of living, in fulfillment of which vow, having given to a half-naked beggar the better of the only two garments he possessed, he withdrew to a monastery of Saint Augustine then flourishing in full observance of severe discipline. Being admitted therein, he surpassed the most advanced, in obedience, in lowliness of mind, in vigils, and in prayer. The care of the refectory being confided to him, one barrel of wine, handled by him, abundantly sufficed the whole community for an entire year. After his year of noviceship, he undertook once more, by obedience, the duty of preaching. At that time owing to bloody feuds, all things human and divine at Salamanca, were in such utter confusion that murders were committed almost every hour, and the streets and squares, yea, even the very churches flowed with the blood of all classes especially of the nobility.

At Joannes, tum concionibus, tum privatis colloquiis civium animos demulcens, ad tranquillitatem urbem reduxit. Virum principem gravitcr ofiendit, quod illius in subditos sævitiam increpasset. Qua de causa equites duos inmisit, qui eum in itinere confoderent: jamque ad ipsum propinquaverant, cum, stupore divinitus immisso, simul cum equis immobiles steterunt, donec ad pedes sancti viri provoll!ti, sceleris veniam precarentur. Ipse quoque princeps, repentino terrore perculsus, jam de salute desperaverat, cum, revocato Joanne, facti prenitens, incolumitati redditus est. Factiosi etiam homines, cum eum fustibus peterent, brachiis diriguere, nec ante redditæ vires quam delicti veniam precarentur. Christum Dominum, dum Sacrum faceret, præsentem contueri, atque ex ipso divinitatis fonte crelestia mysteria haurlre solitus. Abdita cordis inspicere, ac futura raro eventu præsagire frequens ilIi fuit, fratrisque filiam septennem mortuamexcitavit. Denique, mortis die prænuntiato, et Ecclesiæ sacramentis devotissime susceptis, extremum diem clausit, multis ante et post obitum miraculis gloriosus. Quibus rite probatis, Alexander Octavus Sanctorum numero eum adscripsit.

It was John who, by public preaching and private conversations, softened the hearts of the citizens, so that the town was restored to peace. One of the nobles, whom he had grievously offended by rebuking him for his cruelty towards his vassals, sent two knights to murder him on the road. They had already come nigh to him, when God struck them with such terror, that they were rendered immovable, and their horses likewise; until at length prostrating themselves before the feet of the saint, they implored his forgiveness for their crime. The said lord, likewise smitten with a sudden dread, despaired of his salvation, till he had sent for John, who, finding him repentant of his deed, restored him to health. Some factious men also, who assailed him with clubs, found their arms stiffen, nor would their strength return till they had asked his pardon for their wickedness. While celebrating Mass, he was wont to behold the Lord Jesus Christ then present, and to quaff, from the Fountain-Head of the Divinity, heavenly mysteries. Oftentimes also he could see into the secrets of men’s hearts, and foretell things to come, that were quite unlooked for. He raised from the dead his brother’s daughter, a child seven years old. He foretold the day of his death; and having prepared himself, by receiving most devoutly the Sacraments of the Church, he passed away. He was glorified by miracles both before and after his death. These being duly proved, Alexander VIII numbered him among the saints.

O Blessed Saint, well hast thou earned the privilege of appearing in the heavens of holy Church, during these weeks that are radiant with Pentecostal light. Long ago did Isaias thus portray the loveliness of earth, on the morrow of the coming down of the Paraclete: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that bring good tidings, and that preach peace: of them that preach salvation that say to Sion: Thy God shall reign!” What the prophet thus admired was the sight of the Apostles’ taking possession of the world in God’s name; but in what did thine own mission differ from theirs thus enthusiastically pictured by the inspired pencil? The same Holy Ghost animated thy ways and theirs; the same Pacific King beheld his scepter by thy hand, made yet more steadfast in its sway over a noble nation of his vast empire. Peace, the one object of all thy labors here below, is now thine eternal recompense in heaven where thou reignest with him. Thou dost now experience the truth of thy Master’s word, when he said of such as resemble thee by working to establish peace, at least within the territory of their own hearts: Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called the children of God! Yea, rest then, dear Saint, in thy Father’s inheritance, into which thou hast entered; rest thee, in the beatific repose of the Holy Trinity that inundates thy soul, and may we here, afar off in this chilly earth below, feel something of that genial peacefulness.

Vouchsafe to lavish upon thine own land of Spain, the same succor which, in thy life time was so precious unto her. No longer does she hold that preeminence in Christendom, which became hers, just after thy glorious death. Would that thou couldst now persuade her that never can her greatness be recovered, by lending an ear to the deceptive whisperings of false liberty. But that which could in bygone days render her so strong and powerful, can do so again, if she draw down upon her the benedictions of Him by whom alone kings reign. Devotedness to Christ, that was her glory; devotedness to truth, that was her treasure! Revealed truth is alone that whereby men enter into true liberty:—Truth will make you free. Truth alone is able to bind in unity indissoluble, the many minds and wills that make up a nation: powerful is that bond, for it secures strength to a country beyond her frontiers, and peace to her within. Apostle of peace, remind thine own people, and teach the same to all,—that absolute fidelity to the Church’s doctrines is the sole ground whereon Christians may seek and find concord.


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