Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Saint Sylvester, Abbot


God often brings the world to those who flee from it, as Sylvester Gozzolini among others experienced. In the thirteenth century, the world, all in admiration at the sanctity and the eloquence of the new Orders, seemed to have forgotten the monks and the desert. God, who never forgets, led his elect silently into solitude, and the wilderness began again to rejoice and flourish like the lily; strength was restored to the weak hands and feeble knees of the sons of the cloister. The austerities of olden days and the fervor of prolonged prayer were revived at Monte Fano, and extended into sixty other monasteries; the new religious family of the Sylvestrians was approved by Innocent IV in 1247. Though originated seven centuries after St. Benedict, and distinguished from the elder families by its blue habit, it claims the Patriarch of Cassino for its legislator and father.

Let us read the life of St. Sylvester which was inserted in the Breviary by Pope Leo XIII.

Silvester, Auximi in Piceno nobili genere ortus, statim puerilem ætatem litteris ac bonis moribus mirfice exornavit. Adolescans Bononiam ad studia jurisprudentiæ missus a patre, cum sacris litteris a Deo monitus dedisset operam, parentis incurrit indignationem, quam æquo animo toto decennio pertulit. Ob egregiam ejus virtutem a canonicis cathedralis Auximanæ ecclesiæ socius honoris electus est; in quo munere populo orationibus, exemplo et concionibus opem tulit.

Sylvester was born of a noble family at Osimo in the Marches of Ancona, and in his boyhood was remarkable for his love of study and his good conduct. As a youth he was sent by his father to Bologna to study jurisprudence, but was admonished by God to devote himself to sacred learning. This incited his father to anger, which Sylvester patiently endured for ten years. On account of his remarkable virtue, the Canons of Osimo elected him an honorary member of their chapter, in which position he benefited the people by his prayers, his example, and his sermons.

Inter funus nobilis cujusdam defuncti, in aperto tumulo formosi viri suique propinqui deforme cadaver conspiciens: Ego, inquit, sum, quod hic fuit; quod hic est, ego ero. Et mox, peracto funere, illa sibi Domini sibi occurrente sententia: Qui vult venire post me, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me, in solitudinem majoris perfectionis studio secessit, ibique vigiliis, orationibus jejuniisque deditus, crudas tantum herbas in cibum sæpius adhibuit. Ut autem magis lateret homines, varias mutavit sedes; ac demum pervenit ad montem Fanum, locum, quamvis prope Fabrianum, eo tamen tempore desertum, ibique in honorem sanctissimi Patris Benedicti templum erexit, congregationisque Silvestrinorum fundamenta jecit, sub regula et habitu in visione sibi ab eodem Sancto ostensis.

While assisting at the funeral of a nobleman, his relative, who had been remarkably handsome, he looked into the open coffin, and seeing the corpse all deformed, said to himself: What this man was, I am now; what he is now, I shall be hereafter. As soon as the funeral was over, reading these words of our Lord: If any one will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, he retired into solitude in order to attain greater perfection; there he gave himself up to watching, prayer and fasting, often eating nothing but raw herbs. The better to conceal himself from men he frequently changed his place of abode; and at length settled at Monte Fano, which, though near to Fabriano, was at that time a desert. There he built a church in honor of the most holy father Benedict, and founded the Congregation of Sylvestrians, under the rule and habit shown him by St. Benedict in vision.

At invidens satanas variis terroribus illius monachos turbare nitebatur, noctu monasterii januas hostiliter invadens. Sed vir Dei hostis impetum ita repressit, ut monachi in sancto instituto magis confirmarentur, ac patris sanctitatem agnoscerent. Spiritu prophetiæ aliisque donis enituit. Quæ ut semper profunda humilitate conservavit, ita contra se dæmonis invidiam concitavit, a quo præceps actus per scalas oratorii, et prope interimendus, præsentissimo Virginis beneficio incolumitati redditus est. Quod beneficium perpetua et singulari in illam pietate commendavit ad ultimum usque vitæ spiritum, quem fere nonagenarius, sanctitate et miraculis Deo reddidit anno salutis millesimo ducentesimo sexagesimo septimo, sexto calendas decembris. Ejus Officium ac Missam Leo Decimus tertius Pontifex Maximus ad universam extendit Ecclesiam.

Satan, roused to envy, strove in many ways to terrify his monks, making assaults by night at the monastery gates. But the man of God repressed the enemy’s attacks with such vigor, that the monks, recognizing their father’s sanctity, were more and more confirmed in their holy purpose. Sylvester was remarkable for the spirit of prophecy and other gifts, which he guarded by deep humility. This so stirred up the devil’s envy that he cast the saint headlong down the oratory stairs and well nigh killed him, but the blessed Virgin at once graciously restored him to health. In gratitude for this benefit, Sylvester showed her the tenderest unfailing piety to the end of his life. He died at the age of about ninety years, renowned for sanctity and miracles, on the sixth of the Kalends of December, in the year of salvation 1267. The Sovereign Pontiff Leo XIII extended his Office and Mass to the universal Church.

Peter, successor of St. Theonas in the See of Alexandria, was by his learning and holiness the glory of Egypt, and the light of the whole Church of God. Such was his courage under the terrible persecution raised by Maximian Galerius, that the example of his admirable patience strengthened a great many in Christian virtue. He was the first to cut off from the communion of the faithful, Arius, deacon of Alexandria, for favoring the schism of the Meletians. When Peter had been condemned to death by Maximian, the priests Achillas and Alexander came to him in prison to intercede for Arius; but the bishop answered that during the night Jesus had appeared to him with his garment torn, and on his asking the cause, had replied: “Arius has rent my garment, which is the Church.” He then foretold that they two would succeed him in turn in the episcopate, and forbade them ever to receive Arius to communion, for he knew that he was dead to God. The truth of this prophecy was soon proved by the event. Peter was beheaded, and thus went to receive the crown of martyrdom on the sixth of the Kalends of December, in the twelfth year of his episcopate.

Let us offer our homage and prayers to the great bishop whom the Church thus commemorates today. For a long time he went by the name of Peter the Martyr, until in the thirteenth century another Peter martyr, himself illustrious among all, came to claim the title, leaving his glorious brother to be known as St. Peter of Alexandria.

Ant. Iste sanctus pro lege Dei sui certavit usque ad mortem, et a verbis impiorum non timuit: fundatus enim erat supra firmam petram.

Ant. This Saint fought even to death for the law of his God, and feared not the words of the wicked; for he was founded upon a firm rock.

℣. Gloria et honore coronasti eum Domine.

℣. Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, O Lord.

℟. Et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

℟. And hast set him over the works of thy hands.


Infirmatatem nostram respice, omnipotens Deus: et quia pondus propriæ actionis gravat, beati Petri Martyris tui atque Pontificis, intercessio gloriosa nos protegat. Per Dominum.

Have regard to our weakness, O Almighty God: and since the weight of our own deeds is grievous to us, may the glorious intercession of blessed Peter, thy Martyr and Bishop, protect us. Through.


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