Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saint Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr; Commemoration of Saint Liborius, Bishop


Ravenna, the mother of cities, invites us today to honor the martyr bishop, whose labors did more for her lasting renown than did the favor of emperors and kings. From the midst of her ancient monuments, the rival of Rome, though now fallen, points proudly to her unbroken chain of Pontiffs, which she can trace back to the Vicar of the Man-God through Apollinaris. This great Saint has been praised by Fathers and Doctors of the Universal Church, his sons and successors. Would to God that the noble city had remembered what she owed to St. Peter.

Apollinaris had left family and fatherland, and all he possessed to follow the Prince of the Apostles. One day, according to the Passio, the master said to the disciple: “Why stayest thou here with us? Behold thou art instructed in all that Jesus did; rise up, receive the Holy Ghost, and go to that city which knows him not.” And blessing him, he kissed him and sent him away. Such sublime scenes of separation, often witnessed on those early days, and many a time since repeated, show by their heroic simplicity the grandeur of the Church.

Apollinaris sped to the sacrifice. Christ, says St. Peter Chrysologus, hastened to meet his martyr, the martyr pressed on towards his King; but the Church, anxious to keep this support of her infancy, intervened to defer, not the struggle, but the crown; and for twenty-nine years, adds St. Peter Damian, his martyrdom was prolonged through such innumerable torments, that the labors of Apollinaris alone were sufficient testimony of the faith for those regions, which had no other witness unto blood. According to the traditions of the Church he so powerfully established, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove directly and visibly designated each of the twelve successors of Apollinaris, up to the age of peace.

The holy Liturgy devotes the following lines to the history of this brave Apostle:

Apollinaris cum Principe Apostolorum Antiochia Roman venit: a quo ordinatus Episcopus, Ravennam ad Christi Domini Evangelium prædicandum mittitur: ubi cum ad Christi fidem plurimos converteret, captus ab idolorum sacerdotibus graviter cæsus est. Cumque ipso orante Bonifacius nobilis vir, qui diu mutus fuerat, loqueretur, ejusque filia immundo spiritu liberata esset; iterum est in illum commota seditio. Itaque virgis cæsus, ardentes carbones nudis pedibus premere cogitur: quem cum subjectus ignis nihil læderet, ejicitur extra urbem.

Apollinaris came to Rome from Antioch with the Prince of the Apostles, by whom he was consecrated bishop, and sent to Ravenna to preach the Gospel of our Lord Christ. He converted many to the faith of Christ, for which reason he was seized by the priests of the idols and severely beaten. At his prayer, a nobleman named Boniface, who had long been dumb, recovered the power of speech, and his daughter was delivered from an unclean spirit; on this account a fresh sedition was raised against Apollinaris. He was beaten with rods, and made to walk bare-foot over burning coals; but as the fire did him no injury, he was driven from the city.

Is vero latens aliquamdiu cum quibusdam Christianis, inde profectus est in Æmiliam, ubi Rufini patricii filiam mortuam ad vitam revocavit: ut propterea tota Rufini familia in Jesum Christum crederet. Quare vehementer incensus præfectus accersit Apollinarem, et cum eo gravius agit, ut finem faciat disseminandi in urbe Christi fidem. Cujus cum Apollinaris jussa negligeret, equuleo criatur: in cujus plagas aqua fervens infunditur, saxoque os trumditur: mox ferreis vinculis constrictus includitur in carcere. Quarto die impositus in navem, mittitur in exsilium: ac facto naufragio venit in Mysiam, inde ad ripam Danubii, postea in Thraciam.

He lay hid sometime in the house of certain Christians, and then went to Æmilia. Here he raised from the dead the daughter of Rufinus, a patrician, whose whole family thereupon believed in Jesus Christ. The prefect was greatly angered by this conversion, and sending for Apollinaris he sternly commanded him to give over propagating the faith of Christ in the city. But as Apollinaris paid no attention to his commands, he was tortured on the rack, boiling water was poured upon his wounds, and his mouth was bruised and broken with a stone; finally, he was loaded with irons, and shut up in prison. Four days afterwards, he was put on board ship and sent into exile; but the boat was wrecked, and Apollinaris arrived in Mysia, whence he passed to the banks of the Danube and into Thrace.

Cum autem in Serapidis templo dæmon se responsa daturum negaret, dum ibidem Petri Apostoli discipulus moraretur, diu conquisitus inventus est Apollinaris: qui iterum jubetur navigare. Ita reversus Ravennam, ab iisdem illis idolorum sacerdotibus accusatus, centurioni custodiendus traditur: qui cum occulte Christum coloret, noctu Apollinarem dimisit. Re cognita, satellites eum persequuntur, et plagis in itinere confectum, quod mortuum crederent, relinquunt. Quem cum inde Christiani sustulissent, septimo die exhortans illos ad fidei constantiam, martyrii gloria clarus migravit e vita. Cujus corpus prope murum urbis sepultum est.

In the temple of Serapis the demon refused to utter his oracles so long as the disciple of the Apostle Peter remained there. Search was made for some time, and then Apollinaris was discovered and commanded to depart by sea. Thus he returned to Ravenna; but, on the accusation of the same priests of the idols, he was placed in the custody of a centurion. As this man, however, worshipped Christ in secret, Apollinaris was allowed to escape by night. When this became known, he was pursued and overtaken by the guards, who loaded him with blows and left him, as they thought, dead. He was carried away by the Christians, and seven days after, while exhorting them to constancy in the faith, he passed away from this life, to be crowned with the glory of martyrdom. His body was buried near the city walls.

Venantius Fortunatus, coming from Ravenna to our Northern lands, has taught us to salute from afar thy glorious tomb. Answer us by the wish thou didst frame during the days of thy mortal life: May the peace of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, rest upon you! Peace, the perfect gift, the first greeting of an Apostle, the consummation of all grace: how thou didst appreciate it, how jealous of it thou wert for thy sons, even after thou hadst quitted this earth! By it thou didst obtain from the God of peace and love, that miraculous intervention which pointed out, for so long a time, the bishops who were to succeed thee in thy See. Thou didst thyself appear one day to the Roman Pontiff, showing him Peter Chrysologus as the elect of Peter and of Apollinaris. And later on, knowing that the cloister was to be the home of the Divine peace banished from the rest of the world, thou camest twice in person to bid Romuald obey the call of grace, and go and people the desert. How comes it that more than one of thy successors, no longer, alas! designated by the Divine Dove, should have become intoxicated with earthly favors, and so soon have forgotten the lessons left by thee to thy Church? Was it not sufficient honor for that Church, the Daughter of Rome, to occupy among her illustrious sisters the first place at her mother’s side? For surely the Gospel sung on this feast for now thirteen centuries, and perhaps more, ought to have been a safeguard against the deplorable excesses which hastened her fall. Rome, warned by sinister indications, seems to have foreseen the sacrilegious ambition of a Guibert, when she fixed her choice on this passage of the sacred text: There was also a strife amongst the disciples, which of them should seem to be the greater. And what more significant, and at the same time more touching commentary could have been given to this Gospel than the words of St. Peter himself in the Epistle: “The ancients therefore that are among you, I beseech, who am myself also an ancient, to feed the flock of God, not as lording it over the clergy, but being models to them of disinteredness and love; and let all insinuate humility one to another, for God resisteth the proud, but to the humble he giveth grace.” Pray, O Apollinaris, that both pastor and flocks throughout the Church, may, now at least, profit by these apostolic and Divine teachings, so that we may all one day have a place at the eternal banquet, where our Lord invites his own to sit down with Peter and with thee in his Kingdom.

While Apollinaris adorns holy Mother Church with the bright purple of his martyrdom, another noble son crowns her brow with the white wreath of a Confessor-Pontiff. Liborius, the heir of Julian, Thuribius, and Pavacius, was a brilliant link in the glorious chain connecting the Church of Le Mans with Clement, the successor of St. Peter; he came to bring peace after the storm, and to restore to the earth a hundredfold fruitfulness after the ruin caused by the tempest. The fanatical disciples of Odin invading the west of Gaul, had committed more havoc in this part of our Lord’s vineyard than had the proconsuls with their cold legalism, or the ancient druids with their fierce hatred. Liborius, defender of the earthly fatherland, and guide of souls to the heavenly one, brought the enemy to be citizen of both by making him Christian. As a Pontiff, he labored with purest zeal for the magnificence of Divine worship, which renders homage to God, and gives health to the earth; as apostle, he took up again the work of evangelization begun by the first messengers of the faith, driving idolatry from the strongholds it had reconquered, and from the country parts, where it had always reigned supreme: his friend St. Martin had not in this respect a more worthy rival.

Five centuries after the close of his laborious life, his blessed body was removed from the sanctuary where it lay among his fellow bishops, and scattering miracles all along the way, was carried to Paderborn; pagan barbarism once more fled at the approach of Liborious, and Westphalia was won to Christ. Le Mons and Paderborn, uniting in the veneration of their common apostle, have thus sealed a friendship which a thousand years have not destroyed.


Da, quæsumus omnipotens Deus, ut beati Liborii, Confessoris tui atque Pontificis, veneranda solemnitas et devotionem nobis augeat, et salutem. Per Dominum.

Grant, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, that the venerable solemnity of blessed Liborius, thy confessor and bishop, may contribute to the increase of our devotion, and promote our salvation. Through our Lord, etc.


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