Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 23

FEAST OF ST. CLEMENT, BISHOP OF ROME. Died perhaps by martyrdom, about the year 100.

ST. PAUL writes to the Philippians (iv. 3): --"Clement, also, and . . . other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the Book of Life."

Notwithstanding some alleged difficulty in the way of identification, this saint, certified as such by the voice of inspiration, is considered to be the same as the St. Clement we memorialize today, and who is counted either as the immediate or as the third successor of St. Peter.

His own writings survive as his worthy monument. Otherwise, despite its remaining historically uncertain whether or not he attained the martyr's palm branch, a legend assigns to him as monument a beautiful chapel raised by angels beneath the sea and enshrining his body. For, according to this tradition, he had been exiled from Rome to the marble quarries of Pontus; where he found and encouraged fellow-Christians, and converted pagans: for which latter good work he was condemned to be drowned with an anchor fastened to his neck. Afterwards, in answer to prayer, the sea receded and disclosed the angelic erection.

Another pretty legend relates how in his place of banishment water could only be procured from a spring six miles distant, adding to the weary toil of the quarries. "One day Clement saw a lamb scraping at the soil with one of its forefeet. He took it as a sign that water was there; dug, and found a spring."

Yet what matter mistakes or silence of earthly records concerning any "whose names are in the Book of Life?" Of all such we know assuredly that they shall thirst no more, but the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, where there shall be no more sea.

November 22


LEGEND, if not history, represents St. Cecilia as given in marriage to a young man named Valerian; whom she converted to Christianity by holding out to him, on that condition, a hope of beholding an Angel who protected her. Valerian, returning from Baptism, beheld Cecilia at her prayers; and with her, an Angel who crowned the pair with roses and lilies before vanishing. Another version of the story shows us the Angel seated at an organ when the young husband lighted upon him. Tiburtius, brother of Valerian, noticing the flowers and understanding their source, was converted likewise. After which all three laid down life for the faith.

St. Cecilia ranks as patroness of music. Her name, too, whether we say Cecilia or Cicely, is musical. Her story exhibits that good and pleasant thing, a family dwelling in harmonious unity and angelic fellowship.

Music may surpass our powers: harmony and the communion of saints even we ourselves also can compass.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 21

EVERYTHING that is born must die:
   Everything that can sigh may sing:
Rocks in equal balance low or high

   Honeycomb is weighed against a sting,
Hope and fear take turns to touch the sky,
   Height and depth respond alternating.

O my soul spread wings of love to fly,
   Wings of dove that soars on homebound wing:
Love trusts Love, till Love shall justify

November 20

FEAST OF ST. EDMUND, STYLED MARTYR, KING OF EAST ANGLIA. Born in the year 841; died in battle with the Danes, or was slain after the same battle, 870.

ACCORDING to one account King Edmund, finding himself unequal to resisting the Danish invaders, offered his own person as their prisoner if so his people might be spared. The Danes, however, after tempting him in vain to apostatize from the Christian Faith, treated him barbarously, and ended by shooting him to death with arrows. The town of Bury St. Edmunds is the place of his sepulture.

Another account simply state that he fell in battle against the same invaders.

"The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness."

November 19

"Cursed is the ground for thy sake; . . . thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." --(GEN. iii.17, 18)

SHORT of reprobation, there is no Divine curse upon sin within which does not lurk a blessing ready for penitents. And this, although "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent:" yea, rather, even because He is that Lord Who changeth not, therefore we are not consumed.

Which truth the penal thorn illustrates: for a veritable thorn it is which bears the rose.

November 18

WE know not when, we know not where,
   We know not what that world will be,
But this we know: it will be fair
   To see.

With heart athirst and thirsty face
   We know and know not what shall be: --
Christ Jesus bring us of His grace
   To see.

Christ Jesus bring us of His grace,
   Beyond all prayers our hope can pray,
One day to see Him face to face, --
   One day.

November 17

FEAST OF ST. HUGH, BISHOP OF LINCOLN. Born in Burgundy in the year 1140; died in London, 1200.

HAVING passed through a grave and pious childhood, Hugh, at the age of nineteen, visited the Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble, and became enamoured of its spiritual beauty enshrined amid marvellous natural beauties of the Alps. Assuming there the Carthusian habit, he spent ten years under that austere but congenial rule. Then Henry II. of England summoned him to govern a Carthusian Priory at Witham: he obeyed, and by kindly virtues won the love of his new neighbors.

In 1186 he was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln: in which character he withstood or rebuked first Henry II., afterwards Richard Coeur de Lion, earning the nickname of Hammer-King by his intrepidity.

He died during the reign of King John, having returned from an embassy of peace with which that monarch had charged him to Philip Augustus of France.

Humility, sweetness, courage,--virtues not always combined--were united in St. Hugh.

At Witham he was pleased himself to carry stones and knead mortar for building-work.

At Lincoln he made friends with a swan which frequented his Palace moat; he fed it, and was habitually greeted by it.

Concerning him, Richard Coeur de Lion is reported to have said: "If all the Bishops in my realm were like that man, kings and princes would be powerless against them."

By our saint's own command his deathbed was made on the floor, being composed of ashes strewn in the form of a cross.

But after his death, we read how "his body was embalmed, and conveyed with great pomp to Lincoln, where it was met by king John of England and king William of Scotland. . . . The two kings put their shoulders under the bier as it was carried into the church."

Friday, November 15, 2013

November 16

THE goal in sight! Look up and sing,
   Set faces full against the light,
Welcome with rapturous welcoming
   The goal in sight.

   Let be the left, let be the right:
Straight forward make your footsteps ring
   A loud alarum through the night.

Death hunts you, yea, but reft of sting;
   Your bed is green, your shroud is white:
Hail! Life and Death and all that bring
   The goal in sight.

November 15

FEAST OF ST. MACHUTUS, BISHOP OF ALETH. I notice his date as assigned to either of two centuries, involving a difference of about sixty years. The earlier date proposed fixes his death in the year 564 or 565.

THIS Machutus, Maclovius, Maclou, or Malo, seems most familiar under the name of St. Malo; which last form connects him with the locality where he lived, though not with his native land which, it appears, was Wales.

Various legends embalm his memory. In boyhood he fell asleep on the seashore, and would have been drowned by the rising tide had not the sand and weed on which he lay floated upward with him.

Later on, when he had assumed the monastic habit, it was his office to light the candles for matins. No fire was within reach: he placed extinct cinders in his bosom, and drew them out aglow.

He died, apparently, while acting, not as Bishop of Aleth, but as Monastic Superior at Archambray.

His life was passed not without vicissitudes, but seems to have closed in peace.

November 14

IT seems an easy thing
Mayhap one day to sing,
Yet the next day
We cannot sing or say.

Keep silence with good heart,
While silence fits our part:
Another day
We shall both sing and say.

Keep silence, counting time
To strike in at the chime;
Prepare to sound:--
Our part is coming round.

Cannot we sing or say?
In silence let us pray,
And meditate
Our love-song while me wait.

November 13

FEAST OF ST. BRITIUS OR BRICTIUS OR BRICE, BISHOP OF TOURS. Born in the fourth century; died about the year 443.

BRITIUS was brought up by St. Martin of Tours and succeeded him in that See.

In youth he appears to have been headstrong and worldly, and accusations beset him in afterlife. According to one version of his story these accusations were refuted; yet his flock appears to have lost, if it ever had entertained, confidence in him: another Bishop superseded him in his diocese, and was followed by yet another, while Britius spent seven penitential years in Rome.

Thence he travelled homewards with letters recommendatory from Pope Sixtus III.; the See once more fell vacant, and he resumed his former charge and dignity, holding them for another seven years until death removed him. Meanwhile he had acquired a saintly reputation.

I have seen a different coloring given to his story, but I follow the more favorable account.

"Charity . . . rejoiceth not in iniquity."

November 12

"LIFT up your hearts"--"We lift them up"--Ah me!
I cannot, Lord, lift up my heart to Thee:
Stoop, lift it up, that where Thou art I too may be.

"Give Me thy heart"--I would not say Thee nay,
But have no power to keep or give away
My heart: stoop, Lord, and take it to Thyself to-day.

Stoop, Lord, as once before now once anew
Stoop, Lord, and hearken, hearken, Lord, and do,
And take my will and take my heart and take me too.

November 11

FEAST OF ST. MARTIN, BISHOP OF TOURS. Born probably at Sabaria in Pannonia about the year 320; died, about 400.

AT the age of fifteen St. Martin started in life as a heathen soldier in the Roman army, though already he had felt the attractive influence of Christianity.

One winter's day, noticing a poor tattered beggar he divided with him his cloak. And the next night, in a dream, he saw our Lord enthroned in glory, arrayed in the half cloak and saying, "Behold the mantle given Me by Martin." After this dream, at the age of eighteen, Martin was baptized. Some two years later, he seems to have demanded his discharge from military service at a moment of impending battle: his commander, Julian, the future apostate Emperor, denied his request with contempt, only to be answered, "Post me in the fore-front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ."

It may have been some years later that he resorted to St. Hilary of Poitiers by whom he was ordained exorcist. Ere long filial affection carried him back to Pannonia, where his piety was rewarded by the conversion from paganism of his mother, though not, alas! of his father: where, moreover, protesting against the heresy of certain Arian bishops, he was publicly beaten and expelled from his (assumed) birthplace Sabaria.

We next behold him as a hermit in a Milanese solitude, exchanged later for the little solitary island. Still later he founded a monastery in the vicinity of Poiteirs.

At length, about the year 371, the See of Tours falling vacant, the people of Tours by stratagem and force conducted him to his consecration as their Bishop. But he who had been monk and hermit before such elevation, monk and hermit remained in spite of it. First he occupied a cell near the Church; but afterwards he removed to a mere lonely hut of branches on the bank of the Loire, where with eighty disciples he led an ascetic life.

He waxed great as promulgator of the Faith among his heathen neighbors, great as champion of the Truth against internal errors, great as contender that the weapons of church warfare must be spiritual, not carnal. In this last particular he showed himself a faithful disciple of his teacher St.  Hilary, whose noble words on the same point I quote (at second hand): "God will not have a forced homage. What need has He of a profession of faith produced by violence? We must not attempt to deceive Him; He must be sought with simplicity, served by charity, honored and gained by the honest exercise of our free-will."

Even at the end of his long life St. Martin expressed willingness to live on, if for the good of others; but this final sacrifice was not required of him, "for God took him."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 10

SCARCE-TOLERABLE life which all life long
   Is dominated by one dread of death,--
   Is such life, life? If so, who pondereth
May call salt sweetness or call discord song.
Ah me, this solitude where swarms a throng!
   Life slowly grows and dwindles breath by breath:
   Death slowly grows on us; no word it saith,
Its cords all lengthened and its pillars strong.
Life dies apace, a life that but deceives:
   Death reigns as though it lived, and yet is dead:
Where is the life that dies not, but that lives?
   The sweet long life immortal, ever young,
   True life that woos us with a silver tongue
Of hope, much said and much more left unsaid.

November 9

A COVETOUS, grasping Christian is like a quicksand: the surface smooth, the depth unceasingly on the suck and gulp.

Everything goes down, nothing comes up again: yet is the quicksand apparently none the fuller, neither does it cease from engulfing.

In fact--whether or not one may attribute ideas to a quicksand--it seems at any rate to entertain no idea of ever becoming satisfied. Its aim appears to be not to attain repletion, but to exercise an unbounded swallow.

In this world, crews, cargoes, ships, waifs and strays, respond to the "Give, give" of the quicksand; while objects of proportionate bulk and quality often respond to the unuttered "Give, give" of the covetous man.

Thus in this present world, both; but how in the next world, either?

November 8

OUR heaven must be within ourselves,
   Our home and heaven the work of faith
All through this race of life which shelves
   Downward to death.

So faith shall build the boundary wall,
   And hope shall plant the secret bower,
That both may show magnifical
   With gem and flower.

While over all a dome must spread,
   And love shall be that dome above;
And deep foundations must be laid,
   And these are love.

November 7

ONE of the dearest and most saintly persons I ever knew, in foresight of her own approaching funeral, saw nothing attractive in the "hood and hatband" style toward which I evinced some old-fashioned leaning. "Why make everything as hopeless-looking as possible?" she argued.

And at a moment which was sad only for us who lost her, all turned out in harmony with her holy hope and joy.

Flowers covered her, loving mourners followed her, hymns were sung at her grave, the November day brightened, and the sun (I vividly remember) made a miniature rainbow in my eyelashes.

I have often thought of that rainbow since.

May all who love enjoy cheerful little rainbows at the funerals of their beloved ones.

November 6


ST. LEONARD was son to a Frankish nobleman and Godson to King Clovis. Preferring a life of devotion to the career of a courtier he, after some experience in a monastery, retired to a forest not far from Limoges, and there subsisted on herbs and fruits.

In this forest a king, perhaps Theodebert of Austrasia, whose territory included the Limousin, sometimes followed the chase. On one such occasion he was accompanied by his queen, who then and there gave birth to a healthy baby, but not before the royal husband's anxiety had been awakened: St. Leonard, however, arriving opportunely, all went well with mother and child. In gratitude to St. Leonard the king made  him a grant of land, whereon our saint raised a monastery, naming it Noblac, in honor of so noble a gift, and ruling its inmates until he died.

St. Leonard is accounted the Patron of Prisoners, Clovis (it is said) having empowered him to release every prisoner he visited. If so, we may associate with his memory the Divine words spoken through Isaiah:--"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? . . . to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?"

Friday, November 1, 2013

November 5


"AND now, Lord, what is my hope? truly my hope is even in Thee."

One unfailing comfort of all who start in life "as water" consists in this: that water is constituted an eminent type of God the Holy Ghost.

The mist which refreshed Eden, the spring of Hagar (Gen. xxi. 19), the water which in twelve wells awaited wayfaring Israel, the desert fountain which called forth a song, set Him before us "merciful and gracious:" the water which streamed by the way of Edom to preserve perishing life, the "pure River of Water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb," set Him before us "plenteous in goodness."

And they who by His indwelling become moulded to His likeness, show forth His gracious loveliness, and are "in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men:" and their recompense is themselves also to "be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not."

"Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet."

November 4


THE instability of liquids can on occasion be counteracted by promptitude at full speed: thus an expert knows how to turn topsy-turvy and up again an open vessel of water without spilling one drop.

Whence it appears probable that unhesitating promptitude will prove a corrective virtue for the limp cold-watery character. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," urges the experienced Preacher. "While I am coming, another steppeth down before me," declares the hope-sick paralytic.

But while promptitude appears remedial for the cold-watery character, it threatens to heap fuel on the flame of the bubbling-up type.

Touching this latter, I venture not to offer any hint here, beyond quoting a suggestion I have met with elsewhere. When a pailful of water is being carried, wood floating on the surface steadies it: and in this wood that devout author saw the Cross.

Le us excitable people try the efficacy of the Cross applied to our hearts by love. I will not despair of its steadying and calming the unquietest heart among us,--yours, or mine.

November 3


ONE only process there is which renders water stable in itself: the process of freezing.

A second resource exists whereby for practical purposes it can be coerced into acting as if stable: dams, dykes, an impervious channel, restrain its laxity, husband its volume, accumulate and direct its strength.

To freeze suggests discipline rather than indulgence: to be straitened seems less enjoyable than to wander at large.

If we be "watery" characters we may not improbably need chills and shadows of life to harden us: full, unbroken, cloudless sunshine might evaporate us altogether, so that even if sought, our place should nowhere be found.

Or perhaps our lot will be cast in a narrow galling groove. Yet better this, surely, than that we should dribble in all directions into mere slush and mire, come to worse than nothing ourselves, and swamp our neighborhood.

November 2


"Unstable as water,"--(or according to an alternative rendering)--"Bubbling up as water, thou shalt not excel."--(Gen. xlix.4.)

THESE prophetic words of doom spoken against one such individual seem to apply to all persons of the "watery" type: to such persons, that is, as are born unstable and excitable.

So far, of course, as the mere natural disposition goes, no fault attaches to them. Only they will have to work under the condition of (at the least) a predisposition towards inferiority.

Which predisposition invites the virtue of humilty.

Now where humility lays deep the low-lying foundation, the superincumbent structure can safely and permanently tower aloft unto heaven.

Whence we perceive how by God's grace a predisposition towards inferiority may be reclaimed as a vantage ground for the achievement of excellence.

November 1


AS grains of sand, as stars, as drops of dew,
   Numbered and treasured by the Almighty Hand,
      The Saints triumphant throng that holy land
Where all things and Jerusalem are new.
We know not half they sing or half they do,
   But this we know, they rest and understand;
   While like a conflagration freshly fanned,
Their love glows upward, outward, through and through.
Lo! like a stream of incense launched on flame
   Fresh Saints stream up from death to life above,
      To shine among those others and rejoice.
What matters tribulation whence they came?
   All love, and only love, can find a voice
Where God makes glad His Saints, for God is Love.