Eighteen Martyrs of Saragossa,
and st. encratis, or engratia, v. m.
From Prudentlus de Cot hymn. 4. See Vasæus Belga in Chron. Hisp. Breviarium Eborense a Resendio recognitum, an. 1569.
A. D. 304.
St. Optatus, and seventeen other holy men,† received the crown of martyrdom on the same day, at Saragossa, under the cruel governor Dacian, in the persecution of Dioclesian, in 804. Two others, Caius and Crementius, died of their torments after a second conflict, as Prudentius relates.
The same venerable author describes, in no less elegant verse, the triumph of St. Encratis, or Engratia, virgin. She was a native of Portugal. Her father had promised her in marriage to a man of quality in Rousillon, but, fearing the dangers, and despising the vanities of the world, and resolving to preserve her virginity, in order to appear more agreeable to her heavenly spouse, and serve him without hinderance, she fled privately to Saragossa, where the persecution was hottest, under the eyes of Dacian. She even reproached him with his barbarities, upon which he ordered her to be long tormented in the most inhuman manner: her sides were torn with iron hooks, and one of her breasts was cut off, so that the inner parts of her chest were exposed to view, and part of her liver pulled out. In this condition she was sent back to prison, being still alive, and died by the mortifying of her wounds, in 304. The relics of all these martyrs were found at Saragossa in 1389. Prudentius recommended himself to their intercession, and exhorts the city, through their prayers, to implore the pardon of their sins, with him, that they might follow them to glory.*
The martyrs, by a singular happiness and grace, were made perfect holocausts of divine love. Every Christian must offer himself a perpetual sacrifice to God, and by an active submission to his will, a constant fidelity to his law, and a total consecration of all his affections, devote to him all the faculties of his soul and body, all the motions of his heart, all the actions and moments of his life, and this with the most ardent, unabated love, and the most vehement desire of being altogether his. Can we consider that our most amiable and loving God, after having conferred upon us numberless other benefits, has, with infinite love, given us himself, by becoming man, making himself a bleeding victim for our redemption, and in the holy eucharist remaining always with us, to be our constant sacrifice of adoration and propitiation, and to be our spiritual food, comfort, and strength; lastly, by being the eternal spouse of our souls? Can we, I say, consider that our infinite God has so many ways, out of love, made himself all ours, and not be transported with admiration and love, and cry out with inexpressible ardor: My beloved is mine, and I am his. Yes, I will from this moment dedicate myself entirely to him. Why am not I ready to die of grief and compunction that I ever lived one moment not wholly to him! Oh! my soul, base, mean, sinful, and unworthy as thou art, the return which by thy love and sacrifice thou makest to thy infinite God, bears no proportion, and is on innumerable other titles a debt, and thy sovereign exaltation and happiness. It is an effect of his boundless mercy that he accepts thy oblation, and so earnestly sues for it by bidding thee give him thy heart. Set at least no bounds to the ardor with which thou makest it the only desire of thy heart, and thy only endeavor to be wholly his, by faithfully corresponding to his grace, and by making thy heart an altar on which thou never ceasest to offer all thy affections and powers to him, and to his greater glory, and to become a pure victim to burn and be entirely consumed with the fire of divine love. In union with the divine victim, the spotless lamb, who offers himself on our altars and in heaven for us, our sacrifice, however unworthy and imperfect, will find acceptance; but for it to be presented with, and by what is so holy, what is sanctity itself, with what purity, with what fervour ought it to be made!
St. Turibius, Bishop of Astorga
A zealous maintainer of ecclesiastical discipline, and defender of the faith against the Priscillianist heresy in Spain; in which his endeavors were seconded by St. Leo the Great, as appears by his letter to St. Turibius.1 His predecessor, Dictinius, had the misfortune to fall into the heresy of the Priscillianists; but was never deposed, as Quesnel mistakes. His death happened about the year 420, as is clear from St. Austin.2 St. Turibius died about the year 460, and is named in the Roman Martyrology on this day. See Baronius, Gerves, and Cacciari, Exercitat. in Op. S. Leon. Diss. 2, de Hæresi Priscill. c. 13, 14, p. 250, &c.
St. Fructuosus, Archbishop of Braga, C.
He was a prince of the royal blood of the Visigoth kings in Spain; but, from his youth, desired to consecrate his life to the divine service in a holy retreat beyond the reach of that whirlpool of business, faction, pleasure, and sin, called the world. After the death of his parents, he found himself at large, and at full liberty to dispose of himself according to his desire. He therefore procured himself to be instructed in the sacred sciences, in the great school which the bishop of Palencia had established for the education of his clergy. He sold the greatest part of his estate, and bestowed the whole price upon the poor, and with the rest founded several monasteries, especially a great one on his estate upon the mountains near Vierzo, under the title of SS. Justin and Pastor, martyrs of Complutum, or Alcala; whence he called this abbey Complutum. He put on the monastic habit, and governed this house as abbot till he saw it settled in good order. He then appointed another abbot, and retired into a wilderness, where he led a most austere life, clothed with the skins of beasts, in imitation of the ancient hermits. He afterwards founded several other monasteries, and a great nunnery called None, because nine miles from the sea. We have two monastic rules compiled by him, the one called Of Complutum, the other the common rule. He was consecrated bishop of Duma, near Braga, and, in 656, archbishop of Braga. His innocence and virtue were no security from the shafts of envy; but he overcame injuries by meekness and patience: and died laid on ashes before the altar, as he desired, on the 16th of April, 665. His body now rests at Compostella. See his life written by a contemporary author in Mabillon, sæc. 2; Ben. Bulteau, Hist. de l’Ordre de St. Benoit. t. 1, and Henschenius, Apr. t. 2, p. 430.
St. Druon, or Drugo, Recluse,
patron of shepherds
He was nobly born, at Epinoy in Flanders, but his father died before his birth, and his mother in childbed. From his infancy, he was remarkable for piety and devotion, and at twenty years of age distributed his money and goods among the poor, and renounced his estates in favor of the next heirs, that he might be at liberty to serve Christ in poverty and penance. Being thus disengaged from the world, clad in a ragged, poor garment, over a hair-shirt, he set out, like Abraham, leaving his friends and country, and, after having visited several holy places, hired himself shepherd to a virtuous lady, named Elizabeth de la Haire, at Sebourg, two leagues from Valen ciennes. The retirement and abjection of this state were most agreeable to him, on account of the opportunities with which they furnished him of perpetual prayer, and the exercises of penance and humility. Happy would servants be, did they consider and make use of the great advantages to virtue which Providence puts into their hands, by daily opportunities of most heroic acts of obedience, self-denial, humility, patience, meekness, penance, and all other virtues. The saints thought they purchased such opportunities cheap at any rate; yet many lose them, nay, by sloth, impatience, avarice, or other vices, pervert them into occasions of sin. Six years Druon kept sheep, in great obscurity, and as the last among the menial servants; but his humility, modesty, meekness, charity, and eminent spirit of devotion and prayer, in spite of his disguise, gained him the esteem and affection of everybody, particularly of his mistress. Many made him presents: but these he bestowed on the poor, with whatever he could privately retrench from himself. To fly the danger of applause, at length he left his place, and visited Rome nine times, and often many other places of devotion; making these pilgrimages not journeys of sloth, curiosity, and dissipation, but exercises of uninterrupted prayer and penance. He returned from time to time to Sebourg; where, when a rupture put an end to his pilgrimages, he at length pitched his tent for the remainder of his life. He built himself a narrow cell against the wall of the church, that he might at all times adore God as it were at the foot of his altars. Here he lived a recluse for the space of forty-five years, his food being barley-bread made with a lie of ashes, and his drink warm water. To disguise this part of his mortifications, he called this diet a medicine for his distemper. In this voluntary prison he lived in assiduous prayer and manual labor to the eighty-fourth year of his age, dying in 1186, on the 16th of April, on which day his name occurs in the Roman Martyrology. His relics remain in the church of St. Martin at Sebourg. See his life in Papebroke, p. 441, Miræus, &c.
St. Joachim of Sienna, C.
of the order of servites
He was a native of Sienna, of the noble family of Pelacani. No sooner had he attained to the use of reason, than he discovered a happy inclination to piety. He seemed to have sucked in with his mother’s milk a singular devotion to the Blessed Virgin; and it was his greatest pleasure in his childhood to pray before her image or altar, and to repeat often, and in all places, the angelical salutation, Ave Maria. His charity for the poor was not less extraordinary than his devotion. He stripped himself to clothe and relieve them: whatever was given him for his pocket he bestowed in alms. Moreover, he never ceased to solicit his parents in favor of the distressed. His father one day checked him, and told him that prudence ought to set bounds to his liberality, or he would reduce his whole family to poverty. The compassionate youth modestly replied: “You have taught me that an alms is given to Jesus Christ, in the persons of the poor: can we refuse him any thing? And what is the advantage of riches, but that they be employed in purchasing treasures in heaven?” The father wept for joy to hear such generous sentiments of virtue from one of so tender an age, and so dear to him. He sometimes caught his little son at his devotions at midnight, for which he secretly rose from his bed while others slept. The saint, at fourteen years of age, received the religious habit from the hands of St. Philip Beniti, in 1272, and, out of devotion to the mother of God, took the name of Joachim. Such was his fervor, from the first day he entered the convent, that the most advanced looked upon him as a perfect model. All virtues were in him most conspicuous; but none more admirable than the spirit of prayer, and an extraordinary humility and love of abjection. He strenuously resisted the utmost endeavors that could be used to promote him to the priesthood: which dignity he always looked upon with trembling. To serve at mass was the height of his ambition: and he often assisted at that adorable sacrifice in raptures of devotion. The meanest and most painful offices and drudgery of the house were his great delight: for true humility is never more pleased than in humiliations and obscurity, as pride finds its pleasure in public and great actions, which attract the eyes of others. The whole life of this saint seemed a continual study to conceal himself from men, and to lie hid from the world: but the more he fled the esteem of others, the more it followed him. Seeing himself too much respected and honored at Sienna, he earnestly entreated his general to remove him to some remote house of the order, where he hoped to remain unknown. Arezzo was allotted him: but as soon as his departure was known, the whole city of Sienna was in a tumult, till, to appease the people, he was recalled into his own country, of which he continued to his death the glory, and, by his prayers and example, the support and comfort. God honored him with miracles both before and after his death, which happened on the 16th of April, in the year 1305, of his age the forty-seventh. The popes Paul V. and Urban VIII. granted to his order the license of celebrating his festival with an office. See his life written by Attavanti, a priest of the same order at Florence: also Giani’s Annals, &c.
St. Mans, or Magnus, B. M
In the reign of Duncan, king of Scotland, an army of savage pagan Norwegians, under Hacon, ravaged the isles of Orkney. To stop the butchery of the inhabitants, Mans, the zealous bishop, met the barbarians, and when they threatened him with death, boldly replied: “I am ready to die a thousand times over for the cause of God and his flock: but in his name I command you to spare his people.” Commending his soul to his Redeemer, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Palladius, and St. Servanus, patron of that diocese, he presented his head to be struck off by the executioner. He suffered in the year 1104, in the isle of Eglis, one of the Orcades, and was buried in the same. His tomb became famous for the reputation of miracles, and the devotion of pilgrims. See Hunter, de Viris Illustr. Scotiæ; Lesley, Descr Scot. p. 40; King the ancient hymn in his honor, &c.
† Their names, according to Prudentius, are: Optatus, Lupercus, Martial, Successus Urban, Qulntilian Julius, Pubilus, Fronto, Felix, Cecilianus, Evotius, Primitivus, Apodemus, and four others of the name Saturninus.
* Hæc sub altari sita sempiterno
Lapsibus nostris veniam precatur
Sterne te totam, generosa sanctis
Civitas mecum tumulis: delude
Mox resurgentes animas et artus
Tota sequêris. Hymn. 4.
1 St. Leo, ep. 15, ad Turibium Asturicensem, p. 62. t. 2, ed. Rom. and a letter of St. Taribius, ib. p. 73.
2 St. Ang. 1, Contra Mendacium ad Consentium, c. 3, t. 6. See Francisci Gervesii Diss. de Priscillianistis p. 65; Cacciari, Exercit. in S. Leonem, Diss. 2, de Priscill. c 8, pp. 234, 235.
Butler, A., The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 93-97.