Saint Apollonius the Apologist, M.
From Eusebius, Hist. b. 5, c. 21; St Jerom. Cat. c. 42; Tertull. Apol.
A. D. 186.
Marcus Aurelius had persecuted the Christians from principle, being a bigoted pagan: but his son Commodus, who, in 180, succeeded him in the empire, after some time, though a vicious man, showed himself favorable to them out of regard to Marcia, a lady whom he had honored with the title of empress, and who was an admirer of the faith. During this calm, the number of the faithful was exceedingly increased, and many persons of the first rank enlisted themselves under the banner of the cross, of which number was Apollonius, a Roman senator. He was a person very well versed both in philosophy and the holy scripture. In the midst of the peace which the church enjoyed, he was publicly accused of Christianity by one of his own slaves, named Severus, before Perennis, prefect of the Prætorium. The slave was immediately condemned by the prefect to have his legs broke, and to be put to death, in consequence of an edict of Marcus Aurelius, who, without repealing the former laws against convicted Christians, ordered by it that their accusers should be put to death. The slave being executed, pursuant to the sentence already mentioned, the same judge sent an order to his master, St. Apollonius, to renounce his religion as he valued his life and fortune. The saint courageously rejected such ignominious terms of safety, wherefore Perennis referred him to the judgment of the Roman senate, commanding him to give an account of his faith to that body. The martyr hereupon composed an excellent discourse, but which has not reached our times, in vindication of the Christian religion, and spoke it in a full senate. St. Jerom, who had perused it, did not know whether more to admire the eloquence, or the profound learning, both sacred and profane, of its illustrious author: who, persisting in his refusal to comply with the condition, was condemned by a decree of the senate, and beheaded, about the year 186 of Commodus the sixth.*
It is the prerogative of the Christian religion to inspire men with such resolution, and form them to such heroism, that they rejoice to sacrifice their life to truth. This is not the bare force and exertion of nature, but the undoubted power of the Almighty, whose strength is thus made perfect in weakness. Every Christian ought to be an apologist for his religion by the sanctity of his manners. Such would be the force of universal good example, that no libertine or infidel could withstand it. But by the scandal and irregularity of our manners, we fight against Christ, and draw a reproach upon his most holy religion. Thus, through us, are his name and faith blasphemed among the Gentiles. The primitive Christians converted the world by the sanctity of their example; and, by the spirit of every heroic and divine virtue which their actions breathed, spread the good odor of Christ on all sides: but we, by a monstrous inconsistency between our lives and our faith, scandalize the weak among the faithful, strengthen the obstinacy of infidels, and furnish them with arms against that very religion which we profess. “Either change thy faith, or change thy manners,” said an ancient father.
Saint Galdin, Archbishop of Milan, C.
He was born at Milan, of the most illustrious house of the Vavassors of La Scala, famous in the history of Italy. Innocence and virtue were the ornaments of his youth, and prepared him for the ministry of the altar. Being promoted to holy orders, he was, by the archbishop, made his chancellor and archdeacon, and from that time began to bear the chief weight of the episcopal charge, which was at no time more heavy or difficult. Pope Adrian IV., an Englishman, died in 1159, and Alexander III., a person eminent for his skill in theology and in the canon law, was chosen to succeed him; but five cardinals presumed to form a schism in favor of Octavian, under the name of Victor. The emperor Frederick I., surnamed from the color of his beard and hair, Ænobarbus, and by the Italians, Barbarossa, a prince who sullied the reputation which several victories and great natural parts had acquired him by many acts of tyranny, carried on an unjust quarrel with several popes successively; seizing the revenues of vacant ecclesiastical benefices, usurping the investiture and nomination of bishops, and openly making a simoniacal traffic of all that was sacred. It is not, therefore, strange, that such a prince should declare himself the patron and protector of a schism which had been raised only by his faction and interest in Rome. The city of Milan offended him in 1150, by claiming an exclusive right of choosing its own magistrates; and still more the year following, by openly acknowledging Alexander III. for true pope. The emperor, highly incensed, sat down before it with a great army, in 1161; and, after a siege of ten months, in 1162, compelled it to surrender at discretion. In revenge, he razed the town, filled up the ditches, levelled the walls and houses with the ground, and caused salt to be sown upon the place, as a mark that this city was condemned never more to be rebuilt. The bodies of the three kings which he found there in the church of St. Eustorgius, he ordered to be removed to Cologne on this occasion. The archbishop Hubert dying in 1166, Galdin, though absent, was pitched upon for his successor; and the pope, who consecrated him with his own hands, created him cardinal and legate of the holy see. The new pastor made it his first care to comfort and encourage his distressed flock; and, wherever he was able, to exert his influence to abolish the schism, in which he effectually succeeded throughout all Lombardy. The Lombard cities had unanimously entered into a common league to rebuild Milan. When the walls and moats were finished, the inhabitants, with great joy, returned into their city on the 27th of April, 1167. The emperor again marched against it, but was defeated by the Milanese; and seeing Lombardy, Venice, the kingdom of Sicily, and all Italy united in an obstinate league against him, he agreed to hold a conference with the pope at Venice, in which he abjured the schism, and made his peace with the church in 1177.* The distracted state of the commonwealth did not hinder our saint from attending diligently to his pastoral duties. He preached assiduously, assisted the poor, who had always the first place in his heart, and made it his study to prevent all their wants, spiritual and corporal. By humility, he always appeared as the last in his flock, and by charity he looked upon the burdens and miseries of every one as his own. He sought out the miserable amidst the most squalid scenes of wretchedness, and afforded them all necessary relief. But the spiritual necessities of the people, both general and particular, challenged his principal attention. He restored discipline, extinguished all the factions of the schismatics, and zealously confuted the heretics, called Cathari, a kind of Manichees, who had been left in Lombardy from the dregs of the impious army of the emperor Frederick. Assiduous prayer was the chief means by which the saint drew down the dew of the divine benediction, both upon his own soul and upon his labors. As Moses descended from the mountain, on which he had conversed with God, with his face shining, so that others were not able to fix their eyes upon it: so this holy man appeared in his public functions, and announced the divine word, inflamed by prayer, with an ardor and charity which seemed heavenly, and both struck and attracted the most obstinate. On the last day of his life, though too weak to say mass, he mounted the pulpit at the gospel, and preached with great vigor a long and pathetic sermon: but towards the close fell into a swoon, and about the end of the mass expired in the pulpit, on the 18th of April, 1176. All lamented in him the loss of a father, but found him still an advocate in heaven, as many miracles attested. He is honored in the ancient missals and breviaries of Milan, and in the Roman Martyrology. See his two authentic lives with the notes of Henschenius, Apr. t. 2, p. 593.
St. Laserian, by some called molaisre,
bishop of leighlin, in ireland
Laserian was son of Cairel and Blitha, persons of great distinction, who intrusted his education, from his infancy, to the abbot St. Murin. He afterwards travelled to Rome in the days of pope Gregory the Great, by whom he is said to have been ordained priest. Soon after his return to Ireland, he visited Leighlin, a place situated a mile and a half westward of the river Barrow, where St. Goban was then abbot, who, resigning to him his abbacy, built a little cell for himself and a small number of monks. A great synod being soon after assembled there, in the White Fields, St. Laserian strenuously maintained the Catholic time of celebrating Easter against St. Munnu. This council was held in March, 630. But St. Laserian not being able to satisfy in it all his opponents, took another journey to Rome, where pope Honorius ordained him bishop, without allotting him any particular see, and made him his legate in Ireland. Nor was his commission fruitless: for, after his return, the time of observing Easter was reformed in the south parts of Ireland. St. Laserian died on the 18th of April, 638, and was buried in his own church which he had founded. In a synod held at Dublin, in 1330, the feasts of St. Patrick, St. Laserian, St. Bridget, St. Canic, and St. Edan, are enumerated among the double festivals through the province of Dublin. St. Laserian was the first bishop of Old Leighlin, now a village. New Leighlin stands on the eastern bank of the river Barrow. See Ware, p. 54, and Colgan’s MSS. on the 18th of April.
* It seems a strange inconsistency, that Marcus Aurelius should be the author of such an edict as was before mentioned. But no less glaringly absurd and unjust was the answer of Trajan to Pliny the Younger, that Christians ought not to be sought after, yet that they were to be condemned, if accused: which Tertullian justly confutes by a keen raillery, and this dilemma: “If they are criminal, why are they not sought after? if innocent, why are they punished?” (Apol. c. 2.) It is certain that Marcus Aurelius, with all his philosophical virtues and princely qualities, did not love the Christians; as is clear from unquestionable authority, even from his own book. And, besides a tincture of superstition and philosophic phrensy, a mixture of weakness was blended in his character, notwithstanding the boasted cry of his wisdom. And It was certainly to act out of character, and more like a pedant than a prince, for a Roman emperor, in his old age, to trudge with his book, like a schoolboy, to the house of Sextus the philosopher, to learn his lesson. After his miraculous victory in Germany, in 174, he published an edict in favor of the Christians: but his boon was not complete. Commodus did not persecute them, yet would not protect them against the senate, which, in general, was never favorable to Christianity; and some emperors, who were mildly inclined, seemed to have oppressed the Christians only to gain the esteem of that respectable body. It is again objected by some to this history of St. Apollonius, that no slave would have exposed himself to certain death by accusing his master. But this the informer did not expect would be his fate. He might be ignorant of such an edict, or persuaded he had nothing to fear from it: and the hope of liberty, the encouragement of some powerful pagan, and other such motives, might prompt him to perpetrate this villany. He doubtless hoped to make his court to some persons; for men in power are often fond of informers. The perjuries and villages of those miscreants had rendered them odious at Rome. Tacitus, the historian, calls them, genus hominum publico exitio repertum, et pœnis nunquam satis coercitum. Titus, Nerva, and Trajan, had made severe edicts against that tribe. St. Cyprian, when asked at his trial the names of the priests at Carthage, answered, that the civil laws justly condemned delators. A slave that accused his master by the Roman laws was liable to be put to death. See Cod. 1. x. tit. xi. and the notes. In the present case, the senate might condemn St. Apollonius by the rescript of Trajan to Pliny, or other former laws; yet punish the slave, not to encourage such base informers.
* That Alexander III. set his foot on the neck of the emperor Frederick, in the porch of St. Mark’s church, in Venice, on this occasion, is a notorious forgery, as Baronius. Natalis Alexander. (in Sæc. 12. art 9, in Alex. III.) and all other judicious historians demonstrate, from the silence of all contemporary writers, as of Romuald, archbishop of Salerno, who wrote the history of Alexander, and of this very transaction, at which he himself was present, both in the council of Venice and at the absolution of the emperor: also of Matthew Paris, William of Tyre, and Roger Hoveden. Nor is the story consistent with reason, or with the singular meekness of Alexander, who, when the second antipope, John of Strume, called Calixtus III., had renounced the schism, in 1178, always treated him with the greatest humanity and honor, and entertained him at his own table. At Venice, indeed, among the great exploits of the commonwealth, are exquisitely painted, in the senate-house, this pretended humiliation of Frederick, and then great naval victory over his son Otho, and the triumph of the Lombard cities over his land army. But painters and poets are equally allowed the liberty of fictions or emblematical representations. The pictures, moreover, are modern, and no more amount to a proof of the fact than the bead-roll story of the seadle of Westminster abbey might do.
Butler, A., The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 108-111.