Semi-Double Feast of the Seven Holy Brothers: Januarius, Felix, Philip, Silanus, Alexander, Vitalis and Martial, Martyrs as well as the Virgin Martyrs Saints Rufina and Secunda

RED Vestments

Missa "Laudáte, púeri, Dóminum"

       St. Felicitas and her seven sons were put to death for the Faith, about the year 162, under Marcus Aurelius. The sons preceded their mother to Heaven; she followed them four months afterwards. In order to strike terror into the hearts of the Christians the death sentences were not all carried out in the same place, for Januarius was beaten to death with leaden scourges and was buried in the Cemetery of Prætextatus, Felix and Philip died under the whip and received burial in that of Priscilla, Silanus was thrown from a precipice and was interred with his mother in the Cemetery of Maximus, Alexander, Vitalis and Martial were beheaded and were given the honor of sepultare in the Cemetery of the Giordani.

        The earliest list of the Roman feasts of martyrs, known as the "Depositio Martyrum" and dating from the time of Pope Liberius, i.e. about the middle of the fourth century (Ruinart, Acta sincera, Ratisbon, p. 631), mentions seven martyrs whose feast was kept on 10 July. Their remains had been deposited in four different catacombs, viz. in three cemeteries on the Via Salaria and in one on the Via Appia. Two of the martyrs, Felix and Philip, reposed in the catacomb of Priscilla; Martial, Vitalis and Alexander, in the Coemeterium Jordanorum; Silanus (or Silvanus) in the catacomb of Maximus, and Januarius in that of Prætextatus. To the name of Silanus is added the statement that his body was stolen by the Novatians (hunc Silanum martyrem Novatiani furati sunt). In the Acts of these martyrs, that certainly existed in the sixth century, since Gregory the Great refers to them in his "Homiliæ super Evangelia" (Lib. I, hom. iii, in P.L., LXXVI, 1087), it is stated that all seven were sons of Saint Felicitas, a noble Roman lady. According to these Acts Felicitas and her seven sons were imprisoned because of their Christian Faith, at the instigation of pagan priests, during the reign of Emperor Antoninus. Before the prefect Publius they adhered firmly to their religion, and were delivered over to four judges, who condemned them to various modes of death.

        The division of the martyrs among four judges corresponds to the four places of their burial. St. Felicitas herself was buried in the catacomb of Maximus on the Via Salaria, beside Silanus.

        These Acts were regarded as genuine by Ruinart (op. cit., 72-74), and even distinguished modern archæologists have considered them, though not in their present form corresponding entirely to the original, yet in substance based on genuine contemporary records. Recent investigations of Führer, however (see below), have shown this opinion to be hardly tenable. The earliest recension of these Acts, edited by Ruinart, does not antedate the sixth century, and appears to be based not on a Roman, but on a Greek original. Moreover, apart from the present form of the Acts, various details have been called in question. Thus, if Felicitas were really the mother of the seven martyrs honoured on 10 July, it is strange that her name does not appear in the well-known fourth-century Roman calendar. Her feast is first mentioned in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum", but on a different day (23 Nov.). It is, however, historically certain that she, as well as the seven martyrs called her sons in the Acts suffered for the Christian Faith. From a very early date her feast was solemnly celebrated in the Roman Church on 23 November, for on that day Gregory the Great delivered a homily in the basilica that rose above her tomb. Her body then rested in the catacomb of Maximus; in that cemetery on the Via Salaria all Roman itineraries, or guides to the burial-places of martyrs, locate her burial-place, specifying that her tomb was in a church above this catacomb (De Rossi, Roma sotterranea, I, 176-77), and that the body of her son Silanus was also there.

        The crypt where Felicitas was laid to rest was later enlarged into a subterranean chapel, and was rediscovered in 1885. A seventh-century fresco is yet visible on the rear wall of this chapel, representing in a group Felicitas and her seven sons, and overhead the figure of Christ bestowing upon them the eternal crown.

        Certain historical references to St. Felicitas and her sons antedate the aforesaid Acts, e.g. a fifth-century sermon of St. Peter Chrysologus (Sermo cxxxiv, in P.L., LII, 565) and a metrical epitaph either written by Pope Damasus (d. 384) or composed shortly after his time and suggested by his poem in praise of the martyr:

        Discite quid meriti præstet pro rege feriri;
        Femina non timuit gladium, cum natis obivit,
        Confessa Christum meruit per sæcula nomen.

        Learn how meritorious it is to die for the King (Christ).
        This woman feared not the sword, but perished with her sons.
        She confessed Christ and merited an eternal renown.

          [Ihm, Damasi Epigrammata (Leipzig, 1895), p. 45.]

        We possess, therefore, confirmation for an ancient Roman tradition, independent of the Acts, to the effect that the Felicitas who reposed in the catacomb of Maximus, and whose feast the Roman Church commemorated 23 Nov., suffered martyrdom with her sons; it does not record, however, any details concerning these sons. It may be recalled that the tomb of St. Silanus, one of the seven martyrs (10 July), adjoined that of St. Felicitas and was likewise honored; it is quite possible, therefore, that tradition soon identified the sons of St. Felicitas with the seven martyrs, and that this formed the basis for the extant Acts. The tomb of St. Januarius in the catacomb of Prætextatus belongs to the end of the second century, to which period, therefore, the martyrdoms must belong, probably under Marcus Aurelius.

        If St. Felicitas did not suffer martyrdom on the same occasion we have no means of determining the time of her death. In an ancient Roman edifice near the ruins of the Baths of Titus there stood in early medieval times a chapel in honour of St. Felicitas. A faded painting in this chapel represents her with her sons just as in the above-mentioned fresco in her crypt.

      Resources: We are grateful to Friends of Our Lady of Fatima for providing the Propers for the faithful. Sources: Saint Andrew Daily Missal and the Marian Missal , 1945 and Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909


INTROIT:   Psalm 112: 1, 9
      Laudáte, púeri, Dóminum, laudáte nomen Dómini: qui habitáre facit stérilem in domo, matrem filiórum lætántem. (Ps. 112, 2) Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum: ex hoc nunc, et usque in sæculum. v. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
      Repeat Laudáte, púeri, Dóminum...
      Praise the Lord, ye children, praise ye the name of the Lord; Who maketh the barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children. (Ps. 112: 2) Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth, now and forever. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
      Repeat Praise the Lord, ye children...
      Dominus vobiscum. R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

      Oremus. Præsta, quæsumus, omnípotens Deus: ut, qui gloriósos Mártyres fortes in sua confessióne cognóvimus, pios apud te in nostra intercessióne sentiámus Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum Fílium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus,
      Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
      R. Amen.

      The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.

      Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that, we, who have known the courage of the glorious martyrs in their confessing Thee, may experience their kindness in interceding for us with Thee. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God,
      Forever and ever.

    EPISTLE:   Proverbs 31: 10-31
      Léctio libri Sapiéntiæ. Muliérum fortem quis invéniet? Procul, et de últimis fínibus prétium ejus. Confídit in ea cor viri sui, et spóliis non indigébit. Reddet et bonum, et non malum ómnibus diébus vitæ suæ. Quæsívit lanam et linum, et operáta est consílio mánuum suárum. Facta est quasi navis institóris, de longe portans panem suum. Et de nocte surréxit, dedítque prædam domésticis suis, et cibária ancíllis suis. Consideráavit agrum, et emit eum: de fructu mánuum suárum plantávit vineam. Accínxit fortitúdine lumbos suos, et roborávit bráchium suum. Gustávit et vidit quia bona est negotiátio ejus: non exstinguétur in nocte lucérna ejus. Manum suam misit ad fórtia, et dígiti ejus apprehendérunt fusum. Manum suam apéruit inopi, et palmas suas exténdit ad páuperem. Non timébit domui suæ a frigóribus nivis: omnes enim doméstici ejus vestiti sunt duplícibus. Stragulátam vestem fecit sibi: byssus, et púrpura induméntum ejus. Nóbilis in portis vir ejus, quando séderit cum senatóribus terræ. Síndonem fecit, et véndidit, et cingulum trádidit Chananæo. Fortitúdo et decor induméntum ejus, et ridébit in die novíssima. Os suum aperuit sapiéntiæ, et lex cleméntiæ in lingua ejus. Considerávit sémitas domus suæ, et panem otiósa non comédit. Surrexérunt fílii ejus, et beatíssimam prædicavérunt: vir ejus, et laudávit eam. Multæ fíliæ congregavérunt divíitias: tu supergréssa es univérsas. Fallax grátia, et vana est pulchritúdo: múlier timens Dóminum ipsa lauáabitur. Date ei de fructu mánuum suarum: et laudent eam in portis ópera ejus
      Deo Gratias.
      Lesson from the Book of Wisdom. Who shall find a valiant woman? the price of her is as of things brought from afar off, and from the uttermost coasts. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good and not evil all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands: she is like the merchant's ship, she bringeth her bread from afar: and she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens: she hath considered a field and bought it; with the fruit of her hands she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her loins with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good; her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hands to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow: for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry; fine linen and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chanaanite. Strength and beauty are her clothing: and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue: she hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed; her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches; thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates.
      Thanks be to God.

      GRADUAL:  Ps. 123: 7, 8
      Anima nostra, sicut passer, erépta est de láqueo venántium. V. Láqueus contrítus est, et nos liberáti sumus: adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini, qui fecit cælum et terram. Allelúja, allelúja. V. Hæc est véra fratérnitas, quæ vicit mundi crímina: Christum secúta est, inclyta tenens regna coeléstia. Allelúja.
      Our soul hath been delivered, as a sparrow, out of the snare of the fowlers. V. The snare is broken, and we are delivered: our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. Alleluia, alleluia. V. This is the true brotherhood, which overcame the wickedness of the world: it followed Christ, attaining the glorious kingdom of Heaven. Alleluia.

      GOSPEL:    Matthew 12: 46-50
      Dominus vobiscum.
      R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
      Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum.
      R.Gloria tibi, Domine

      In illo témpore: Loquénte Jesu ad turbas, ecce mater ejus, et fratres stabant foris, quæréntes loqui ei. Dixit autem ei quidam: "Ecce mater tua, et fratres tui foris stant, quæréntes te. At ipse respóndens dicénti sibi, ait: "Quæ est mater Mea, et qui sunt fratres Mei?" Et exténdens manum in discípulos Suos dixit: "Ecce mater Mea et fratres Mei. Quicúmque enim fécerit voluntátem Patris Mei, Qui in Coelis est: ipse Meus frater et soror, et mater est."
      Laus tibi Christe.

      The Lord be with you.
      R. And with thy spirit.
      The continuation of the holy Gospel according to Matthew. R. Glory to Thee, O Lord

      At that time: As Jesus was speaking to the multitudes, behold His mother and His brethren stood without seeking to speak to Him; and one said to Him, "Behold Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, seeking Thee." But He answering him that told Him, said, "Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?" And stretching forth His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brethren: for whosoever shall do the will of My father that is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother."
      Praise be to Christ

      OFFERTORY:    Psalm 123: 7
      Dominus vobiscum.
      R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

      Anima nostra, sicut passer, erépta est de láqueo venántium. Láqueus contrítus est, et nos liberáti sumus.
      The Lord be with you.
      R. And with thy spirit.

      Our soul hath been delivered, as a sparrow, out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are delivered.
      Sacrifíciis præséntibus, quæsumus, Dómine inténde placátus: et, intercedéntibus Sanctis tuis, devotióni nostræ profíciant, et salúti. Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus,
      Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
      R. Amen.
      Be appeased, we beseech Thee, O Lord, and look upon the sacrifices here before Thee, and may they, by the intercession of Thy saints, benefit both our devotion and our salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God
      Forever and ever.

      PREFACE   Common Preface
      Dominus vobiscum.
      R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
      Sursum corda.
      R.Habemus ad Dominum.
      Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.
      R. Dignum et justum est.

      Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos Tibi simper, et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus: per Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem Tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates, Coeli, Coelorumque Virtutes, ac beata Seraphim socia exultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti, jubeas, supplici confessione dicentes:
      The Lord be with you.
      R. And with thy spirit.
      Lift up your hearts.
      R.We have lifted them up to the Lord.
      Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
      R. It is meet and just.

      It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
      HOLY, HOLY, HOLY...

      COMMUNION:    Matthew 12: 50
      Quicúmque fécerit voluntátem Patris Mei, Qui in Coelis est: ipse Meus frater, et soror, et mater est, dicit Dóminus.
      Whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother, saith the Lord.

      Dominus vobiscum.
      R. Et cum spiritu tuo.
      Deus: ut intercedéntibus Sanctis tuis, illíus salutáris capiámus efféctum: cujus per hæc mystéria pignus accépimus. Per Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum Fílium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus,
      Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
      R. Amen.
      The Lord be with you.
      R. And with thy spirit.
      Let us pray.
      Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that, by the intercession of Thy saints, we may obtain the effect of that salvation of which we through these mysteries have received a pledge. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God
      For ever and ever.
      R. Amen.

      Daily Proper for the Feasts of the Seven Holy Brothers