Profiles of the Saints and Feasts |
Monday, November 18, 2002
Double Major Feast of the Dedication of the Roman Basilicas of Saint Peter's and Saint Paul's Outside-the-Walls
Dedication of Saints Peter and Paul Basilicas in Rome
The ancient basilica of Saint Peter stood, like the present one, on the hill of Rome called in Latin Mons Vaticanus, at the northwestern extremity of the city, on the right bank of the Tiber. What we call the Vatican is a Roman palace, the ordinary dwelling of the Pope. Near the Lateran palace where the early Popes dwelt, which was itself built by Constantine the Great or Saint Liberius, Constantine built on the same hill, over the tomb of Saint Peter called the Confession, the Church of the first Vicar of Christ, where once a Roman circus had stood. This first Christian emperor placed there a plaque to honor Saint Peter, on which he had inscribed:
Because the world under your guidance has risen triumphant to the very Heavens, Constantine, victorious, has built this temple to your glory.
The Divine Office for this day narrates its origins as follows:
“The Emperor Constantine the Great, on the eighth day after his baptism, after deposing the diadem and prostrating himself, shed a great many tears; then taking up a pick and a shovel, he dug into the soil and drew out twelve loads of earth in honor of the twelve Apostles, thereby designating the site of the basilica he desired to build to honor their Prince. This basilica was dedicated by Pope Saint Sylvester on the fourteenth day of the calendes of December, just as on the fifth of the ides of November he had consecrated the Church of the Lateran, but here he did so by raising a stone altar which he anointed with sacred chrism... When the old Vatican basilica became decrepit, it was rebuilt, through the piety of several Pontiffs, on the same foundations but larger and more magnificent. And in the year 1626, on this same day, Urban VII solemnly consecrated it.”
As during the earliest centuries, still today from all corners of the world Christians go to venerate the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, located during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII directly beneath the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica.
The tomb of Saint Paul is on the Ostian Way, at the southern extremity of the city. The characters indicating the Apostle buried there, which clearly date from the epoch of Constantine, are engraved in the marble which closes the sarcophagus: PAULO APOSTOLO ET MARTYRI.
“On the same day, Saint Sylvester dedicated the Basilica of Saint Paul the Apostle which the emperor Constantine had also built with magnificence on the Ostian Way, enriching this one, too, with revenues, ornaments and valuable gifts. In the year 1823, a violent fire totally consumed this Basilica, but it was raised again, more beautiful than before, by the persevering zeal of four Pontiffs, who recovered it from its ruins. Pius IX chose for the time of its consecration the blessed occasion of the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he had just proclaimed, and which had drawn to Rome from the farthest places of the Catholic world, a number of Bishops and Cardinals. It was on the 10th day of December in 1854, that amid this beautiful crown of prelates and princes of the Church, he carried out the solemn dedication, and fixed its annual commemoration for the present day.” (November 18)
Thus the city is laid out between the two pillars of the Church, St. Peter's on Vatican Hill and St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls on the edge of the eternal city on the Ostian Way. St. Peter and St. Paul - the two Apostles who from Rome made the Word of God resound throughout the entire world.
Source: L’Année liturgique, by Dom Prosper Guéranger (Mame et Fils: Tours: 1919), “The Time after Pentecost, VI,” Vol. 15. Translation O.D.M.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002:
Traditional Double Feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Widow, and Pope Saint Pontian, who was martyred in 236.
Proper of the Saints:
Mass of "Cognovi" - for the Common of a Holy Woman who is not a martyr
EPISTLE: Wisdom 31: 10-31
GRADUAL: Psalms 44: 3-5
GOSPEL: Matthew 13: 44-52
Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Elizabeth was the daughter of the just and pious Andrew II, king of Hungary, the niece of Saint Hedwig, and the sister of the virtuous Bela IV, king of Hungary, who became the father of Saint Cunegundes and of Saint Margaret of Hungary, a Dominican nun. Another of her brothers was Coloman, King of Galicia and prince of Russia, who led an angelic life amid the multiple affairs of the world and the troubles of war.
Pope Saint Pontian
She was betrothed in infancy to Louis Landgrave of Thuringia, and brought up from the age of four in his father’s court. Never could she bear to adopt the ornaments of the court for her own usage, and she took pleasure only in prayer. She would remove her royal crown when she entered the church, saying she was in the presence of the Savior Who wore a crown of thorns. As she grew older, she employed the jewels offered her for the benefit of the poor. Not content with receiving numbers of them daily in her palace, and relieving all in distress, she built several hospitals, where she herself served the sick, bathing them, feeding them, dressing their wounds and ulcers. The relatives of her fiancé tried to prevent the marriage, saying she was fit only for a cloister; but the young prince said he would not accept gold in the quantity of a nearby mountain, if it were offered him to abandon his resolution to marry Elizabeth.
Once as she was carrying in the folds of her mantle some provisions for the poor, she met her husband returning from the hunt. Astonished to see her bending under the weight of her burden, he opened the mantle and found in it nothing but beautiful red and white roses, though it was not the season for flowers. He told her to continue on her way, and took one of the marvelous roses, which he conserved all his life. She never ceased to edify him in all of her works. One of her twelve excellent Christian maxims, by which she regulated all her conduct was, “Often recall that you are the work of the hands of God and act accordingly, in such a way as to be eternally with Him.”
When her pious young husband died in Sicily on his way to a Crusade with the Emperor Frederick, she was cruelly driven from her palace by her brother-in-law. Those whom she had aided showed nothing but coldness for her; God was to purify His Saint by harsh tribulations. She was forced to wander through the streets with her little children, a prey to hunger and cold. The bishop of Bamberg, her maternal uncle, finally forced the cruel prince to ask pardon for his ill treatment of her, but she voluntarily renounced the grandeurs of the world, and went to live in a small house she had prepared in the city of Marburgh. There she practiced the greatest austerities. She welcomed all her sufferings, and continued to be the mother of the poor, distributing all of the heritage eventually conceded to her, and converting many by her holy life. She died in 1231, at the age of twenty-four.
This young and delicate princess made herself the servant and nurse of the poor. Let her example teach us to disregard the opinions of the world and to overcome our natural hesitation, in order to serve Christ in the person of His poor.
Sources: Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 13; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).
The eighteenth in the line of Peter was Pope Saint Pontian who was born in Rome and elected to the papacy on August 28, 230. He is known for ordering the chanting of the psalms which many mendicant orders still do today. He also instituted the use of the salutation "Dominus vobiscum" in the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which, of course, in the vernacular means "The Lord be with you" to which the congregation replies "and also with you."
Pope Pontian or Pontianus, was exiled along with Saint Hippolytus, a Roman priest, by the Roman Emperor Maximus, sentenced to a life of hard labor in the mines. Hippolytus was sent to the Island of Sardinia and Pontian to the tiny isle of Tavolara where he died on September 28, 236.
Pope Saint Fabian, the 20th Vicar of Christ was the one who oversaw the return of both saints' bodies to Rome for a proper burial in 237.