Mike Aquilina

Butler Did It

Monday December 18th 2006, 3:02 am

Rick of Ricoblog — an outstanding site for discussion of the Apostolic Fathers — informs us that Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints is now available on the Web. Butler was an eighteenth-century English Roman Catholic priest. The text on the Web, though, comes from the 1894 Benziger edition, which was heavily edited and modernized by John Gilmary Shea, who also added reflections for our edification.

Sample a saint or two from the patristic era…

June 28.—ST. IRENÆUS, Bishop, Martyr.

THIS Saint was born about the year 120. He was a Grecian, probably a native of Lesser Asia. His parents, who were Christians, placed him under the care of the great St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. It was in so holy a school that he learned that sacred science which rendered him afterward a great ornament of the Church and the terror of her enemies. St. Polycarp cultivated his rising genius, and formed his mind to piety by precepts and example; and the zealous scholar was careful to reap all the advantages which were offered him by the happiness of such a master. Such was his veneration for his tutor’s sanctity that he observed every action and whatever be saw in that holy man, the better to copy his example and learn his spirit. He listened to his instructions with an insatiable ardor, and so deeply did he engrave them on his heart that the impressions remained most lively even to his old age. In order to confute the heresies of his age, this father made himself acquainted with the most absurd conceits of their philosophers, by which means he was qualified to trace up every error to its sources and set it in its full light. St. Polycarp sent St. Irenæus into Gaul, in company with some priest; he was himself ordained priest of the Church of Lyons by St. Pothinus. St. Pothinus having glorified God by his happy death, in the year 177, our Saint was chosen the second Bishop of Lyons. By his preaching, he in a short time converted almost that whole country to the Faith. He wrote several works against heresy, and at last, with many others, suffered martyrdom about the year 202, under the Emperor Severus, at Lyons.

Reflection.—Fathers and mothers, and heads of families, spiritual and temporal, should bear in mind that inferiors “will not be corrected by words” alone, but that example is likewise needful.

And another:

May 2.—ST. ATHANASIUS, Bishop.

ATHANASIUS was born in Egypt towards the end of the third century, and was from his youth pious, learned, and deeply versed in the sacred writings, as befitted one whom God had chosen to be the champion and defender of His Church against the Arian heresy. Though only a deacon he was chosen by his bishop to go with him to the Council of Nicæa, in 325, and attracted the attention of all by the learning and ability with which he defended the faith. A few months later, he became Patriarch of Alexandria, and for forty-six years he bore, often well-nigh alone, the whole brunt of the Arian assault. On the refusal of the Saint to restore Arius to Catholic communion, the emperor ordered the Patriarch of Constantinople to do so. The wretched heresiarch took an oath that he had always believed as the Church believes; and the patriarch, after vainly using every effort to move the emperor, had recourse to fasting and prayer, that God Would avert from the Church the frightful sacrilege. The day came for the solemn entrance of Arius into the great church of Sancta Sophia. The heresiarch and his party set out glad and in triumph. But before he reached the church, death smote him swiftly and awfully, and the dreaded sacrilege was averted. St. Athanasius stood unmoved against four Roman emperors; was banished five times; was the butt of every insult, calumny, and wrong the Arians could devise, and lived in constant peril of death. Though firm as adamant in defence of the Faith, he was meek and humble, pleasant and winning in converse, beloved by his flock, unwearied in labors, in prayer, in mortifications, and in zeal for souls. In the year 373 his stormy life closed in peace, rather that his people would have it so than that his enemies were weary of persecuting him. He left to the Church the whole and ancient Faith, defended and explained in writings rich in thought and learning, clear, keen, and stately in expression. He is honored as one of the greatest of the Doctors of the Church.

Reflection.—The Catholic Faith, says St. Augustine, is more precious far than all the riches and treasures of earth; more glorious and greater than all its honors, all its possessions. This it is which saves sinners, gives light to the blind, restores penitents, perfects the just, and is the crown of martyrs.