blessed Michael de Sanctis, the austere monk of the Holy Trinity, was substantially a martyr in his extraordinary selfdenials and penances. The facts of his life, as recorded, are, that he was born on the 27th of September, 1591, at Vich, in Catalonia ; took the monastic vow in the Trinitarian Convent in Saragossa in 1607; joined soon after another convent where the discipline was harsher; wonted himself to hair shirts, bloody scourging, and fasts sometimes of a week in length; was twice chosen the Superior of the houses of his Order; was lifted from the ground in spiritual ecstasies; wrought many miracles; and on the 16th of August, 1625, was taken to his reward at the age of thirty-three. He was beatified by Pius VI. in 1779, and now, after an interval of eightythree years, has taken his second spiritual degree. None will dispute his right to this honor after so long a delay.

The twenty-six martyrs have a somewhat more striking record. The scene of their suffering was Nangasaki in Japan; the time was the 5th of February, 1597; the manner of their death was crucifixion. The company may be conveniently divided into five classes, — three Franciscan priests, three Franciscan lay brethren, all of European descent, fifteen Japanese lay brethren of the third Order of St. Francis, two Japanese converts, added to the band because they ventured to lend aid to the martyrs on their way to the place of death, and three Japanese Jesuits. Of the individuals in these companies not very much is known. It is recorded of only one of the six Franciscans that he had received the gift of miracles; but this gift of the least of the fraternity may well be passed to the credit of the whole. Of the seventeen Japanese lay brethren, the most remarkable for courage and firmness seem to have been two boys of eleven and thirteen years, one of whom resisted the threats of the officers, and the other the pleadings of parents, and died chanting the Gloria Patri. Another of these Japanese, one Matthias, suffered vicarious punishment, substituting himself very adroitly for the genuine Matthias, a monk of the convent. The executioners were informed of the substitution, but as the man had confessed himself to be a Christian, they did not care how the prescribed number was made up, and were ready to take him with the rest.

Martyrdom cancels many sins. But for that fortunate fact, it might have been impossible for the remaining virtues of the Franciscan confessors in Japan to obtain the glory of ecclesiastical sainthood. Their acts in Japan were quite irregular. Pope Gregory XIII. had expressly reserved to the Jesuits the missionary ground of that leathen empire, and, in face of that reservation, the Franciscan brethren were no better than interlopers. But before their heroic death all objection falls; and it is not for men to interpose a doubt, when even the birds of heaven have left their witness. For it is piously related, that the fowls of the air refused to feed upon these blessed corpses, and that the faithful of Manilla and Macao were able to ransom the precious bones. By a decree of the 10th of July, 1627, Pope Urban VIII. declared these crucified monks to be martyrs; by another decree of September 11th in the same year, the twenty-three Franciscans were “beatified”; and two years later, in 1629, the three Jesuit brethren were also permitted to become “ Beati.” Since that decree, more than two hundred and thirty years have gone by; and there have not been wanting scoffers to instance with indecent mirth this long delay as an insult to the memory of the holy martyrs. The pious, however, will be pleased to find in it another proof of the excessive caution of the Church in works of this serious nature. There can be no graver sin than to admit improper persons into the selectest circles of heaven. Better that many real saints should be excluded, than that one soul of doubtful sanctity should find a place in the society of the Lord.

A service of such moment should of course be celebrated with all imaginable pomp. It should be, if possible, grander than a Jubilee, and the most magnificent religious spectacle within the memory of man. The world should be summoned to meet in the city of God, and to witness the rare opening of these gates of heaven. On the 18th of January, 1862, His Eminence, Cardinal Caterini, “ Prefect of the Congregation” of Rome, addressed a circular to all the bishops of the Catholic world, in states heterodox not less than in states orthodox, inviting them, all and singular, to come up on the following Pentecost to the city of solemnities, and there assist in this sublime manifestation of the power of the keys. In ordinary cases, it would have been sufficient to summon the prelates of Italy to give countenance to the ceremony. But the melancholy revolt of the Italian sovereign making it probable that but few of the Italian bishops would find it convenient to be present, his Holiness was compelled to send out a wider call, and suggest to the obedient vassals of the Church this way of meeting the religious duty of visiting the sacred shrines. The wicked world was not quite able to recognize the wisdom or to appreciate the motive of this new assembly. Not only in Turin and Florence, but in Paris and Vienna, were voices raised in doubt of the expediency of such a gathering. Some suspected a political design, and not a few zealous Romanists thought it unfit to attempt a display which was more likely to reveal the weakness than to illustrate the strength of the Church. But Pius IX. trusted in the Lord and in the hearts of the believers. The circular was sent out far and wide, in spite of objectors. The Vicar of Christ did not condescend to explain his motives to the secular powers, or to contend with evil-minded men of the world. It was enough that the faithful listened and approved. From all parts sympathizing letters came. The rumor increased that such a gathering would be seen on the next Pentecost as had not been witnessed since the day when the creed of Trent gave the law of the Church for all future time. Not only bishops, but priests and deacons and laity innumerable, announced that they should go up to the feast. And the prospect was, that in multiplicity of dialects the Roman Pentecost of 1862 would surpass that first day in Jerusalem, when the Spirit descended in cloven tongues of flame.

As early as May, it became evident that the “ Catholic world” was moving Romeward. On all the railways, in all the steamers, the ordinary costumes of travel were plentifully diversified by the long robes of the ecclesiastical orders. The roads of Italy being virtually closed to pilgrims on this errand, (since Victor Emmanuel declined to permit in foreign priests what he could not allow to priests of his own dominion,) France became the great religious thoroughfare, and Marseilles the favored port of embarkation. This old city has not heretofore been specially noted for its religious charm. The use of sacred names has been rather to point profanity than to illustrate piety, and the “ Star of the Sea ” has not been worshipped very ardently by the mariners of that bay. But the advent and departure of such numbers of holy men so transfigured this profane city that it seemed, in the language of M. Chantrel, “ to renew scenes worthy of the most beautiful ages of faith.” Pious chants took the place of vulgar songs ; crowds knelt to receive episcopal benediction ; the few discordant voices were lost in the general acclaim; and the bishops from the lands of the infidel were charmed to find that France had returned from its scepticism to the sincerity of faith.

The transit of the vast multitude was made without accident. The Queen of Heaven watched over these pious voyagers. We may presume that, on landing at Civita Vecchia, they were not exempt from the tribute which all travellers are compelled to pay to the officials and the facchini of that religious city, and that not a few inwardly cursed the necessity which forced them to Rome through that doorway of iniquity. The most skilled in extortion may take a lesson from the arts and lies of the Papal seaport. The dangers of this purgatory were safely encountered, however, and the prelates seem to hare arrived in Rome without loss of robes or ornaments. It is pleasant to the French heart of M. Chantrel to reflect that the “ eldest daughter of the Church,” as was proper, took the lead of all her sisters in the number of her pilgrims and the elegance of their costumes. For a dozen years and more, French military uniforms at every corner have reminded the Roman people of their civil vassalage ; but now, as one letter-writer enthusiastically avers, “everywhere you see the rabat; the rabat is present in all the manifestations; the rabat is the master of Rome.” The rabat, we may add, is the long white-bordered mantle which marks the robe of the French priest.

On Thursday, the 22d of May, was held in the Royal Hall, between the Sistine and Pauline Chapels, a “semi-public consistory," of the College of Cardinals and more than two hundred bishops, in which the Pope pronounced an “allocu


[ocr errors]

tion ” in the Latin tongue, setting forth his wishes, asking the prayers and aid of his brethren, and mildly rebuking his persecutors and enemies. At this consistory, by a unanimous vote, the august assembly consented to the canonization of the twenty-six martyrs of Japan. Two days later, another similar consistory of cardinals and bishops ratified by their suffrage the nomination of the blessed Michael de Sanctis. That this self-denying service might not go without its just reward, the Roman Senate, by a grave decree of the 22d of May, “ in the year 2646 of the foundation of Rome, and 1862 of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ,” (A. U. C. et A. D., – a happy combination of the Pagan and Christian dignity of the world's capital,) admitted all the prelates assisting in these ceremonies to the rights of citizenship; gave to “ these valiant defenders of the faith, who have deserved so well of the Catholic religion, the same honors in which Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, gloried; and, to keep the tradition of a day so memorable, and of this decree, have resolved to place an inscription in marble in the halls of the Capitol.” It is to be feared that the rights of a Roman citizen will not avail in other states to save from arrest or to secure respect; and to one who considers the character of the Roman police, the value of citizenship, even within the municipal limits, may be questioned. This was followed, on the first day of June, by the address of the young men of Rome, in which the fidelity of this class to the Holy Father was affirmed, and the wicked schemes of the revolutionists and the Utopian dreamers of Italian unity were suitably denounced. Two hundred voices then joined in a hymn to Pius IX. and in four other cantatas in his honor. We are not informed that this delegation represented the general sentiment of the Roman young men ; and even Cardinal Wiseman seems to hint, in his condescending reply to the address, that there is some difference of opinion on the general question, and that the young men may have to vindicate “ by arms ” what their songs and their rhetoric have so feelingly expressed.

It was painful for the Holy Father, in welcoming the faithful from foreign lands, — from heretic England, and schismatic Russia, and infidel Syria, and America beyond the sea, – to

« ElőzőTovább »