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HOME OF THE VIRGIN CARRIED FROM PALESTINE TO ROME. 23
authorized record, "feeling disgust at having to carry a woman, since the Vicar of Christ had been on his back." The horse was accordingly presented to the pope, as disdaining to be ridden by a less dignified person, especially a woman.
The standing miracles of the city of Rome-those miraculous relics which, in former times, made the whole of Europe support the idleness of the Romans at the expense of its devout credulity-are not overlooked in this manual of Christian edification. An instance may be given in the case of St. Peter's chains, such as they are now venerated at Rome. Eudoxia, wife of Theodosius the younger, being on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, received as a present one of the chains with which St. Peter was bound in prison when he was liberated by an angel. This chain, set with jewels, was forwarded by the pious empress to her daughter, then at Rome. The young princess, rejoiced with the gift, shewed the chain to the people, who repaid the compliment by exhibiting another chain which the holy apostle had borne under Nero. As if to compare their structure, the two chains were brought into contact, when the links at the extremities of each joined together, and the two pieces became one uniform chain. In the same authorized and veracious record you may find other miracles, which, in different parts of Italy, move the intelligent travellers to laughter or disgust. The translation of the house of Loretto (the home where the Virgin Mary was born) through the air by the hands of angels from Palestine to the Papal States, is asserted in the collect for that festival; which, being a direct address to the Deity, cannot be supposed to have been carelessly compiled; and the account of the conveyance is set forth in the Lessons. The extraordinary
miracles of Saint Januarius, both during his life under Diocletian and in our own days, are stated with equal confidence and precision. That Saint, the legend says, being thrown into a burning furnace, came out so completely unhurt, that not even his clothes or his hair was singed. The next day all the wild beasts in the amphitheatre came crouching at his feet.
SAINT PATRICK'S WONDERS.
I pass over the other ancient performances of Januarius, to shew the style in which his wonderful works after his death are given. His body, for instance, on one occasion extinguished the flames of Vesuvius. Next comes that noble miracle—præclarum illud—the liquefaction of Januarius's blood, which did, and still does, take place every year in Naples.*
It may be well to fix your mind for a moment on one point. How Ireland has been made what it is, you may find in the Breviary. Take the instance of its patron, Saint Patrick (372-464). The following is the tale which it tells of this pattern of Christian excellence. The holy Saint rises before daylight, and under the snows and rains of a northern winter begins his customary task of praying one hundred times in a day, and again one hundred times in a night. Such, the Breviary informs us, was his daily practice while still a layman and a slave. When raised to the see of Armagh, his activity in the external practice of prayer appears quite prodigious. In the first place, he repeated daily the one hundred and fifty psalms of the Psalter, with a collection of canticles and hymns and two hundred collects. The two hundred genuflexions of his youth were now increased. to three hundred. The ecclesiastical day being 'divided into eight canonical hours, and each of these having one hundred blessings with the sign of the cross allotted by St. Patrick, his right hand must have performed that motion eight hundred times a day. After this distracting stir and hurry, the night brought little repose to the Saint. He divided it into three portions in the first he recited one hundred psalms and knelt two hundred times. During the second, he stood immersed in cold water, repeating fifty psalms more, "with his heart, eyes and hands raised toward heaven." The third he gave up to sleep upon a stone pavement.
"Practical and Internal Evidence against Catholicism," by the Rev. Joseph Blanco White, M.A., B.D., Letter VI. 2nd Ed., 1836.
A CREDULOUS PRIESTHOOD, A CREDULOUS LAITY. Try to make all this real. Suppose yourself thus occupied for one day and night, can you find leisure for anything else? Can you crowd all this within the space of four-and-twenty hours? Then carry the practices in imagination through one week:-can you endure so long? One month? it is impossible. One year? you are a corpse long, long before twelve months have elapsed.
But this is not all. "While he thus afforded to future days a specimen of holiness, he exercised himself in long readings, travelled over Gaul, Italy, and the islands of the Adriatic, and was called into Spain by a divine admonition. In his episcopal office it is wonderful what annoyances and labours he endured, and what adversaries he encountered. Such was his success in preaching the gospel, that Ireland, given to the worship of idols, came, under his influence, to be called the isle of Saints. Very large numbers of the population he baptized with his own hands; he ordained also bishops and very many priests, and led virgins and widows to become nuns. With the authority of the supreme Pontiff, he made Armagh the capital of the whole island, and decorated it with relics of the Saints brought from Rome. Adorned of God with supernal visions and great signs and wonders, he shone so resplendently, that his fame was spread far and wide with ever-increasing splendour. At length, worn out with ceaseless cares for the church, distinguished in word and deed, in extreme age, refreshed by divine revelations, he fell asleep in God”* (493 A.D.).
Enough of the Breviary. Perhaps you fancy that the credulity is restricted to the priests. If so, remember the priests were the channel of belief in my personality. But while it is difficult to find credulousness without a priest, others take part in the illustrative follies and frauds.
Casanova, a Venetian, doomed to solitary imprisonment in
*The Breviary Service for the 17th of March.
26 HISTORY OF MARY BEGINNING IN HER MOTHER'S WOMB.
the dungeons at Venice in 1755, speaks of one* of the only books he was allowed to read, in the following terms: "I there read all that is fitted to produce the excited imagination of a Spanish virgin extravagantly given to ascetic practices, living in a cloister, melancholy, having directors of her conscience-directors ignorant, false and ascetic. A friend and a lover of the holy Virgin, sister Mary of Agrada, had received directly from God an order to write the life of his divine mother. The necessary instructions for the purpose were furnished to her by the Holy Spirit. She commenced her life of Mary, not with the day of her birth, but at the moment of her immaculate conception in the womb of Anna her mother. After narrating in detail all that her divine heroine did during the nine months that she passed in her mother's bosom, she informs us that the Virgin at the age of three years kept her home in order with the aid of nine hundred domestics, all of whom were angels, under the control of their own prince, the archangel Michael. What strikes you in the book is the assurance, that whatever is said, is said in good faith. They are the visions of a soaring spirit, unshadowed by pride and inebriated of God, who believes that she reveals nothing but what she is inspired with by the Holy Spirit.”
A week's confinement to this volume produced such an effect on Casanova, who, though an unbeliever and a debauchee, was then enfeebled by melancholy, bad air and bad food, that his sleep was haunted and his waking hours disturbed by its horrible visions. Many years after, passing through Agrada, in Old Castile, he charmed the old priest of that village by speaking of the biographer of the virgin. The priest shewed him all the spots which were consecrated by her presence, and bitterly lamented that the court of Rome had refused to canonize her. It is the natural reflection of the writer that the book was well qualified to turn a solitary
*La Cité Mystique de Soeur Marie de Jesus, appellée d'Agrada.
VISIONS OF ANGELS AND DEVILS.
prisoner mad, or to make a man at large an atheist. It ought not to be forgotten, that the inquisitors of state at Venice who prescribed this book, were probably of the latter persuasion. It is a striking instance of the infatuation of those who, in their eagerness to rivet the bigotry of the ignorant, use means which infallibly tend to spread utter unbelief among the educated. The book is a disgusting, but in its general outline seemingly faithful, picture of the dissolute manners spread over the continent of Europe in the middle of the eighteenth century.*
Fables of the kind abound in the popular and legendary literature of Romanism wherever it bears sway. I confine myself to a few instances from France. The highest sanctity is no protection against monkish and sacerdotal superstition, credulity and delusion. St. Benedict saw the soul of St. Germain of Capua carried up to heaven by angels. Two monks saw the soul of St. Benedict walking on a carpet stretched from heaven down to mount Cassino. Saint Eucherius was conveyed by an angel down into hell, where he saw the soul of Charles Martel. A holy hermit of Italy saw devils, who hurried the soul of Dagobert into a barque, beating him all the while with sticks.
Even the highest flights of French oratory are not free from the unclean leaven. The illustrious Bossuet, in his Oraison Funèbre (Funeral Sermon) for the princess Palatine, reports two visions which acted powerfully on her royal highness, and which determined all her conduct in the last years of her life. He said, that the princess, after lending a hundred thousand francs to the Queen of Poland, her sister, sold the duchy of Retelois for a million francs, and advantageously married her daughter, who was unable to enjoy her good fortune because she doubted in regard to the Catholic religion.
* Mackintosh's "View of the Progress of Ethical Philosophy," p. 298. Philadelphia, 1832.