St. Narcissus

St. NarcissusSt. Narcissus was born towards the close of the first century, and was almost fourscore years old when he was placed at the head of the church of Jerusalem, being the thirtieth bishop of that see. In 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided in a council of the bishops of Palestine held at Caesarea, about the time of celebrating Easter; in which it was decreed that this feast is to be kept always on a Sunday, and not with the Jewish passover.

Eusebius assures us, that the Christians of Jerusalem preserved in his time the remembrance of several miracles which God had wrought by this holy bishop; one of which he relates as follows. One year on Easter-eve the deacons were unprovided with oil for the lamps in the church, necessary at the solemn divine office that day. Narcissus ordered those who had care of the lamps to bring him some water from the neighboring wells. This being done, he pronounced a devout prayer over the water; then bade them pour it into the lamps; which they did, and it was immediately converted into oil, to the great surprise of the faithful. Some of this miraculous oil was kept there as a memorial at the time when Eusebius wrote his history.

The veneration of all good men for this holy bishop could not shelter him from the malice of the wicked. Three incorrigible sinners, fearing his inflexible severity in the observance of ecclesiastical discipline, laid to his charge a detestable crime, which Eusebius does not specify. They confirmed their atrocious calumny by dreadful oaths and imprecations; one wishing he might perish by fire, another, that he might be struck with a leprosy, and the third, that he might lose his sight, if what they alleged was not the truth. Notwithstanding these protestations, their accusation did not find credit; and, some time after, the divine vengeance pursued the calumniators.

The first was burnt in his house, with his whole family, by an accidental fire in the night; the second was struck with a universal leprosy; and the third, terrified by these examples, confessed the conspiracy and slander, and by the abundance of tears which he continually shed for his sins, lost his sight before his death.

Narcissus lived to be about one hundred and sixteen years old. The Roman Martyrology honors his memory on the 29th of October.

The pastors of the primitive church, animated with the spirit of the apostles were faithful imitators of their heroic virtues, discovering the same fervent zeal. the same contempt of the world, the same love of Christ. If we truly respect the church as the immaculate spouse of our Lord, we will incessantly pray for its exaltation and increase, and beseech the Almighty to give it pastors according to his own heart, like those who appeared in the infancy of Christianity. And, that no obstacle on our part may prevent the happy effects of their zeal, we should study to regulate our conduct by the holy maxims which they inculcate, we should regard them as the ministers of Christ; we should listen to them with docility and attention; we should make their faith the rule of ours, and shut our ears against the language of profane novelty.

O! that we could once more see a return of those happy days when the pastor and the people had but one heart and one soul; when there was no diversity in our belief; when the faithful seemed only to be with each other in their submission to the church, and in their desire of sanctification. (Emphasis added)

(Adapted from Butler”s Lives of the Saints)

St. Jude

saint_judeThe apostle St. Jude is distinguished from the Iscariot by the surname of Thaddaeus. He was brother to St. James the Less as he styles himself in his epistle; likewise of St. Simeon of Jerusalem and of one Joses, who are styled the brethren of our Lord, and were sons of Cleophas, and Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin. This apostle”s kindred and relation to our Saviour exalted him not so much in his master”s eyes as his contempt of the world, the ardor of his holy zeal and love, and his sufferings for His sake. It is not known when and by what means he became a disciple of Christ; nothing having been said of him in the gospels before we find him enumerated in the catalog of the apostles. After the last supper, when Christ promised to manifest himself to everyone who should love him, St. Jude asked him, why he did not manifest himself to the world?

By which question, he seems to have expressed his expectation of a secular kingdom of the Messias. Christ by his answer satisfied him, that the world is unqualified for divine manifestations, being a stranger and an enemy to what must fit souls for a fellowship with heaven; but that he would honor those who truly love him with his familiar converse, and would admit them to intimate communications of grace and favor. This was a lesson St. Jude learned well and it would be the theme much of his teachings. After our Lord”s ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, St. Jude set out with the other great conquerors of the world and hell, to pull down the prince of darkness from his usurped throne; which this little troop undertook to effect armed only with the word of God, and his spirit. Church historians record that St. Jude preached up in Judaea, Samaria, Idumaea, and Syria; especially in Mesopotamia.

St. Paulinus says, that St. Jude planted the faith in Libya. This apostle returned from his missions to Jerusalem in the year 62, after the martyrdom of his brother, St. James, and assisted at the election of St. Simeon, who was likewise his brother. He wrote a Catholic or general epistle to all the churches of the East, particularly addressing himself to the Jewish converts, amongst whom he had principally labored. The heretics he describes by many strong epithets and similes, and calls them wandering meteors which seem to blaze for a while, but set in eternal darkness. The source of their fall he points out by saying, they are murmurers, and walk after their own lusts; for being enslaved to pride, envy, the love of sensual pleasure, and other passions and neglecting to crucify the desires of the flesh in their hearts, they were strangers to sincere humility, meekness, and interior peace. The apostle exhorts the faithful to treat those who were fallen with tender compassion, making a difference between downright malice and weakness, and endeavoring by holy fear to save them, by plucking them as brands out of the fire of vice and heresy, and hating the very garment that is spotted with iniquity. He puts us in mind to have always before our eyes the great obligation we lie under of incessantly building up our spiritual edifice of charity, by praying in the Holy Ghost, growing in the love of God, and imploring his mercy through Christ. From Mesopotamia St. Jude traveled into Persia where he suffered martyrdom. Many Greeks say he was shot to death with arrows: some add while he was tied on a cross. The Armenians honor him and St. Bartholomew for the first planters of the faith among them.

Commentary: If we desire to inherit a share of those abundant and precious graces which God pours forth upon those souls which he disposes to receive them, we must remember that he never imparts them but to those who sincerely study to die to themselves, and to extirpate all inordinate attachments and affections out of their hearts; so long as any of these reign in a soul, she is one of that world to which God cannot manifest himself, or communicate the sweet relish of his love. This is the mystery which Christ unfolded to St. Jude. The world hath not known him. Few even among those who know God by faith, attain to the experimental knowledge of God and the relish of his love, because few, very few, disentangle their affection from creatures. So long as their hearts remain secretly wedded to the world, they fall in some degree under its curse. And how few study perfectly to extinguish its spirit in their hearts!

(Adapted from Butler”s Lives of the Saints)