« PoprzedniaDalej »
and he gained great victories in Italy. When he was dying, he repeated the words of holy Scripture : “ Now, God grant I may not serve as a stumbling-block to the youth of this city, since God will make this day a theatre of my constancy. I will not belie the law of my master; I will not dishonour the school in which I was bred and brought up. My soul shall fly out of this body wholly innocent, discharged of infidelity, into the bosom of my ancestors, and the honour of my life shall be conveyed into the ashes of my tomb.” When the priest came to the words, “ Per sanctam crucem et passionem tuam libera nos, Domine," he interrupted them, and said aloud, “ Hæc est spes mea, in hac volo mori.”. It is of such men that Augustine says, “ We ought not to say that they die in peace, but that they lived in peace, and died in joy.”2 Guillaume de Lalain, beginning to instruct his son, says, " De toute votre force et puissance mettez peine d'accomplir les commandemens de Dieu.” So well did he understand what Caussin says in his Holy Court, “ We have not two Saviours, two models ; one crowned with roses for the nobility, another with thorns for the vulgar.” The last words of William the Conqueror, as given at length by Orderic Vitalis, are very memorable, shewing that, amidst all the horrors of war, he had never forgotten, though he may not have practised, what he had been taught by religion as the duties of a king. Although human ambition rejoices in such triumph," said the dying king, “ I am, nevertheless, seized with an unquiet terror, when I think that in all these actions cruelty marched with boldness.” At length, after a long agony, on Thursday, the 9th of September, as the sun rose in golden splendour, William awoke, and presently he heard the great bell of the metropolitan church. He asked why it was tolled. Seigneur,” replied his servants, " it tolls for prime at the church of our Lady St. Mary.” Then the king raised his eyes to heaven, and lifting up his hands on high, he said, “I recommend myself to Holy Mary, mother of God, that by her holy prayers she may reconcile me to her dear and beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”3 With these words he expired. Has any one the heart to condemn and revile his memory ? I have not. 1 Maccab. ii. 6.
2 Serm. ix. in Ep. Joan. 3 Orderic, Vital. lib. vii.
In the old life of Count Gerald it is said, « Fertur enim quod parentes illius modestiam atque religionem veluti quadam hæreditoria dote sibi tenuerint. Generatio rectorum benedicatur.” We often see little children given to anger,
vengeance : “at in puero Geraldo dulcedo quædam animi cum verecundia.” After being instructed in the chant and in grammar, when he became a youth he grew expert at arms, and would vault upon his horse with ease. Though engaged in military exercises, still he studied hard, according to the Scripture : “ Melior est sapientia quam vires.” He soon became acquainted with the whole volume of the holy Scriptures. His parents dying, he succeeded to his territories, but no pride followed : he only lamented that he had to be occupied too often in worldly affairs ; he now considered all his vassals as his pupils and wards. In all his wars, though valiant to the utmost, he never wounded any one, nor was himself wounded; and, by God's grace, his sword was never dyed in human blood. Other men are valiant and generous, but for the world's sake. Opus vero Geraldi lucidum est, quoniam de simplicitate cordis metitur.” The ancient deceiver of the ways of youth laid his snares for Gerald ; but he had learned to fly by prayer to the bosom of divine piety, and to counteract them by the grace of Christ. He was remarkable for abstemiousness at table, and for devotion at the divine offices, which he used to attend before daybreak. He used himself to recite the whole Psalter every day. He was a beautiful person ; of perfect innocence in morals, the elegance of his body adorning the sweetness of his mind; no harsh or unseemly word ever escaped him; he was not only himself sober, but he took care that all his people and guests should be; so that none rose up from his table either dizzy or yet sad: he never broke his fast till tierce. Seats for the poor and tables were placed before him, that he might see they were well fed. Nor was the number fixed, but all comers were welcome; and all this he did believing that he relieved Christ. So he provided them with meat, and clothes, and shoes : at time of meals, once a day, he observed the greatest sanctity and reverence. Three days in the week he abstained from meat. There
1 De Vita S. Geraldi I., Bibliotheca Cluniacens.
was always free access to him, and his benevolence was known far and wide ; and when he heard of dissensions among the common people, he would have mass celebrated to pray for them. The only shadow of injustice to be laid to his charge was his seeming to lean always to the side of the poor and the weak; but he was a simple, and a firm, and a just man, and he would execute justice, hoping too, as for the criminals, “ ut crimen, quod impunitum remanere non potest, temporali supplicio luant."
“ In quolibet pietatis opere se modificabat, ut ipsa ejus pietas non nimia videri posset.” He was often reproached that he suffered himself to be injured by low persons without shewing proper spirit and anger. His peasants and clergy loved him as a father; they would bring him presents of wax, which he would receive as vast presents ; yet he would not burn it for his use, but had it employed at the altar. He often used fir larchwood torches; and would always have a light burning in his chamber, that he might read at intervals about the love of Christ. Deservedly he was loved by all, for he loved all, and he was called Gerald the Good. According to the Apostle's precept, “sobrie et pie et juste conversatus est." The holy Bishop Gaubert was most familiar and dear to him : with him he often conversed, and said how he wished to go to Rome, and how he desired to enter a religious order ; but the bishop persuaded him to remain in the world, that he might continue to defend and comfort the poor peasants.
So he sacrificed himself for the love of his neighbour ; but secretly he took the tonsure, and made a journey to Rome, and on his return built a great monastery and church. He lamented bitterly the want of piety and innocence in men ; yet he was unwilling to be always reproaching them, so he prayed that almighty God would give them peace, and he had mass celebrated to pray for it, continually repeating with Ezekiel, “ O Domine, fiat tantum pax et veritas in diebus meis :”.
-and again, “O quantum deficit sanctus !” Good monks are like angels, he would say; but if to secular desires they fall, then are they like the apostate angels. It appeared from all his words and deeds that he had no love for the world, and that he panted after heaven. At
he had lessons read aloud. Whenever he commenced any action, he repeated some holy verse, doing all things according to the
apostolic precept. Sometimes, when he was with few persons, as if lost in meditation, some tears would be seen to fall from him, so that it was clear his mind was elsewhere fixed, and had no present consolation. « Et sicut olim columba Noë, cum foris non invenisset ubi requiesceret, ad arcum et ad ipsum Noë redibat, sic iste vir inter hujus sæculi fluctus ad secretum cordis recurrens, in Christi delectatione quiescebat.” At night he used to remain alone after the office, and enjoy internal peace.
He used to go to Rome every second year; and it was a happy journey for all the poor of the countries through which he passed. When would Count Gerald come? was the usual question of the mountaineers who inhabited the passages of the great St. Bernard. Many wonders and miracles are recorded to have been wrought through his means. “ Illis sane,” concludes the worthy abbot, “ qui amore ejus pie tenentur, eumque discreta dilectione venerantur, opera justitiæ quæ exercuit magis placent. The greatest of his miracles,” he continues,
was his not trusting in riches : we will therefore praise him, for he wrought such miracles.” And now his outward man began to fail, while the inward was renewed day by day; he became blind, and continued so for seven years, that the man of God might be proved in this world of sorrow : and therefore he gave thanks to God that he was worthy to suffer as a son: and so he gave
up constant prayer. Two years before he died, he built a great church, and procured many relics of saints. And now his sickness came on to death, and so he cried, “ Subvenite, sancti Dei.” He sent for Amblard, a holy bishop, to fortify him for his
orders respecting his funeral. And now the report of his state drew crowds of clergy, monks, nobles, poor people, weeping and praying. O good Gerald, what a loss to the world, when you depart! The father of the poor, the defender of widows, the comforter of the miserable! And so they lamented at his death. O truly happy death! Ohappy man, who, raised on high in secular power, injured no one, oppressed no one! He heard mass to the last, and would be carried into his oratory. He expired sweetly on the 6th feria, at Complins, with the words " subvenite sancti, Dei.”
But the first ages of the Church furnish us with instances still more calculated to astonish the moderns. St.
Fabiola, in the fourth century, a descendant of the great Fabius, prostrated himself at the gate of the Lateran church with the public penitents, till he was reconciled according to the canons. In the abbey church of St. Germain des Près at Paris, in the chapel of St. Marguerite, which had been granted to the noble family of Douglas, I have seen the tomb of William, the seventeenth earl, who died in 1611. He had been bred in the new religion, which was preached in that age; but coming to France in the reign of Henry III., he was converted by sermons at the Sorbonne. Having abjured these errors, he returned to Scotland. Though full of piety towards God, and of fidelity towards his king, he was persecuted for the Catholic faith, and was given his choice either of a prison or banishment. He preferred the latter, and returned to France, where he ended his days in the practice of great devotion. He was so given to prayer, that he used to attend at the canonical hours of the abbey church, and he used even to rise at midnight, though the doors of the abbey were always shut at matins. He died greatly honoured and reverenced by all classes, in the 57th year of his age.
Let us take an instance from an old romance. When King Perceforest was about to knight his son Bethis, and his nephew, he thus addressed them : “Celluy qui veult entrer en ung ordre, soit en religion, ou en marriage, ou en chevalerie, ou en quelque estat que ce soit, il doit premierement son cueur et sa conscience a nectoyer et purger de tous vices, et remplir et adorner de toutes vertus : et avoir ung ardent desir de perseverer jusques en fin pour l'amour de Dieu souverain. Mes enfans, lavez vos cueurs et vos consciences de toutes ordures par vraye repentance et par pitieuse oraison et faictes priers au Dieu souverain. Quant le roi eut ce dit, les trois jouvenceaulx se mirent a genoulx et le roy aussi devant ung autel qui estoit devant eux, et adorerent ung grant espece tant que le roy sceut que la foiblesse de nature faisoit faillir devotion.” Then rising up, he taught them that there was but one God. “ Mes enfans, si vous craignez Dieu, toutes choses du monde vous cremiront; et si Dieu ne craignez, vous craign
1 See Hist, de l'Abbaye de St. Germain des Près, p. 215.