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Around thee, in the realms of glory, a countless number of the Blessed acknowledge themselves indebted to thee, after God, for their eternal happiness; and, upon the earth, whole nations profess the true faith, because the Gospel was first preached to them by thy disciples.
O Father of so many people! look down upon thine inheritance, and once more bless this ungrateful Europe, which owes everything to thee, yet has almost forgotten thy name! The light, which thy Children imparted to it, has become dimmed; the warmth they imparted to the societies they founded, and civilized by the Cross, has grown cold; thorns have covered a large portion of the land into which they sowed the seed of salvation. Come and forward thine own work; and, by thy prayers, keep in its expiring life._Give firmness to what has been shaken. May a new Europe,―a Catholic Europe-spring up in place of that which heresy and false doctrines have formed.
O Patriarch of the Servants of God! look down from heaven on the Vineyard, which thy hand hath planted, and see into what a state of desolation it has fallen. There was a time, when thy name was honoured as that of a Father in thirty thousand Monasteries, from the shores of the Baltic to the borders of Syria, and from the green Erin to the steppes of Poland. Now, alas! few and feeble are the prayers that ascend to thee from the whole of that immense patrimony, which the faith and gratitude of the people had once consecrated to thee. The blight of heresy and the rapaciousness of avarice have robbed thee of these harvests of thy glory. The work of sacrilegious spoliation is now centuries old, and unceasingly has it been pursued; at one time, having recourse to open violence, and at another, pleading the urgency of political interests. Sainted Father of our Faith! thou hast been robbed of those thousands 20
of sanctuaries, which, for long ages, were fountains of life and light to the people. The race of thy children has become almost extinct: watch over them that still remain, and are labouring to perpetuate thy Rule. An ancient tradition tells us how our Lord revealed to thee, that thy Order would last to the end of the world, and that thy children would console the Church of Rome and confirm the faith of many in the last great trials:-deign to protect, by thy powerful intercession, the remnants of that Family, which still calls thee its Father. Raise it up again; multiply it; sanctify it: let the Spirit, which thou hast deposited in thy Holy Rule, flourish in its midst, and show, by thus blessing it, that thou art ever "Benedict," the servant of God.
Support the Holy Church by thy powerful intercession, dear Father! Assist the Apostolic See, which has been so often occupied by Disciples of thy School. Father of so many Pastors of the people! obtain for us Bishops like those sainted ones, whom thy Rule has formed. Father of so many Apostles! ask for the countries, which have no faith, preachers of the Gospel, who may convert the people by their blood and by their words, as did those who went out Missioners from thy Cloisters. Father of so many holy Doctors! pray that the science of sacred literature may revive, to aid the Church and confound error. Father of so many sublime Ascetics! rekindle the zeal for Christian perfection, which has grown so cold among the Christians of our days. Patriarch of the Religious Life in the Western Church! bless all the Religious Orders, which the Holy Spirit has given successively to the Church; they all look on thee with admiration, as their venerable predecessor: do thou pour out upon them the influence of thy fatherly love.
Lastly, O Blessed favourite of God! pray for all the Faithful of Christ, during these days which are con
secrated to thoughts and works of penance. It was in the midst of the holy austerities of Lent that thou didst mount to the abode of everlasting delight; ah! help us Christians, who are, at this very time, in the same campaign of penance. Rouse our courage by thy example and precepts. Teach us to keep down the flesh, and subject it to the spirit, as thou didst. Obtain for us a little of thy blessed spirit, that turning away from this vain world, we may think on the eternal years. Pray for us, that our hearts may never love, nor our thoughts ever dwell, on joys so fleeting as are those of time.
Catholic piety invokes thee as one of the patrons, as well as one of the models, of a dying Christian. It loves to tell men of the sublime spectacle thou didst present at thy death, when standing at the foot of the Altar, leaning on the arms of thy disciples, and barely touching the earth with thy feet, thou didst give back, in submission and confidence, thy soul to its Creator. Obtain for us, dear Saint! a death courageous and sweet as was thine. Drive from us, at our last hour, the cruel enemy, who will seek to ensnare us. Visit us by thy presence, and leave us not, till we have breathed forth our soul into the bosom of the God, who has made thee so glorious a Saint.
OF THE EVER BLESSED VIRGIN.
THIS is a great day, not only to man, but even to God himself; for it is the anniversary of the most solemn event that time has ever witnessed. On this day, the Divine Word, by which the Father created the world, was made flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and dwelt among us. We must spend it in joy. Whilst we adore the Son of God who humbled himself by thus becoming Man, let us give thanks to the Father, who so loved the world, as to give his Only Begotten Son;2 let us give thanks to the Holy Ghost, whose almighty power achieves the great mystery. We are in the very midst of Lent, and yet the ineffable joys of Christmas are upon us: our Emmanuel is conceived on this day, and, nine months hence, will be born in Bethlehem, and the Angels will invite us to come and honour the sweet Babe.
During Septuagesima Week, we meditated upon the fall of our First Parents, and the triple sentence pronounced by God against the serpent, the woman, and Adam. Our hearts were filled with fear as we reflected on the divine malediction, the effects of
1 St. John, i. 14.
2 Ibid. iii. 16.
which are to be felt by all generations, even to the end of the world. But, in the midst of the anathemas then pronounced against us, there was a promise made us by our God; it was a promise of salvation, and it enkindled hope within us. In pronouncing sentence against the serpent, God said, that his head should one day be crushed, and that, too, by a Woman.
The time has come for the fulfilment of this promise. The world has been in expectation for four thousand years; and the hope of its deliverance has been kept up, in spite of all its crimes. During this time, God has made use of miracles, prophecies, and types, as a renewal of the engagement he has entered into with mankind. The blood of the Messias has passed from Adam to Noah; from Sem to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; from David and Solomon to Joachim; and now it flows in the veins of Mary, Joachim's Daughter. Mary is the Woman, by whom is to be taken from our race the curse that lies upon it. God has decreed that she should be Immaculate; and, thereby, has set an irreconcilable enmity between her and the serpent. She, a daughter of Eve, is to repair all the injury done by her Mother's fall; she is to raise up her sex from the degradation into which it has been cast; she is to co-operate, directly and really, in the victory which the Son of God is about to gain over his and our enemy.
A tradition, which has come down from the Apostolic Ages, tells us, that the great Mystery of the Incarnation was achieved on the twenty-fifth day of March. It was at the hour of midnight, when the most Holy Virgin was alone and absorbed in prayer, that the Archangel Gabriel appeared before her, and asked her, in the name of the Blessed
1 St. Augustine, De Trinitate, Lib. iv. cap. v.