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had him to redeem us. It is from thy virginal womb that he receives the precious Blood which is to be our ransom, that Blood whose purity he protected in thy Immaculate Conception, and which becomes the Blood of God by the union, that is consummated in thee, of the Divine with the Human Nature.
To-day, O Mary! is fulfilled in thee the promise made by God after Adam's sin,—that he would put enmity between the Woman and the Serpent. Up to this time, the human race had not the courage to resist the enemy; it was subservient to him, and everywhere were altars raised up in his honour; but, on this day, his head is crushed beneath thy foot. Thy humility, thy purity, thy obedience, have conquered him; his tyranny is checked. By thee we are delivered from his sway; and nothing but our own perversity and ingratitude could again give him the mastery. Let not this be, O Mary! Come to our assistance. During this Season of repentance, we humbly acknowledge that we have abused the grace of God; we beseech thee, on this the Feast of thy Annunciation, intercede for us with Him, who, on this day, became thy Son. Holy Mother of God! by the salutation addressed to thee by the Angel Gabriel, by thy virginal fear, by thy fidelity to God, by thy prudent humility, by thy consent,-obtain for us conversion of heart, and sincere repentance; prepare us for the great Mysteries we are about to celebrate. These Mysteries are so full of sorrow to thy maternal heart; and yet thou wouldst have us rejoice on this day, as we think on the ineffable happiness which filled thy soul at the solemn moment when the Holy Ghost overshadowed thee, and the Son of God became thine. Yes, Blessed Mother of Jesus! we will spend the whole of this day near thee, in thy humble dwelling at Nazareth. Nine months hence, we will follow thee to Bethlehem, and there, in company with the Shepherds and the Angels, we
will prostrate ourselves in adoration before the InfantGod, our Saviour: we will join our voices with those of the heavenly host, and we will thus express our gladness: Glory be to God in the highest! and peace on earth to men of good will!
SAINT FRANCIS OF PAULA,
THE founder of a Religious Order, whose distinguishing characteristics were humility and penance, comes before us to-day: it is Francis of Paula. Let us study his virtues and beg his intercession. His whole life was one of great innocence; and yet, we find him embracing, from his earliest youth, mortifications which, now-a-days, would not be expected from the very worst sinners. How was it that he could do so much? and we, who have so often sinned, do so little? The claims of Divine Justice are as strong now as ever they were; for God never changes, nor can the offence we have committed against him by our sins be pardoned, unless we make atonement. The Saints punished themselves, with life-long and austere penances, for the slightest sins; and the Church can scarcely induce us to observe the law of Lent, though it is now reduced to the lowest degree of severity.
What is the cause of this want of the spirit of expiation and penance? It is that our Faith is weak, and our Love of God is cold, because our thoughts and affections are so set upon this present life, that we seldom if ever consider things in the light of Eternity. How many of us are like the King of France, who having obtained permission from the
Pope that St. Francis of Paula should come and live near him, threw himself at the Saint's feet, and besought him to obtain of God that he, the King, might have a long life! Louis the 11th had led a most wicked life; but his anxiety was, not to do penance for his sins, but to obtain, by the Saint's prayers, a prolongation of a career, which had been little better than a storing up wrath for the day of wrath. We, too, love this present life; we love it to excess. The laws of Fasting and Abstinence are broken, not because the obeying them would endanger life, or even seriously injure health,—for, where either of these is to be feared, the Church does not enforce her Lenten penances: but people dispense themselves from Fasting and Abstinence, because the spirit of immortification renders every privation intolerable, and every interruption of an easy comfortable life insupportable. They have strength enough for any fatigue that business or pleasure call for; but the moment there is question of observing those laws, which the Church has instituted for the interest of body as well as of the soul, all seems impossible; the conscience gets accustomed to these annual transgressions, and ends by persuading the sinner that he may be saved without doing penance.
St. Francis of Paula was of a very different way of thinking and acting. The Church gives us the following abridged account of his life.
Francis was born at Paula, an unimportant town of Calabria. His parents, who were for a long time without children, obtained him from heaven, after having made a vow, and prayed to St. Francis. When very young, being inflamed with the love of God, he withdrew into a desert, where, for
Franciscus Paulæ, quod est Calabriæ oppidum, loco humili natus est: quem parentes, cum diu prole caruissent, voto facto, beati Francisci precibus susceperunt. Is adolescens divino ardore succensus, in eremum secessit: ubi annis sex victu asperam, sed meditationibus
cœlestibus suavem vitam duxit: sed cum virtutum ejus fama longius manaret, multique ad eum pietatis studio concurrerent,fraternæ charitatis causa e solitudine egressus, ecclesiam prope Paulam ædificavit, ibique prima sui Ordinis fundamenta jecit.
Erat in eo mirifica loquendi gratia perpetuam virginitatem servavit humilitatem sic coluit, ut se omnium minimum diceret, suosque alumnos Minimos appellari voluerit. Rudi amictu, nudis pedibus incedens, humi cubabat. Cibi abstinentia fuit admirabili: semel in die post solis occasum reficiebatur, et ad panem et aquæ potum vix aliquid ejusmodi obsonii adhibebat, quo vesci in Quadragesima licet: quam consuetudinem, ut fratres sui toto anni tempore retinerent, quarto eos voto adstrinxit.
Multis miraculis servi sui sanctitatem Deus testari voluit, quorum illud in primis celebre, quod a nautis rejectus, Siciliæ fretum, strato super fluctibus pallio, cum socio transmisit. Multa etiam futura prophetico spiritu prædixit. A Ludovico Undecimo Francorum rege expetitus, magnoque in honore est habitus. Denique annum primum et nonages
six years, he led an austere life, but one that was sweetened by heavenly contemplations. The fame of his virtues having spread abroad, many persons went to him, out of a desire to be trained in virtue. Out of a motive of fraternal charity, he left his solitude, built a Church near Paula, and there laid the foundation of his Order.
He had a wonderful gift of preaching. He observed virginity during his whole life. Such was his love for humility, that he called himself the last of all men, and would have his disciples named Minims. His dress was of the coarsest kind; he always walked barefooted, and his bed was the ground. His abstinence was extraordinary: he ate only once in the day, and that not till after sunset. His food consisted of bread and water, to which he scarcely ever added those viands which are permitted even in Lent: and this practice he would have kept up by his Religious, under the obligation of a fourth vow.
God bore witness to the holiness of his Servant by many miracles, of which this is the most celebrated; that when he was rejected by the sailors, he and his companion passed over the straits of Sicily on his cloak, which he spread out on the water. He also prophesied many future events. Louis the Eleventh, king of France, had a great desire to see the Saint, and