From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of Medieval Studies, Olney Community College; author of Roll-Call of Dishonor: 101 Famous Apostates from the Dawn of Christianity to Present Times; Olney Community College Press.
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Imprimatur: Bishop Francis “Frank” X. O’Toole, D.Phil.
WILLIAM BERRUYER, of the illustrious family of the ancient counts of Nevers, was educated by Peter the hermit, archdeacon of Soissons, his uncle by the mother’s side.
He learned from his infancy to despise the folly and emptiness of the riches and grandeur of the world, to abhor its pleasures, and to tremble at its dangers. His only delight was in exercises of piety and in his studies, in which he employed his whole time with indefatigable application.
He was made canon, first of Soissons, and afterwards of Paris: but he soon took the resolution of abandoning all commerce with the world; and retired into the solitude of Grandmont, where he lived with great regularity in that austere order,
till seeing its peace disturbed by a contest which arose between the fathers and lay-brothers, he passed into the Cistercian, then in wonderful odour of sanctity.
He took the habit in the abbey of Pontigny, and shining as a perfect model of monastic perfection, was after some time chosen prior of that house, and afterwards abbot, first of Fountaine-Jean, in the diocess of Sens, (a filiation of Pontigny, founded in 1124, by Peter de Courtenay, son of king Lewis the Fat,)
and some time after, of Chaalis, near Senlis, a much more numerous monastery, also a filiation of Pontigny, built by Lewis the Fat in 1136, a little before his death.
St. William always reputed himself the last among his brethren.
The universal mortification of his senses and passions, laid in him the foundation of an admirable purity of heart, and an extraordinary gift of prayer; in which he received great heavenly lights, and tasted of the sweets which God has reserved for those to whom he is pleased to communicate himself.
The sweetness and cheerfulness of his countenance testified to the uninterrupted joy and peace that overflowed his soul, and made virtue appear with the most engaging charms in the midst of austerities.
On the death of Henry de Sully, archbishop of Bourges, the clergy of that church requested his brother Eudo, bishop of Paris, to come and assist them in the election of a pastor. Desirous to choose some abbot of the Cistercian Order, then renowned for holy men, they put on the altar the names of three, written on as many billets.
Eudo, accordingly, laid them on the altar; and having made his prayer, drew first the name of the abbot William.
This news overwhelmed William with grief.
He never would have acquiesced, had he not received a double command in virtue of obedience, from the Pope, and from his general, the abbot of Citeaux.
He left his dear solitude with many tears, and was received at Bourges as one sent by heaven.
In this new dignity his first care was to conform both his exterior and interior to the most perfect rules of sanctity; being very sensible that a man’s first task is to honour God perfectly in his own soul.
He redoubled all his austerities, saying, it was now incumbent on him to do penance for others, as well as for himself.
He always wore a hair-shirt under his religious habit, and never added, nor diminished, any thing in his clothes either winter or summer.
He never ate any flesh-meat, though he had it at his table for strangers.
His attention to feed his flock was no less remarkable, especially in assisting the poor both spiritually and corporally, saying, that he was chiefly sent for them.
He was most mild to penitent sinners; but inflexible towards the impenitent, though he refused to have recourse to the civil power against them, the usual remedy of that age. Many such he at last reclaimed by his sweetness and charity.
Certain great men abusing his lenity, usurped the rights of his church; but the saint strenuously defended them even against the king himself, notwithstanding his threats to confiscate his lands.
By his zeal he converted many of the Albigenses, contemporary heretics, and was preparing himself for a mission among them, at the time he was seized with his last illness.
He would, notwithstanding, preach a farewell sermon to his people, which increased his fever to such a degree, that he was obliged to set aside his journey, and take to his bed.
Drawing near his end, he received first extreme-unction, according to the discipline of that age; then, in order to receive the viaticum, he rose out of bed, fell on his knees melting in tears, and prayed long prostrate with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross.
The night following, perceiving his last hour approach, he desired to anticipate the nocturns, which are said at midnight; but having made the sign of the cross on his lips and breast, was able to pronounce no more than the two first words. Then, according to a sign made by him, he was laid on ashes in the hair-cloth which he always privately wore. In this posture he soon after expired, a little past midnight, on the morning of the 10th of January, in 1209.
His body was interred in his cathedral; and being honoured by many miracles, was taken up in 1217; and in the year following he was canonized by Pope Honorius III.
His relics were kept with great veneration till 1562, when they were burnt, and scattered in the winds by the Huguenots, on occasion of their plundering the cathedral of Bourges.
A bone of his arm is shown with veneration at Chaalis, whither it had been sent soon after the saint’s body was taken up; and a rib is preserved in the church of the college of Navarre, at Paris.
Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Johnsonian Studies, Assistant Volleyball Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Missing Hangman, the Olney Community College Press.
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While we are on this subject, my readers may not be displeased with another anecdote, communicated to me by the same friend, from the relation of Mr. Hogarth.
Johnson used to be a pretty frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Richardson, authour of Clarissa, and other novels of extensive reputation.
Mr. Hogarth came one day to see Richardson, soon after the execution of Dr. Cameron, for having taken arms for the house of Stuart in 1745-6; and being a warm partisan of George the Second, he observed to Richardson, that certainly there must have been some very unfavourable circumstances lately discovered in this particular case,
which had induced the King to approve of an execution for rebellion so long after the time when it was committed, as this had the appearance of putting a man to death in cold blood, and was very unlike his Majesty's usual clemency.
While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous manner.
He concluded that he was an ideot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as a very good man.
To his great surprize, however, this figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the argument, and burst out into an invective against George the Second, as one, who, upon all occasions, was unrelenting and barbarous; mentioning many instances, particularly, that when an officer of high rank had been acquitted by a Court Martial, George the Second had with his own hand, struck his name off the list.
In short, he displayed such a power of eloquence, that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that this ideot had been at the moment inspired.
Neither Hogarth nor Johnson were made known to each other at this interview.
In 1740 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the 'Preface’ to the 'Life of Sir Francis Drake,'and the first parts of those of 'Admiral Blake,'and of 'Philip Baretier,' both which he finished the following year. He also wrote an 'Essay on Epitaphs,' and an 'Epitaph on Philips, a Musician,' which was afterwards published with some other pieces of his, in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. This Epitaph is so exquisitely beautiful, that I remember even Lord Kames, strangely prejudiced as he was against Dr. Johnson, was compelled to allow it very high praise. It has been ascribed to Mr. Garrick, from its appearing at first with the signature G; but I have heard Mr. Garrick declare, that it was written by Dr. Johnson, and give the following account of the manner in which it was composed.
Johnson and he were sitting together; when, amongst other things, Garrick repeated an Epitaph upon this Philips by a Dr. Wilkes, in these words:
'Exalted soul! whose harmony could please
The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease;
Could jarring discord, like Amphion, move
To beauteous order and harmonious love;
Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise,
And meet thy blessed Saviour in the skies.'
Johnson shook his head at these common-place funereal lines, and said to Garrick, 'I think, Davy, I can make a better.' Then, stirring about his tea for a little while, in a state of meditation, he almost extempore produced the following verses:
'Philips, whose touch harmonious could remove
The pangs of guilty power or hapless love;
Rest here, distress'd by poverty no more,
Here find that calm thou gav'st so oft before;
Sleep, undisturb'd, within this peaceful shrine,
Till angels wake thee with a note like thine!'
He this year, and the two following, wrote the Parliamentary Debates. He told me himself, that he was the sole composer of them for those three years only. He was not, however, precisely exact in his statement, which he mentioned from hasty recollection; for it is sufficiently evident, that his composition of them began November 19, 1740, and ended February 23, 1742-3.
This year I find that his tragedy of Irene had been for some time ready for the stage, and that his necessities made him desirous of getting as much as he could for it, without delay; for there is the following letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, in the same volume of manuscripts in the British Museum, from which I copied those above quoted. They were most obligingly pointed out to me by Sir William Musgrave, one of the Curators of that noble repository.
'Sept. 9, 1741.
'I have put Mr. Johnson's play into Mr. Gray's hands, in order to sell it to him, if he is inclined to buy it; but I doubt whether he will or not. He would dispose of the copy, and whatever advantage may be made by acting it. Would your society, or any gentleman, or body of men that you know, take such a bargain? He and I are very unfit to deal with theatrical persons. Fleetwood was to have acted it last season, but Johnson's diffidence or —— prevented it.'
I have already mentioned that Irene was not brought into publick notice till Garrick was manager of Drury-lane theatre.
(To be continued, as young Sam Johnson contnues his long uncomplaining march out of obscurity and into the Pantheon.)
From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Associate Professor of Comparative Theodicies, Olney Community College; author of Grand Inquisitor: The Life and Times of Tomás de Torquemada; Olney Community College Press.
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HE was abbot of Glastenbury, but resigning that dignity, came to the little monastery of Riculf, or Riculver, near the isle of Thanet in Kent, that he might improve himself in the study of the holy scriptures, in the neighbourhood of Saint Theodorus; after whose death he was promoted to the see of Canterbury, in 692, in which he sat thirty-seven years and six months, a living rule of perfection to this church.
He died in 731.
St. Felan, or Foelan, Abbot in Ireland
HIS name is famous in the ancient Scottish and Irish Calendars. The example and instructions of his pious parents, Feriach and St. Kentigerna, inspired him from the cradle with the most ardent love of virtue. In his youth, despising the flattering worldly advantages to which high birth and a great fortune entitled him, he received the monastic habit from a holy abbot named Mundus, and passed many years in a cell at some distance from the monastery, not far from St. Andrew’s. He was by compulsion drawn from this close solitude, being chosen abbot. His sanctity in this public station shone forth with a bright light. After some years, he resigned this charge, and retired to his uncle Congan, brother to his mother, in a place called Siracht, a mountainous part of Glendarchy, now in Fifeshire, where, with the assistance of seven others, he built a church, near which he served God for several years. God glorified him by a wonderful gift of miracles, and called him to the reward of his labours on the 9th of January, in the seventh century. He was buried in Straphilline, and his relics were long preserved there with honour.
The Scottish historians attribute to the intercession of St. Felan a memorable victory obtained by king Robert Bruce, in 1314, over a numerous army of English, at Bannocburn, not far from Sterling, in the reign of Edward II of England, who narrowly escaped, being obliged to pass the Tweed in a boat with one only companion.
St. Adrian, Abbot at Canterbury
DIVINE Providence conducted this holy man to Britain, in order to make him an instructor of innumerable saints. Adrian was an African by birth, and was abbot of Nerida, not far from Naples, when Pope Vitalian, upon the death of St. Deusdedit the archbishop of Canterbury, judged him, for his skill in sacred learning, and experience in the paths of true interior virtue, to be of all others the most proper person to be the doctor of a nation, zealous in the pursuit of virtue; but as yet ignorant in the sciences, and in the canons of the church. The humble servant of God found means to decline that dignity, by recommending St. Theodorus as most capable, but refused not to share in the laborious part of the ministry. The pope therefore, enjoined him to be the companion, assistant, and adviser of the apostolic archbishop, which charge Adrian willingly took upon himself.
St. Theodorus established him abbot of the monastery of SS. Peter and Paul, afterward called St. Austin, near Canterbury, where he taught the learned languages and the sciences, and principally the precepts and maxims of our divine religion. He had illustrated this island by his heavenly doctrine, and the bright example of his virtues, for the space of thirty-nine years, when he departed to our Lord on the 9th of January, in the year 710.
His tomb was famed for miracles, as we are assured by Jocelin the Monk, quoted by William of Malmesbury and Capgrave; and his name is inserted in the English calendars.
St. Vaneng, Confessor
FROM various fragments of ancient histories of his life, the most modern of which was compiled in the twelfth century, it appears that Vaneng was made by Clotaire III governor of that part of Neustria, or Normandy, which was anciently inhabited by the Caletes, and is called Pais de Caux, at which time he took great pleasure in hunting.
Nevertheless, he was very pious, and particularly devout to St. Eulalia of Barcelona, called in Guienne St. Aulaire. One night he seemed in a dream to hear that holy Virgin and Martyr repeat to him those words of our blessed Redeemer in the gospel, that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to be saved.”
Soon after this, he quitted the world, assisted St. Vandrille in building the churches of SS. Peter and Paul at Fontenelles, and founded in the valley of Fécam a church in honour of the holy Trinity, with a great nunnery adjoining, under the direction of St. Owen and St. Vandrille. Hildemarca, a very virtuous nun, was called from Bourdeaux, and appointed the first abbess.
Under her three hundred and sixty nuns served God in this house, and were divided into as many choirs as were sufficient, by succeeding one another, to continue the divine office night and day without interruption. St. Vaneng died about the year 688, and is honoured, in the Gallican and Benedictine Martyrologies, on the 9th of January; but at St. Vandrille’s and in other monasteries in Normandy, on the 31st of January.
"Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Qual. Lit, Assistant Mah Jongg Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Burgled Butcher, the Olney Community College Press.
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About this time he made one other effort to emancipate himself from the drudgery of authourship. He applied to Dr. Adams, to consult Dr. Smalbroke of the Commons, whether a person might be permitted to practice as an advocate there, without a doctor's degree in Civil Law.
'I am (said he) a total stranger to these studies; but whatever is a profession, and maintains numbers, must be within the reach of common abilities, and some degree of industry.'
Dr. Adams was much pleased with Johnson's design to employ his talents in that manner, being confident he would have attained to great eminence. And, indeed, I cannot conceive a man better qualified to make a distinguished figure as a lawyer; for, he would have brought to his profession a rich store of various knowledge, an uncommon acuteness, and a command of language, in which few could have equalled, and none have surpassed him.
He who could display eloquence and wit upon the unconstitutional taxation of our fellow-subjects in America, must have been a powerful advocate in any cause.
But here, also, the want of a degree was an insurmountable bar.
He was, therefore, under the necessity of persevering in that course, into which he had been forced; and we find, that his proposal from Greenwich to Mr. Cave, for a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History, was accepted. Some sheets of this translation were printed off, but the design was dropt; for it happened, oddly enough, that another person of the name of Samuel Johnson, Librarian of St. Martin's in the Fields, and Curate of that parish, engaged in the same undertaking, and was patronised by the Clergy, particularly by Dr. Pearce, afterwards Bishop of Rochester.
Several light skirmishes passed between the rival translators, in the newspapers of the day; and the consequence was, that they destroyed each other, for neither of them went on with the work. It is much to be regretted, that the able performance of that celebrated genius FRA PAOLO, lost the advantage of being incorporated into British literature by the masterly hand of Johnson.
In 1739, beside the assistance which he gave to the Parliamentary Debates, his writings in the Gentleman's Magazine were, 'The Life of Boerhaave,’ in which it is to be observed, that he discovers that love of chymistry which never forsook him; 'An Appeal to the publick in behalf of the Editor;''An Address to the Reader;’ 'An Epigram both in Greek and Latin to Eliza,'and also English verses to her; and, 'A Greek Epigram to Dr. Birch.'
His separate publications were, 'A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Authour of Gustavus Vasa,'being an ironical Attack upon them for their Suppression of that Tragedy; and, 'Marmor Norfolciense; or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by PROBUS BRITANNICUS.'
As Mr. Pope's note concerning Johnson, alluded to in a former page, refers both to his London, and his Marmor Norfolciense, I have deferred inserting it till now. I am indebted for it to Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who permitted me to copy it from the original in his possession. I have transcribed it with minute exactness, that the peculiar mode of writing, and imperfect spelling of that celebrated poet, may be exhibited to the curious in literature.
It justifies Swift's epithet of 'paper-sparing Pope' for it is written on a slip no larger than a common message-card, and was sent to Mr. Richardson, along with the Imitation of Juvenal.
'This is imitated by one Johnson who put in for a Publick-school in Shropshire, but was disappointed. He has an infirmity of the convulsive kind, that attacks him sometimes, so as to make him a sad Spectacle. Mr. P. from the Merit of this Work which was all the knowledge he had of him endeavour'd to serve him without his own application; & wrote to my Ld gore, but he did not succeed. Mr. Johnson published afterwards another Poem in Latin with Notes the whole very Humerous call'd the Norfolk Prophecy.'
The infirmity to which Mr. Pope alludes, appeared to me also, as I have elsewhere observed, to be of the convulsive kind, and of the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, however, was of a different opinion, and favoured me with the following paper.
'Those motions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improperly called convulsions. He could sit motionless, when he was told so to do, as well as any other man; my opinion is that it proceeded from a habit which he had indulged himself in, of accompanying his thoughts with certain untoward actions, and those actions always appeared to me as if they were meant to reprobate some part of his past conduct. Whenever he was not engaged in conversation, such thoughts were sure to rush into his mind; and, for this reason, any company, any employment whatever, he preferred to being alone. The great business of his life (he said) was to escape from himself; this disposition he considered as the disease of his mind, which nothing cured but company.
'One instance of his absence and particularity, as it is characteristick of the man, may be worth relating. When he and I took a journey together into the West, we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire; the conversation turning upon pictures, which Johnson could not well see, he retired to a corner of the room, stretching out his right leg as far as he could reach before him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching his right still further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to him, and in a very courteous manner assured him, that though it was not a new house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The Doctor started from his reverie, like a person waked out of his sleep, but spoke not a word.'
(To be continued, unless our government grant is discontinued.)
From Rev. Alban Butler’s The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints; edited by Dan Leo, Assistant Professor of Theology, Olney Community College; author of Famous Heretics: A Biographical Dictionary; Olney Community College Press.
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Imprimatur: Fulton J. Sheen, Titular Archbishop of Neoportus.
SHE was sister to St. Guthlack, the famous hermit of Croyland, and though of the royal blood of the Mercian kings, forsook the world, and led an austere retired life in the country which afterwards bore her name, in Northamptonshire, at a distance from her holy brother.
Some time after his death she went to Rome, and there slept in the Lord, about the year 719.
Ordericus Vitalis says, her relics were honoured with miracles, and kept in a church which bore her name at Rome; but this church is not now known. From one in Northamptonshire, a village still retains the name of Peagkirk, vulgarly Pequirk; she was also titular saint of a church and monastery in Pegeland, which St. Edward the Confessor united to Croyland. She is called St. Pee in Northamptonshire, and St. Pege at Croyland.
St. Gudula, Virgin, Patroness of Brussels
ST. AMALBERGE, mother of this saint, was niece to Pepin mayor of the palace. Gudula was educated at Nivelle, under the care of St. Gertrude, her cousin and god-mother; after whose death, in 664, she returned to the house of count Witger, her father, and having by vow consecrated her virginity to God, led there a most austere holy life, in watching, fasting, and prayer.
By her profuse alms, in which she bestowed her whole revenue on the poor, she was truly the mother of all the distressed; though her father’s castle was two miles from the church of our Saviour at Morzelle, she went thither early every morning, with a maid to carry a lantern before her; and the wax taper being once put out, is said to have miraculously lighted again at her prayers, whence she is usually represented in pictures with a lantern.
She died on the 8th of January, not in 670, as Miræus says, but in 712, and was buried at Ham, near Villevord.
St. Marciana, Virgin and Martyr
SHE was a native of Rusuccur in Mauritania, and courageously despising all worldly advantages, to secure to herself the possession of the precious jewel of heavenly grace, she was called to the trial in the persecution of Dioclesian, which was continued in Africa under his successors, till the death of Severus, who was declared Cæsar in 305, and slain in 309.
St. Marciana was beaten with clubs, and her chastity exposed to the rude attempts of Pagan gladiators, in which danger God miraculously preserved her, and she became the happy instrument of the conversion of one of them to the faith:
at length she was torn in pieces by a wild bull and a leopard, in the amphitheatre at Cæsarea in Mauritania.