Champions of Catholic Orthodoxy

Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor († 1555, Feast—September 22)

Saint Thomas of Villanova In 1517 a cruel blow fell upon the great Augustinian family; Martin Luther, one of its members, raised the cry of revolt which was to be echoed for centuries by every passion. But the illustrious Order, which had unwittingly nurtured this child of evil, was none the less acceptable to God; and He deigned, before long, to demonstrate this, for the consolation of institutes whose very excellence exposes unworthy subjects to more dangerous falls. It was at the First Vespers of All Saints that Luther broached, at Wittenburg, his famous theses against indulgences and the authority of the Roman Pontiff; within a month, on November 25 of the same year, St. Thomas of Villanova pronounced his vows at Salamanca, and filled up the place left vacant by the heresiarch. Amid the storms of social disorder, and the noise of the world's disturbances, the glory rendered by one Saint to the ever-tranquil Trinity, outweighs all the insults and blasphemies of Hell.

Let us bear all this in mind as we read the following Lessons from the Roman Breviary:

St. Thomas was born at Fuenllana, a town in the diocese of Toledo in Spain, in the year of Our Lord 1488. From his earliest youth, his excellent parents instilled into him piety and extraordinary charity to the poor. Of this virtue he gave, while still a child, many proofs, among the most remarkable of which was his more than once taking off his own garments to clothe the naked. As a youth, he was sent to Alcala to study humanities in the great college of St. Ildephonsus. He was recalled home by the death of his father; whereupon he devoted his whole fortune to the support of destitute virgins, and then returned to Alcala. Having completed his course of theology, he was promoted for his eminent learning to a chair in the University, and taught philosophy and theology with wonderful success. Meanwhile he besought God, with assiduous prayers, to teach him the science of the Saints, and a virtuous rule of life and conduct. He was therefore divinely inspired to embrace the Institute of the Hermits of St. Augustine.

St. Thomas of Villanova After his profession, he excelled in all virtues which should adorn a religious man: humility, patience, continency; but he was especially remarkable for ardent charity. In the midst of his many and varied labors, his unconquered spirit was ever intent on prayer and meditation of divine things. On account of his reputation for learning and holiness, he was commanded to undertake the duty of preaching, and, by the assistance of heavenly grace, he led countless souls from the mire of vice to the way of salvation. In the government of the brethren, to which he was next appointed, he so united prudence, equity, and sweetness to zeal and severity, that in many places he restored or confirmed the ancient discipline of his Order.

When elected to the archbishopric of Granada, he rejected that high dignity with wonderful firmness and humility. But not long after, he was obliged by his superiors to undertake the government of the Church of Valencia, which he ruled for about eleven years as a most holy and vigilant pastor. He changed nothing of his former manner of life; but gave free scope to his insatiable charity, and distributed the rich revenues of his church among the needy, keeping not so much as a bed for himself. For the bed on which he was lying, when called to Heaven, was lent to him by the person to whom he had shortly before given it in alms. He fell asleep in Our Lord on the sixth of the Ides of September (Sept. 8), at the age of 68. God was pleased to bear witness to His servant's holiness by miracles both during life and after death. A barn which was almost empty, the grain having been distributed to the poor, was by his intercession suddenly filled; and a dead child was restored to life at his tomb. These and many other miracles having rendered his name illustrious, Pope Alexander VII enrolled him among the Saints, and commanded his Feast to be celebrated on the fourteenth of the Kalends of October (Sept. 18; later transferred to Sept. 22).

Thy name, as well as thy justice, shall remain forever, O St. Thomas, because thou hast distributed and given to the poor (Ps. 111:9); all the church of the saints shall declare thy alms (Ecclus. 31:11). Teach us to show mercy to our brethren, so that, by thy prayers, we may obtain for ourselves the mercy of God. Thou hast great power with the Queen of Heaven, whose praises thou didst love to celebrate, and whose birthday on earth was thy birthday in Heaven. Give us an ever increasing knowledge of Her, and an ever growing love. May the preachers of the true Faith throughout the world profit by the writings thou has fortunately left us—monuments of that eloquence which made thee the oracle of princes, the light of the poor, and the mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost (Pope Alexander VII, Bull of Canonization). Martyrdom of the Theban Legion

The Same Day—Saint Maurice and the Martyrs of the Theban Legion

"At Sion in Valais (a canton of Switzerland), at a place called Aguanum (now called Saint-Maurice), the birthday of the holy martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Vitalis, with their companions of the Theban Legion, who were massacred under Maximian for the name of Christ, and filled the whole world with the renown of their martyrdom" (Roman Martyrology—Sept. 22). Let us unite with Rome in paying honor to these valiant soldiers, the glorious patrons of Christian armies as well as of numerous churches. "Emperor," said they, "we are thy soldiers, but we are also the servants of God. To Him we took our first oaths; if we break them, how canst thou trust us to keep our oaths to thee?" No command, no discipline can overrule our baptismal vows. Every soldier is bound, in honor and in conscience, to obey the Lord of Hosts in preference to all human commanders, who are but His subalterns. These Christian soldiers, who suffered in the third century, were commanded something against their Faith. When they refused, they were tried by the discipline known as decimation, that is—every tenth of their number was put to the sword. The rest were then given another opportunity to comply with the wicked order they had refused to obey. When these remained firm, the decimation was repeated. These slaughters continued until they had all suffered martyrdom.

However, a detachment of some fifty Christian soldiers of the same Theban Legion had been sent to Colonia Agrippina (Cologne, Germany) under the leadership of St. Gereon. There they too won the palm of martyrdom. They are greatly venerated in Cologne and the Rheinland.

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