CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY
21 WESTMINSTER BRIDGE ROAD SE
ART & BOOK COMPANY
22 PATERNOSTER ROW EC
GUGLIELMUS T. GORDON,
HERBERTUS CARDINALIS VAUGHAN,
Die 26 Jan., 1896.
FACSIMILE OF PRAYER
I. THE BEGINNING OF THE TURIN ORATORY
II. BLESSED SEBASTIAN’S CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH
III. EARLY DAYS IN THE ORATORY
IV. THE LITTLE ORATORY
V. PUBLIC INSTRUCTIONS
VI. IN THE PULPIT
VII. MASTER OF NOVICES
IX. HIS PERSONAL INFLUENCE IN THE CONGREGATION
X. BLESSED SEBASTIAN BEGINS TO HEAR CONFESSIONS
XI. SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION
XII. SPIRITUAL COUNSELS
XIII. SOME OF BLESSED SEBASTIAN'S PENITENTS
XIV. WITH THE SICK AND DYING
XV. SIN AND SINNERS
XVI. WORKS OF MERCY
XVII. SUPERNATURAL AID
XVIII. HOW BLESSED SEBASTIAN OCCUPIED HIS TIME
XIX. THE SPHERE OF HIS INFLUENCE
XX. VICTOR AMADEUS
XXI. THE ARCHBISHOPRIC OF TURIN
XXII. HOME AND FAMILY
XXIII. SPIRITUAL ANGUISH
XXIV . ITS EXPLANATION
XXVI. THE FIGHT AGAINST NATURE
XXVII. PURITY AND DETACHMENT
XXVIII. POVERTY AND SIMPLICITY
XXX. THE DEVICES OF HUMILITY
XXXI. PRAYER WITHOUT CEASING
XXXIII. ZEAL FOR THE FAITH
XXXIV. THE SIEGE OF TURIN
XXXV. LAST DAYS OF BLESSED SEBASTIAN
XXXVI. HIS HOLY DEATH
XXXVII. THE REWARD EXCEEDING GREAT
To understand the works of God, the Patriarch was bidden go back to their first beginning, “when the foundation of the earth was laid, when the morning stars praised me together, and the sons of God made joyful melody.” Then indeed was seen the Divine purpose of Creation unmarred and complete - each creature perfect in its kind - deep calling unto deep, as the waters found their limits, plants and creeping things, fishes, beasts, and birds, each according to their type, with their appropriate organs, powers, and actions, all fulfilling their purpose without growth or effort, but by a preconcerted accord. And over this many toned, full-voiced choir, man himself reigned supreme, and raised, in concert with the Angels, one vast Benedicite to God.
From harmony, from heavenly harmony.
This universal frame began.
From harmony to harmony
Through all the compass of its notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.
- ODE TO S. CECILIA. Dryden.
Now this canticle of creation was more than nature’s praise of its author. As the reflection of His attributes in a perfectly ordained whole, it was the expression of the supernatural harmony of man’s inner being, through its higher union with God. By the grace of original justice he was not only a perfect man, but the adopted child of God, the partaker of the Divine nature, and heir of Heaven; his body and its lower appetites and passions were perfectly subjected to his reason, and his reason to grace. And from the perfect subordination of his own nature to God followed congruously the perfect subordination of the lower creatures to himself. In this blessed state his soul was adorned with all the infused virtues, theological and moral, and the gifts of the holy Spirit. He knew not the pains of hunger and thirst, and was exempt from sorrow and suffering, the strife of passion, the languor of sickness, the throes of death. As head of the human race, he possessed, not by toil and study, but from the first and by Divine gift, the fulness of knowledge, natural and supernatural, that he might instruct and govern his posterity and guide them to their inheritance in God. The grace of this primal state was conferred by God on man’s nature, not as in any sense due to it, but from the singular love of the Creator for the work of his hands; and as that nature was free from guilt, it fully and completely without check or restraint, corresponded to the Divine touch, and thus was evoked a perfect melody from an instrument perfectly attuned.
Too soon, however, was that melody silenced the key note of the theme spoke false, the grace of innocence was lost, the song of creation was heard no more, and to praise and joy succeeded lamentation and woe. Nevertheless, fallen man is still bidden to rejoice, “gaudete dico semper et iterum dico gaudete,” for he has recovered, through Christ, his supernatural end, Beatitude with God, and by the means employed when he was first created, sanctifying grace. The two states, however, differ, and in divers respects. In the first state the race conferred was the grace of God the Creator freely bestowed without cost on God's part on unfallen human nature, and its end was the supernatural image of God to be manifested in man glorified. In the second state the grace conferred is that of Christ Redeemer, purchased only by His Precious Blood, and its subject is each individual fallen man who has now to attain to perfection by humiliation and penance. The image to which man is now to be conformed is again that of Christ the Redeemer, and the end of nature redeemed is Christ Himself, to Whose glory all things are referred.
Now the perfection of nature and grace, which were essentially united in Him, are mirrored proportionately in the souls of His chosen servants, and their lives explain many otherwise insoluble problems. The present condition of human nature our relation to God as our final end grace, its operations and modes; free-will, its nature and extent; the true purpose of sorrow and trial, are found experimentally manifested in a saint's journey to God, in his trial and his crown. To the eye of Faith there can be no record of human life so supernatural yet so instructive, so humbling yet so inspiring, as the history of their probation. God’s chosen servants are, says St. Augustine, His psaltery and harp, and they sound His praises amidst the dill and discord of sin. “Laudate Dominum in Psalterio et Cithara. Laudate Dominum in Sanctis ejus.”
The Saint’s starting-point is from Our common fallen nature. His body is subject to the fever of concupiscence, the insurgency of rebellious passion his mind is clouded with ignorance; his will is weak and unstable. Though regenerate, he still bears in him all the secondary effects of the fall, and the wonder of redemption consists specially in the change, not by the metamorphosis of magic, but by the co-operation of the free will with grace of one at least potentially a sinner into a Saint, what was vilest becomes Divine. The means by which this change is effected is charity; the supreme love of God for this own sake. For charity alone effects that union with God, to which the other Commandments tend. Charity embraces all the other virtues, and implies their observance, for the pure love of God can only exist where the will of the creature is perfectly conformed to His. “Salvation,” it is said, “is shown to faith, prepared for hope, but given to charity.” Hence, by one act of charity the soul, laden with sin, is at once raised and united to its last end. Without charity, for the same reason, there can be no meritorious virtue, because the only true motive of a meritorious action is wanting. Thus a man may be honest, chaste, truthful, temperate, kind, he may, as St. Paul says, “give his goods to the poor and his body to be burnt, but without charity it profiteth him nothing.”
Now the subject of charity is the rational will, and that will is always free - that is, man can always choose the means proper to his end. Nor do grace or charity in any way impair that freedom. The will is exempt not only from external co-action, but also from any internal necessity arising from feeling or motive however imperative. Now this distinction, though all-important, is often ignored. The brutes have consciousness and desire, and an imperfect knowledge of their end, and they pursue that end, not by deliberation or choice of the means adapted thereto, but by the determination of their instinct. Hence, their action admits of no progress. Man, on the other hand, has always the power of choice. His intellect, being in a manner infinite, he seeks as his end an infinite good; and as all the goods presented to him in this life are finite, he may choose this or that, and no created object, however near or attractive, can of itself determine his choice. Thus he is causa sui - his own cause, having dominion and disposal of his own acts and future, and being subject to none but God. And God Himself remains hidden. He is known only by reason as a cause from its effects, and by the revelation of faith, which is essentially obscure. The vision of God, if granted in this life, is vouchsafed only as a transient glimpse, never as a permanent habit. Thus the power of sinning, that is, of choosing something not God, remains in the soul to the last moment of its probation. Only in Heaven, where God is seen face to face, does the will necessarily adhere to Him. Yet with grace man is always free not to sin, and thus free will remains his highest gift, his crown and sceptre, for his whole character, moral development, final perfection, depend upon its use. The existence of the gift has, however, been at all times denied, because of the supreme fact of human responsibility involved in its admission. Thus the Stoics attributed the decision of human acts to fate; the Manichoeans to the two-fold principle present in man, and necessarily determining him to either side; Calvinists and the Reformers to the insuperable force of grace for good, or of fallen nature for evil; Kant and modern necessitarians to the strongest motive presented at the moment, its strength depending, not on our choice and reflection, but on heredity, character, and circumstances over which we have no control. Against all this false teaching the Saint’s voluntary fight with evil and final triumph are a standing protest. But he has to fight inch by inch cum carne, cum demone, et cum Deo; and the history of his conflict shows that the will, unaided by grace, would be powerless to attain its end. For the love of God super omnia, in which charity essentially consists, is above the whole order of nature, and exceeds man’s natural powers as reason does the nature of a brute. It is a communication of eternal Beatitude acquired by no human merit, but infused by the Holy Ghost, Himself the consubstantial Love of Father and Son. Nor again, can any natural gifts, however perfect in themselves, or perfectly developed, prepare even remotely for the reception of this supernatural grace. On the other hand, a poor old woman, who can neither read nor write, can, by the aid of grace alone, love God more than the most learned doctor, as St. Bonaventura announced to Brother Giles. Thus modern Pelagianism is at once refuted, and its teachings of man’s natural perfectibility, and of self-reliance, self-trust, self-help, with merely secular knowledge, and the strength of the natural will, as the means of attaining thereto, are seen in their falseness. History indeed confirms the teachings of faith as to the narrow limits of man’s natural wisdom or virtue. The sages of the Pagan world, though masters in the principles of reason and the laws of thought, were hopelessly in doubt as to the nature of God, the immortality of the soul, and the purpose of human life. What truths they knew were so obscured and perverted as to shed no light in the prevailing darkness. As to morality, their deities were merely human heroes stained with every vice, and Plato, the purest of the old world philosophers, admitted in his ethical system doctrines which, by the light of Christianity, are seen to he abominably corrupt. True, the post-Christian teachers speak in a higher strain but, apart from the ideas borrowed from Christianity, which form indeed all that is best in their writings, what lessons do Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius teach? A narrow egoism, a gloomy fatalism, an all-absorbing Pantheism, are all the residuum that remains. The Saint, on the other hand, rises above himself by no natural effort, but by the love of God, super omnia, the resultant of charity alone.
Again, what light is thrown on the nature of God Himself by the Divine operations manifested in the development of a Saint. According to a late scientific “ theory, the same doctrine of necessity is applied to the creative action as to the human will. From the primordial atoms, dead, inert, motionless, without purpose or design, the whole fabric of the universe and all vegetable, sentient, and intellectual life, from the grain of sand to the human mind, have been by some blind, mechanical impulse, variously described but wholly unexplained, necessarily developed. And this sense less, material force will persevere ruthlessly and intinuously making and unmaking, building up and pulling down, generating and slaving, till the primal chaos is re—produced and the eternal wheel of Fate enters on another cycle. Thus God, if I 1k existence be in name admitted, 1S lid) more than a first Iiio\’er, or till/il/ti mlf,l1~, differentiated and determined by things beyond His control. Now from this confused, bewildering’, pessimistic nightmare, with its imaginary cycles, impossible genealogies, causeless entities, and i nipotcnt Deity, let us turn to) the teachings of faith. God is in all things as the cause of their being, their power, their action, and so necessarily that without Him they would cease to) be. But He is present in a far more intimate, sublime, and personal manner in the soul of a Saint. By the gift of sanctifying grace the three Divine Persons begin to exist in the soul in a new way, so that besides the union of the will with God through charity, the Father, Sun, and Spirit are themselves substantially pro’semlt. This mode of presence is called the invisible mission of the Divine Persons. The Father gives Himself and the Son and the Holy Spirit are sent to the justified soul. Thus the Holy Trinity dwell in it as in a Temple, where God holds loving converse with H is chosen one as friend with friend. ~\n(l when we realise that this Divine visitation occurs anew with every inc’r(~ts(~ of’ sanctifying grace in the soul, can w’-’ wonder at their vivid apprehension of God’s presence and perfections, or that they live as unconscious of the world as the world is of God Their detachment and purity, amidst surrounding iniquity, witness indeed unmistakably to) the freedom, might, and intimacy of the workings of the Spirit. Again the kingdom of grace, like that of nature, exhibits the unity and variety of the Divine operations. The essential sanctity of the Saints is one, hut variously manifested in each individual soul. “There are diversities of grace, hut the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, but the same I ~ordl ; and diversities of operations, but the same God, Who worketh all in all. I. Corinth., xii., 4. This diversity in grace or nature arises from God's attribute of infinity. The Divine Perfections, being infinite in themselves, may be indefinitely re produced without. God is therefore absolutely free in His choice of creatures, and in the gifts, natural or supernatural, bestowed on them. He might have created a better world than this, or a more perfect order of beings, but not for this particular end. Audi what lie does choose, lie chooses from eternity, and i-us choice is unchangeable. Again, in His infinite intelligence, things are present not only generically, or in globo, but each in their kind, species, and individual existence, with every detail of their being and their mode of acquiring perfection. “He fixed singly the heart of every one of them;“ “He has called them each by name,’ and “numbered the hairs of their head. Now the Saints know this, and in their vocation they see that specific form or manner of supernatural life by which they are to attain perfection. Each considers not what is best in itself, hut what is best for him, because of the Divine Will. Perfection is measured by charity, and it varies both in degree and kind. The highest degree is to love God objectively as much as He is loveable. ‘fhis evidently is possible only i~)r ~in infinite nature, and therefore only for (~-odl Himself ; hence lie alone is absolutely perfect. ~o love God as much as the creature can love him ; that is, always actually to be united to 1-i mi with its whole strength, is possible, as has been said, only in Heaven, where lie is seen face to face. lo love God more than all else is possible in this life, and indeed is of obligation in so far as it excludes mortal sin or the love of any creature as much or more than Him. But further, perfect love of God in this life excludes not only what is PP°~~d to the habit of charity or the state of race, but every impediment to the actual exercise ~f that virtue. From the above distinction it is evident that the religious state is of itself the most perfect, for by the three vows ~ poverty, chastity, and obedience the three great impediments to the exercise of charity, riches, human affections, and self-will are perm~tnc’iitiy removed. A religious is bound to God by his state; he lives externally in a condition of voluntary servitude, from which he cannot free himself. Again, of the two kinds of religious life, the contemplative and the active, the former is in itself the more I)erfe(~t, fbr herein the highest faculty is always and immediately exercised on the highest object, the contemplation of the eternal truth : and thus such a state most closely resembi t~ the condition of the Blessed in Heaven, who ever gaze on the vision unveiled. ~“ (7t/utiu, stiuictu II, qu/er// 1//(ir/f(Lv ~l’l/u/ld,’ says S~. Augustine. ‘\et though the state of the contemplative religious is in itself most perfect, the call to perfection does not necessarily mean a call to religion or to contemplation. Souls may be called to the highest perfection without religious vows in the active ministry, in the married state, or in any lawful walk of life. “. I /iuis s/i it i/uufs s/i.’ But all who are so called, \\‘hatever their state, must love God with that degree of charity which, beyond the observance of the precepts, voluntarily contemns and rejects every created thing in the least an obstacle to that love.
Now the manner of life set forth in the following pages is that of the oratory of St. Philip Neri. The members of this Institute live in community, under obedience, hut without vows. This is its peculiarity. Almost all the Saints, contemporaries of St. Philip, founded or reformed religious orders:- St. Cajetan, the Theatine Clerks Regular; St. Ignatius, the Society of Jesus; St. John of God, the Hospitallers; St. Peter of Alcantara, the Observantines; St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa, the discalced Carmelites; St. Francis Caracciolo, his Clerks Regular ; St. Joseph of Calasanctius, the Pious Schools; St. Camillus of Lellis, the Servants of the Sick; St. Ursula Benincasa, the Theatine _\uns; B. John J~ei)flardi the Congregation of the Mother of God. Yet though St. Philip greatly reverenced the ros state, persuaded many of his penitents to adopt it, and counted many of these Saints among his closest friends, he did not choose this state for his Sons. He considered freedom from vows of the very essence of his Institute, and he laid down that if ever the Congregation were divided on this principle, and a majority wished to introduce vows of ally kind, the minority which adhered to the Rule should be recognized as the true Oratory, with all the authority and rights of any kind pertaining to the Congregation.
To the Oratory then B. Sebastian was called, and the manner of his vocation illustrates of itself the freedom, individuality, and spontaneity of Divine grace. lie had never seen St. Philip, who had already passed to heaven some sixty years before Sebastian’s birth ; nor had he ever seen an Oratory properly constituted and in full operation. - And this seemed an almost insuperable obstacle, for this mode of life, as the constitution says, is rather “ learnt by custom than enforced by law.’’ The rules therefore are few, and it is tradition which interprets them, and speaks where they are silent. Thus the vitality of the Congregation of the Oratory depends on the vigour, purity, and observance of its traditions or customs. How, then, without living examples, was this unwritten tradition to be learnt Again, another peculiarity of the Oratory is that each community is absolutely separate and independent ; hence the B. Sebastian could not borrow members from any existing Congregation to assist in laying the new foundation. St. Philip’s teaching on this point was explicit. Each house must perish of its on-li weakness if it cannot live by its own vitality.
Yet the servant of God found means to accomplish his task. First, he obtained all possible information on matters of the Rule from the Roman House as the source and guardian of the traditions of the Oratory. Secondly, he gave himself unreservedly to St. Philip. Now devotion to a Saint, as he understood it, does not mean merely invoking his aid or studying his life, but the transfer of himself, body and soul, to his patron’s keeping and guidance. And though he found St. Philip, as Baronius did, a hard and even, it seemed at times, a tyrannical task-master, yet he found also that the success of his work, and the progress of his own sanctification, were in proportion to his fidelity to the Saint. His ideal of the Saint, and his reproduction of it in his own individual life, were indeed so complete that though their characters were by nature wholly diverse, the original and the copy became, even in outward semblance, as Father and Son.
The formation of a Saint in every school of sanctity means, as has been said, the re-making and the re-modelling of the old Adam, body and soul, in the image of Jesus Christ. I-hence, though the individual be not a religious, and thus bound to tend to perfection because of his state, he is yet bound to strive for perfection in his state, and to exercise voluntarily the practice of the Evangelical counsels. He must, though he possesses property, have no attachment to it. He must cut off superfluities, supply sparingly his necessities, and. be content, if necessary, to suffer want. That B. Sebastian understood this may be seen from the manner of his bodily life. his dwelling place, though not a cell, was not wholly dissimilar there from. It consisted of a small room, windows with paper for glass, no fire, one small table, two feet and a half long, and two chairs, with a chest for his clothes. He wore a heavy, ill-fitting hat, an old cloak, a patched cassock, shoes heavy and porous, and socks Sc) torn that, on returning drenched from his labours, he dare not remove his shoes because of the holes they concealed. In his longest missionary days he would never take food or drink between his meals, and even then he scarcely tasted food. What with his anxieties, pain, and sufferings, his instruments of penance, his hair shirt, and iron crosses, and prolonged prayer, a good night's rest was unknown to him, and he said once, in a state of extreme exhaustion, that but two hours sleep would restore his health.
Thus he was exercised in tile first step on the upward road, the mortification of the outward man. The next is the purification of the soul within from the gratification to be found in the satisfaction of human affection, merely natural desires, the applause of men, or the consciousness of success. This is especially needed in the case of those who are called to labour for others, and are therefore immersed in external works. The confessional, the pulpit, the lecture room, the homes of his penitents, recalled to B. Sebastian no grateful experiences ((f good works completed, but bitter memories of incessant iii tenor conflict and of failure due, as he thought, to his own incapacity and defects. Again, in his Community life, the support and joy of “dwelling together in unity are sweet, says St. Augustine, as charity is sweet for charity is the bond of this life, and eternal Beatitude the end. No record of human friendship can compare in pathos to the love treasured up in the annals of a Religious house of a brother for his brother il-i God. This mutual love has alone knit together the most prolific, vigorous, united, and 1 ong—hivedl families that the world has ever seen, and has begotten a happiness unknown in any other state. “ Q,iii fei/f lrnbu/t,ri iji doiu,o /n(/trcm /1//or//rn itt/au/tm’~ is veribed afresh in every new religious Community. \et natural peculiarities still remain, an~I B. Sebastian found in his Community many trials and much wearing opposition. There was one member especially to whom lie felt So bitter an aversion that only in the obligation of a vow did he find the strength needled for the exchange of the usual courtesies in their daily life. This aversion was as a thorn in his flesh, to be Wrestled with continuously for eighteen long years. Community life, then, with its Contradictions, disappointments, humiliations, was to him a ‘‘soft file always rasping his inner susceptibilities, a ‘‘ slow fever, with its various incompatible calls ever consuming his natural strength.
The third purification of the soul is effected by the loss or withdrawal of it11 consolation in Divi in things. fhis is of course the most severe trial, yet it is needled to prepare the soul for union with God. I~ or first, the very sorrow increases its desire, and therewith its capacity of possessing the one eternal Good, according to the words “that, qiii i,i~o-iii/ quo/i/dill 1J5S/ io/iso/a/uh/i//fr. Again, the soul in its dereliction acquires a conviction of its own nothingness unattainable by other means. “ I am brought to nothing,” sas the Psalmist, when searched to the depths by this trial, “a/u/ / km-ti // uo/.” Thirdly, this suffering, voluntarily borne, prepares the soul for its complete transformation into the Divine likeness. St. John of the Cross explains by the following simile how this is accomplished As wood under the action of material flame is blackened while it is being dried, and the moisture and impurities are expelled, till it is finally set on hre and glows and shines with the very brightness of the transforming flame, so does the soul appear black and obscure, as the hiddlen roots of its defects and impurities are exposed and expelled h~- the fire of Divine love. thus a Saint conceives himself a loathsome Object, and loathsome to God as his purification advances, till the inmost substance is searched b the Penetrating flame, and prepared for the transforming union. (Dark Night, Ti., c.x.,~.
Such is the obscure night of the soul, as described by the seer of Carmel, and into this
darkness B. Sebastian was led by the Spirit of God, and the sufferings he experienced are perhaps unsurpassed even amidst the annals of the Saints. The notes of his
own spiritual state, intended only for his own eve, reveal how searching was the thrice heated furnace of his purification. His soul was wrung by anguish; he was, as it seemed to him, without hope of salvation, and no gleam of light pierced the obscurity. Other Saints have been cheered by the thought of temptations
Conquered. The old desert Father could say to the tempter of former years, who followed him to the desert,
and knocked at his cell door : Xhu sum ~u
I am not he whom you seek, I am now another man. - - B. Sebastian only saw his sins and demerits of the past increasing in gravity day by da. St. Philip, too, said that it was a bad sin if no sensible devotion was experienced oh great feasts ; and, indeed, he did his best to excite a holy joy by the care with which he invested the Liturgical solemnities with fitting pomp and splendour. B. Sebastian, as far as we can see, had no such experiences. Nor again could he find relief in human sympathy ; his sufferings were too individual, deep, subtle, and spiritual td) be understood save by his own heart. This friends, like those of Job, could only watch him in his desolation and misery from a distance and in silence.
How, then, did he pass through this sea of sorrow without being submerged therein? Only by heart felt adoration of the Divine Will. The Athanasian Creed, the glorious psalm “Qu/iuuqm-,” as- Cardinal Newman calls it, was his antiphon of praise, because as the expression of the highest mysteries of the Godhead, it is the creatures most fitting worship of the incomprehensibility of the Triune God. his prayer was as the Trisagion of the Seraphs before the throne, mute but complete.
Holy Mass was, however, his chief restorative. A victim of divine justice himself, he never offered the sacrifice of the adorable Lamb without feeling that he would willingly give his life for his Lord. It \vas the central action a mmcl the source of strength in his daily life. Lastly his soul was preserved by the fidelity of his observance. The rules of the Oratory were to him “the grappling bonds confederate that knit his heart to God.” and he clung to them as a drowning man clings to the hawser, his sole chance of safety. Thus, more than his sufferings he dreaded tepidity, and his notes shew at the importance he attached to the exact performance of every community duty. In his humility he dreaded expulsion as a punishment for his unfaithfulness. “I have need of the Congregation,” he said, “the Congregation has no need of me.” When eighty years of age, he would never undertake any public work or private devotion without the express leave of his Superiors, and this leave was not a mere form, but the occasion of hitter humiliation for him, as his life shows. All these trials he accepted without a murmur in humiliations there was no danger, in self-will there was. “ lie who walks in obedience,’ lie said, goes safely to Paradise.’
What, then, was the result when his purification was complete, and he reached the. summit of the narrow way A fire of divine love, wounding his soul to the quick amidst all these dark trials, and perfectly detaching him from creatures. The warmth, the force, the temper, and passion of this love were wholly supernatural, and solely the work of God entering into union with the spirit of his chosen servant. All the strength, faculties, and desires of his being were gathered up and attuned anew by the divine flame, so that there broke forth once more from the cords of a heart pulsating with contrition and love the song (if a new creature, the Magnificat of a soul renewed in grace. If God would have spared the guilty city for the sake of even ten just men, what a work of reparation, atonement and praise must be effected by the grace and charity in the soul of a saint.
This, then, was the effect within, and it explains his success without. The true apostle succeeds only so far as he is “home D’/,” and God has taken the place of self. his Voice must be, like the Baptist’s, T’(IX (-la//mi/f/s ill dis-i-fo ‘ and a desert from which the world, the flesh and the devil are wholly banished. This was so with B. Sebastian. Though he had no eloquence, and studiously avoided all rhetorical art; yet when he preached or spoke, his words pierced to the division of the soul and the marrow. A Paternoster from his lips \VOUICI move, it was said, to tears. in the palace, the prison, the hospital, the barracks, the market place, the taverns, the lowest haunts, the Outlying Alpine Villages, the Saint s call to penance was heard and Obeyed. How he accomplished his divine and incessant labour it is hard to see, save that he never turned aside, he never looked back, he never paused from fatigue or suffering -, and was neither checked by failure nor repelled by insult. “One thing he did day by (lay, for sixty long years in the same place, “forgetting all things that were behind, he pressed for\vard to) his mark,~’ and souls fblt his ~ and gathered in his wake. The force of divine love within, indeed, allowed him no rest, while there was one sinner to be converted or a sufferer in need of relief. \et there was nothing tempestuous or disordered in his zeal his impetuosity was divine and showed itself in a gentleness and sympathy, a courtesy and refinement of thought and manner, visible only where grace reigns supreme. The experiences of his own interior trials gave him a singular power in dealing with two classes of heretics then found in Savoy, the Calvinists and the Quietists. In both these forms ~f error the security of our salvation is purely subjective being based on feeling in the one case of time divine acceptance, and in the other of interior Uflid)fl with God. The Saint could tell both classes from his own knowledge, that feeling of itself is no index of the soul’s spiritual state. The Waldenses, dlO’t~tiIicdl in ‘I’urin after the war consequent on the revocation of the edict of Nantes in were also the object of his unwearied charity, both as regards their spiritual and temporal needs. ~\ nil it is curious to think that while Milton was composing his famous sonnet in favour of their liberation, and Cromwell was sending them messengers and subsidies to encourage them in their heresy, they mvere yet in nma11\~ cases abjuring their errors through the persuasions of the aged priest, ~vlw was daily amongst them as a father and friend. It is also gratifying to note that the Dutch Protestants sent a deputation to thank the Saint on behalf of their cii stressed brethren, though they were well aware of his efforts to convert them to the faith.
‘Xe have endeavoured so far to) mark some of the salient points in the Saint’s character. To know him he must be studied in the following pages. They are compiled, with the care and skill of which the authors name is a guarantee, from three principal sources. First, an anonymous biography of tiii’ Sai ut c mpiled fromim the Process of his Beatification and dedicated to Charles Emanuel, King of Sardinia ; Alexandro \‘imer cati, turin, m 743, 4 i ~ pp., 4t0. Secondly, The life of the Saint in the Oratorian Series, translated from the work dedicated to Gregory XVI., by G. Calleri, Priest of the Roman Oratory and Postulator of the Cause, Rome, Salviucci, ~ Thirdly, The life of the Saint by the Abate Paolo Capello, Marceili, Turin, 1872, 2 vols., 8vo. In the commendatory letter of Monsignor Castaldi, Archbishop of Turin, prefixed to this life, his Grace attributes in great part to the Saint and to the Oratory the excellent discipline still the characteristic of the Turin clergy, and proposes him as a model of ecclesiastical perfection.
Thus the saints live on, and the permanence and vitality of their works are a visible pledge of the blessed eternity now their unending reward. Viewed by the standards of the world, their lives are poor and unimportant, but to the eyes of faith these lives, with their hidden but potent virtue, are like the trees in winter, as St. Augustine says, a lironiise of the coming spring. No one but a catholic can therefore be in truth a saint’s biographer. A stranger to the Faith may admire and describe their philanthrop, spirit of sacrifice, and to a certain extent, as with St. Francis, their poetic beauty. But these are only the externals, the clothes and colouring ; the inner vital principle, that which makes the saint, is wholly the work of grace, and is visible only to those who understand its operations. For a similar reason the characteristics of any special school of sanctity are only learnt by experience. More especially is this so, when, as in the present case, there is nothing externally heroic t( mark a life. The inner value of commonplace actions daily repeated, the hidden wisdom and deep import of simple spiritual maxims from the nmuth of a founder, the reality of the sacrifice entailed in an apparently monotonous round of duties, the 5(’dr(’t unction and marvellous support, which unfailingly reward faithful observance, all this and much more are revealed ~nlv to th se, ~~-h have, to 5( ~me extent, been moulded in the system of which they t rm ~ Devotion to St. Philip then is needed to Un 1(-’rstan(l the Ii v of his s~ iis : and that this requirement is hot wanting in the compositi( )11 Of the thl I win pages ~vili be admitted, we think, by all qualified to judge. St. Augustine, when expounding the Gospel, sav~ that a cold heart could not understand his words; ‘‘ but give me he continues, “ ~ne who loves, and he will led what I sa. And so, proportionately, (if F~. Sebastian’s life w may conclude da amantem et intelliget.
Feast of Blessed Sebastian, 1896.
O my most pure, most holy, most sweet Jesus, Saviour of the world, and King of heaven. Poor Father Valfré, having the intention of including with himself as far as they can be included all belonging to the Congregation so that they may be partakers in Thy great mercies.
The vilest among men, the most unworthy among ecclesiastics, and the most ungrateful among priests, lays before thee how he has found himself for a long time, as is known unto Thee, in a state of no common necessities, which go on increasing with the lapse of years, on account of the many causes in which they have their origin, and on account of the many temptations of various kinds by which he is afflicted; to say nothing of the dullness of his intellect and the tepidity of his will; whence many difficulties arise in the way of his resolving and purposing, really and once for all, to make a beginning. Knowing himself, therefore, to be so miserable and needy, he has thought it expedient to give an account of himself to Thine infinite goodness, prostrating himself in his reverence even to the centre of the earth, and below the very devils, through holy fear of Thy most adorable sovereignty and excellence.
He implores thee with an indescribably humble, submissive and lowly heart to deign to look upon Thy suppliant, and in looking upon him to grant him such light in his intellect, such fervour in his will and such resolution in his heart that he may at length begin, with fervent love, to lead a life all pure, all holy, and all filled with love of suffering, so that from henceforth he may he as entirely Thine by voluntary service as he is by creation and so many other titles. When thy suppliant shall have obtained this, he will not fail to render Thee thanks in time and in eternity, by help of Thy divine grace. I hope for this from Thy Divine Majesty, under the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, uor Mother immaculately conceived, of St. Joseph, and of all the court of heaven;
St. Philip Neri being my advocate.
In the earlier half of the seventeenth century, Monsignor Crescenzi was sent by the Pope as apostolic nuncio to the court of Charles Emanuel II, Duke of Savoy. He soon got to admire the natural virtues of this fine virile Piedmontese race in contact with which he was thrown, though a few months residence in Turin proved to him what well-nigh fatal havoc had been wrought in the people by wars and licence. He had lived all his life under the shadow of the Roman Oratory, and had learned by experience what St. Philip can do for souls. Thus, when he realised how sorely the capital of Savoy stood in need of conversion, he was convinced that by none but St. Philip could this work be effectually accomplished.
No sooner had this conviction forced itself on the nuncio’s mind than he became possessed by the desire to
be instrumental in founding an
Oratory in Turin. Knowing, however, that the times and seasons of such undertakings cannot be forced, he waited
patiently, feeling sure that God, in His good time, would show him the way to carry out his