Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor

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Saint Thomas of Vil­lan­ova, Bish­op and Con­fess­or

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Thursday, Septem­ber 222016

Saint Thomas of Vil­lan­ova, Bish­op and Con­fess­or

White Double
In 1517 a cruel blow fell upon the great Augustini­an fam­ily; 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, 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.
Thomas in oppido Fontis­plani Toletanæ diœceseos in His­pan­ia natus anno Domini milles­imo quad­rig­entes­imo octo­ges­imo octa­vo, ab optim­is par­en­ti­bus ineun­te vita piet­atem et sin­gu­larem in pauper­es miseri­cor­diam accepit: cujus adhuc puer com­plura ded­it exem­pla; sed illus in prim­is nobile, quod ut nudos operi­ret, pro­priis ves­ti­bus non semel seipsum exuit. Exacta pueritia, Com­pluto, quo mis­sus fuer­at, ut alum­nus in col­le­gio majori sanc­ti Ilde­phonsi lit­ter­is operam daret, pat­ris obitu revoc­atus, uni­ver­sam hæred­it­atem egen­is vir­ginibus alendis dicavit; eodem­que statim reversus est, et sac­ræ theo­lo­giæ cur­su con­fecto, adeo doc­trina excel­luit, ut in eadem Uni­versit­ate che­dram ascend­ere jus­sus, philo­soph­icas, theo­lo­gicasque quæs­tiones mirabi­liter explanaver­it; inter­im assiduis precibus sci­en­tiam sanc­tor­um, et rectam vitæ­mor­um­que nor­mam a Dom­ino vehe­men­tis­sime pos­tu­lans. Quare divino instinc­tu erem­itar­um sanc­ti Augustini amplex­us est insti­tu­tum.
Thomas was born at Fuen­llana, a town in the dio­cese of Tole­do in Spain, in the year of our Lord one thou­sand four hun­dred and eighty eight. 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.
Reli­gionem pro­fes­sus, omni­bus reli­gi­osi hom­in­is vir­tu­ti­bus et orna­mentis excel­luit, humil­it­ate, patien­tia, con­tin­en­tia, sed arden­tis­sima carit­ate sum­me con­spi­cuus: inter vari­os et assidu­os labores ora­tioni rerum­que divinar­um med­it­a­tioni invicto spir­itu sem­per intentus. Prædic­andi onus, utpo­te sanc­ti­mo­nia et doc­trina præstans, subi­re jus­sus, cœlesti aspir­ante gra­tia, innu­mer­a­biles e vitior­um cœno in viam salutis edux­it. Regendis deinde fratribus admotus, pruden­tiam, æquit­atem et man­su­etudinem pari sedul­it­ate ac sever­it­ate con­junxit: adeo ut priscam sui Ordin­is dis­cip­li­n­am multis in locis vel firmaver­it, vel restituer­it.
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.
Granaten­sis archiepis­copus des­ig­natus, mira humil­it­ate et con­stan­tia insigne mun­us reje­cit. Ver­um non mul­to post Valenti­n­am eccle­siam super­i­or­um auct­or­it­ate coac­tus, gubernan­dam sus­cepit: quam annis fer­me unde­cim ita rex­it, ut sanc­tis­simi et vigil­an­tis­simi pas­tor­is partes exp­lever­it. Ceterum con­su­eta vivendi ratione nihil admod­um immut­ate, inex­ple­bili carit­ati mul­to magis induls­it, cum amplos eccle­siæ red­dit­us in egen­os dis­persit, né lec­tu­lo quidem sibi rel­icto: nam eum, in quo decum­be­bat, cum in cœlum evo­c­are­tur, ab eodem com­modatum habuit, cui paulo ante eleemo­synæ loco donaver­at. Obdorm­iv­it in Dom­ino sex­to idus Septem­bris, annos natus octo et sexa­ginta. Ser­vi sui sanc­tit­atem adhuc viventis, et exinde post portem, miraculis Deus test­atam voluit; præser­tim, cum hor­reum, fru­mento pau­peribus dis­trib­uto, pen­it­us vacu­um, repen­te plen­um inven­tum est, et cum ad ejus sepulchrum puer mor­tuus revix­it. Quibus aliisque non paucis ful­gen­tem sig­nis Alex­an­der sep­timus Pon­ti­fex max­imus sanc­tor­um numero adscrip­sit, atque ejus memori­am quar­to decimo cal­en­das Octo­bris cel­eb­rari man­davit.
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 Valen­tia, 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, at the age of six­ty-eight. 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 corn 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.
Thy name, as well as thy justice, shall remain for ever, O Thomas, because thou hast dis­trib­uted and given to the poor; all the church of the saints shall declare thy alms. 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.
Thou art the glory of Spain; watch over thy coun­try, over thy church of Valen­cia, and over the Order adorned with such saints as Nich­olas of Tolentino, John of San Fac­un­do, and thy­self. Bless the reli­gious women who have inher­ited thy char­ity, and who, for well-nigh three cen­tur­ies, have caused thy name, and that of thy father St. Augustine, to be held in ven­er­a­tion. May the preach­ers of the divine word through­out the world profit by the writ­ings thou hast for­tu­nately left us, monu­ments of that elo­quence which made thee the oracle of princes, the light of the poor, and the mouth-piece of the Holy Ghost.
At Sion in Val­ais, at a place called Agaunum, the birth­day of the holy mar­tyrs Maurice, Exu­per­i­us, Can­didus, Vic­tor, Inno­cent, and Vital­is, with their com­pan­ions of the Theban legion, who was mas­sacred under Max­imi­an for the name of Christ, and filled the whole world with the renown of their mar­tyr­dom. Let us unite with Rome in pay­ing hon­or to these vali­ant sol­diers, the glor­i­ous pat­rons of Chris­ti­an armeies 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 engage­ments. Every sol­dier is bound, in hon­or and in con­science, to obey the Lord of hosts rather than all human com­mand­ers, who are but His sub­al­terns.
Annue, quæsumus, omni­po­tens Deus: ut sanc­tor­um mar­tyr­um tuor­um Maur­itii et socior­um ejus nos laæ­ti­ficet fest­iva solem­nitas; ut quor­um suf­fra­giis nitimur, eor­um nat­al­itiis gloriemur. Per Domin­um.
Grant, we beseech thee, almighty God, that the fest­ive solem­nity of thy holy mar­tyrs, Maurice and his com­pan­ions, may give us joy, that we may glory in their fest­ival on whose help we rely. Through our Lord.
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