Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor

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Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Saint Thomas of Villanova, Bishop and Confessor

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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, ne 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.
Prayer
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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