John Henry Newman.

Lives of the English saints (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 33)
Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

performed by him. Leave your idols, and go seek him

" I thanked Sabinus and desired him to direct me to
the Bishop he thus commended. Pleased at my readi-
ness he guided me to an elevation called Mons Mato-
genes, and thence showed me my road in the plain be-
neath. When he had left me I proceeded with some
alacrity. And though the rain had not ceased to fall
from sun-rise to sun-set, and my garments were
soaked, nevertheless I continued boldly my journey.
About five o'clock, however, as the night was drawing
on, the rain increased with such violence, and the dark-
ness became so profound, that I was unable to discern
my way. It was with difiiculty I arrived at the Ceme-
tery. ^ The rain fell in torrents and repeated lightnings
rent the clouds. I was in great anxiety to find a place
of refuge. At last, by the constant glare of the light-
ning, I discerned a small cell in which there Avas a
tomb. Having entered, and finding nothing else to rest
myself upon, I laid me down on the tomb itself, igno-

' The Mons Autricus mentioned before.


rant of the remains it covered. Hardly had I entered,
when a sudden light, equal to that of the day, shone
through the cell. Not curious about the cause of it, I
placed my little basket under my head, my staff at my
side, and fell fast asleep.

" The thunder awoke me soon after, and lo ! I be-
held at the entrance of the cell a young man in white
and glittering garments. Struck with awe at the ap-
pai'ition, I turned myself round and lay flat upon the
tomb. Prompted by fear, I gave vent to this prayer :
" O God of the Christians, whom German doth serve
in holiness, and who hast granted him that virtue which
I am about to seek, deliver me from the tb-ead which
has seized my mind." While I thus prayed, the young
man at the door exclaimed in a voice full of the sweetest
melody : " Holy Corcodemus, holy Corcodemus, Levite
of Chi'ist."^ When he had uttered these words, an an-
swer came from the tomb : " I know who thou art, and
hear thy voice ; tell me, I pray thee, brother Florenti-
nus, what wilt thou with me ?" Florentinus replied :
"Rise up quickly. The blessed Bishop Peregrine, ^
with the rest of his company, are assembled in the
Church to j^erform their vigils. St. Amator desires
thou wilt also come to their meeting." " Nay, beloved
brother, returned Corcodemus, return to the blessed
Bishop and give him this message : I am not able to
leave this cell to-night, because I am entertaining a
stranger ; there is a nest of savage animals about the
place who are only waiting for my departure to devour

' The Levitcs under the Judaic Law being inferior to the
Priests, the term would apply to the Deacons under the Chris-
tian Dispensation.

* Peregrine the first Bishop of Auxerre. See above.


him. May God not deprive me of the benefit of your
nightly office. There are two Sub-deacons, ^ my fellows,
besides me, Alexander and Jovian, and Jovinianus is
Lector. Report this, I pray thee, to the holy Bishops."
" The young man then retired. The mysterious na-
ture of their discourse made my blood run cold. Sleep,
however, soon regained my wearied limbs. Sometime
before daybreak, I thought I again saw the young man
at the entrance of the ceU. He called to Corcodemus,
saying : " The holy Bishops, Peregrine and Amator,
before they separate, intend to celebrate a Votive Mass, "^
and have sent me to invite thee to come and fulfil thy
appointed ministry.^ If thou art anxious for thy guest's
safety, Alexander can relieve thee. But they request
thee to bring Jovian the sub-deacon, and Jovinian the
Lector." After this, the tomb opened, and there came
forth a man of beautiful appearance clad in garments
of the whitest wool. He lelt the cell and found at the
door three others di-essed iia white, whom he saluted
and called by their respective names. Then he ad-
dressed Alexander : " Peregrine and Amator have
commanded me to go to them, do thou preside in this
cell to guard the stranger from the savage reptile, with
her crew of seven."

' Hence it appears that the Sub-deacons were a proper sub-
stitute for the Deacons at ordinary offices. But for the Mass,
it was necessary the Deacon should be present, as is shown a
little below.

- i. e. " The Eucharist performed out of the usual time by
voluntary impulse — See Ducange ad vocem. One might con-
jecture it originated in the expression of our Lord : " With de-
sire I have desired to eat this supper with you."

^ Corcodemus had been Deacon in his lifetime, as was before


" Afterwards I tliouglit in my vision that tlie blessed
Deacon took me by the hand, saying, " Come tliou also,
stranger, to the Mass." "We then went together to the
Chui'ch, Avhere I beheld around the altar five persons
standing, dressed in splendid robes. I asked Corcode-
mus the names of those who ministered at the altar.
He answered : " He that is standing in the middle is
the Bishop and Martyr, St. Peregrine,^ with whom I
myself was sent from Rome by command of Pope Six-
tus.*^ The tAvo jjersons at his right hand are Amator
and Marcellianus, both Bishops, and those at his left
EUadius and Valerianus, all Avliich succeeded St. Pere-
grine in their tui'n."^ The Deacon then left me and ad-
vanced towards them. Then I thought I heard St.
Amator speak to the Deacon, saying :* " Enjoin silence.
Brother, that undisturbed we may perform our office,
for our brother Peregrine is in haste to return to
Baugy,^ and on his account we must celebrate the
Sacrifice somewhat earlier.^

" Silence was then proclaimed and the Catechumens'
Dismissal announced. In the mean while I remained
in secret awe at the novelty of the mystery. Not daring
to advance to the place where the Mass Avas celebrated,
I stood where the Deacon had left me. Then St. Pere-

' See a previous chapter.

- Sixtus II. in the middle of the third century. Vid. Supra.

* Hence it appears the middle of the altar was the chief place,
it is here assigned to the Founder.

■• It was usual for one of the minor clergy, before the service
of the Eucharist, to order the Catechumens to retire, as they
were not allowed to be present at the mysteries. Stilling. 229.

^ Or Boiiy, in Burgundy, where Peregrine had been buried.
See Chap. III.

" " Consummare Sacrificium."


grine questioned Corcodemus about me. " He is my
guest, said the Deacon, in order to protect him I re-
frained from attending upon you before." After thislwas
brought up into their presence. My whole appearance
was difterent from theirs : they were dressed in white
robes and I was in black. While I was musing on this dif-
ference, a voice addi-essed by one of the bishops to Cor-
codemus, resounded in my ears. " Separate the stran-
ger from our assembly, and drive him from the Church ;
he is unworthy to participate in this ordinance of grace,
for he is a servant of idols." The Deacon was sroinsr
to obey, when I fell at his feet and used these en-
treaties : " I pray thee, friend of God, to intercede for
me with the Bishops, that they may have pity on me
and break asunder the bonds of demons which shackle
me." I was then presented to them, and Corcodemus
received orders to place his hand upon my head. ' After
a second Imposition of hands from the Deacon, the Pre-
lates instructed me in the duties of my condition and the
ceremonies which I might assist at. Then they enjoined
my guide to conduct me back to his cell and send me
at day -break to German, whose office it was to impart
spiritual grace to me. We then retired.

" Before we entei-ed the cell, I thought I fell down
at the feet of the Deacon, and desired him to tell me
how many years had passed since he came to rest in it.
"After the martyrdom of the blessed Peregrine, ^ on

■ The Catechumens were not blessed by the Bishop but by
the Deacon, Confirmation being a subsequent ordinance for the
baptized — Conf. Newman's Arians, p. 49.

= St. Peregrine's martyrdom was May 16, during the persecu-
tion of Diocletian. Some, however, place it under the Decian
persecution, nearly fifty years before, erroneously as it appears
from Tillemont, torn. iv. Mem. p. 481.


tlae third day of the same month, but not till some
years had elapsed, did I leave this world to meet the
Lord. I and my brothers had wislied to be partakers
of his sufferings, inasmuch as we had been entrusted
with the same Commission.^ But not long after an
Emperor was created,'* distinguished for his Christian
profession, who put an end to the persecution, opened
again all the Churches, and appointed orthodox Bishops.
We thus failed in our desires. My companions were
Marsus the presbyter, Alexander and Jovian. Here
they buried me. They afterwards, as I learnt by divine
intimation,^ died as Confessors of the Faith. Jovinian,
however, the Lector, by God's permission, obtained the
crown of Martyrdom."*

" All these things seemed to take place in my sleep.
On my awaking, immediately the cock crew.^ Re-
membering the circumstances of the vision, I made the
Sign of the Cross on my forehead, as I had been in-
structed, and lying prostrate on the sepulchre, prayed
in this manner with tears in my eyes : " O Lord God
of Israel, Avho dwellest on high and beholdest all things
below, and considerest from afar great things ; beside
whom there is no God ;^ thou who didst visit this

' Of converting Gaul. See Chap. III.
-' Constantino the Great.
^ Comp. August. " de Cura pro mortuis gerenda."
■* Concerning these Saints, the most accurate account is to
be found in Tiliemont, Mem. vol. iv. p. 480.

'^ The crowing of the cock is an incident which is mentioned
significantly by writers of this period, as bearing a mystical ref-
erence to repentance.

f These Biblical expressions are probably the colouring of
Mamertinc after his conversion ; or he may have been instructed
in the doctrines of Christianity before that event. Vid. Bolland.
ad locum Const.


earth to recover the human race, and didst abide among
men ; by whose merciful direction I this niglit, unwor-
thy as I am, have learnt the secret of my salvation :
grant that I may without delay be brought into the
presence of German, towards whom I have been so far
guided." I then rose up, and turned my eyes towards
the Basilica, ^ where I beheld a large light which spread
within and around it. At the same time a voice issued
in chants and hymns. I stopped to listen. The strain
which first broke on my ears was : " Let them all be
confounded that adore carved images and glory in their
idols." The next was : " Save thy servant, O God,
Vvho trusteth in thee." The third, " Blessed are they
"whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are cov-
ered."^ On hearing this, I prostrated myself seven
times on the tomb and prayed : " O God of the holy
Corcodemus, receive him that hasteneth to Thee, and
disappoint me not in my hope ; by Thy care and favour
have I been brought to this place, where I have learnt
the error of my ways." I rose again and turned to-
wards the Church, when, lo ! another strain suited to
my wants : " The Lord hear thee in the day of tribu-
lation, the name of the God of Jacob defend thee."
Strengthened by these sounds, I fell down a thii'd time
in prayer ; on rising, I found the light had disappeared.
I had learnt the mysterious virtue of the Sign of the
Cross, which I repeated on my forehead. At last the
day returned, and having again crossed myself several
times, and given thanks to my saintly host, I hastened

' The Church built by Amator at the spot where the house
of Ruptilius stood. See Ch. ili.

- These were, the Antiphons sung at the end of the Psalms,


to find my future guide and director. I enquired where
Bishop German lived, and Avas told that to-day he
was not in the town, but at a Monastery which he
visited very often by passing the river in a little boat.
I then asked the Avay to it, and proceeded thither ;
having stopped a little at the entrance, suddenly the
Bishop came out, who, to my astonishment, was ac-
quainted with my vision, and reproached me with en-
deavouring to conceal the circumstance of the serpents
which lay in wait for me at the sepulchre."

When Mamertinus had finished his account, the
whole assembly were filled with joy, and blessed God,
saying : " Thanks be to Thee, O God, because Thou
had foreordained this vessel of election for Thyself be-
fore the foundation of the world, in order to manifest
in him the greatness of Thy power to all and Avithout
end." The Bishop then led him to the place where
Remission of Sins was granted, ^ and having blessed the
water as the custom of the Church was, he baptized
him according to the usual rites. Mamertinus then
addressed German : " My Lord, he said, inasmuch as
you have healed me in my inmost soul, restore, I pray
you, the members of my body, give me back my sight
and my hand." German answered, " Dost thou believe
that I can perform this for thee ?" " I do believe, and
for this purpose do I seek your assistance." German
then took oil, and having made the Sign of the Cross on
the eye and hand of Mamertinus, restored them to their
former condition. The people immediately began to
praise God for the works lie accomplished through His

' The Baptistery was often in ancient times separate from the
Church, as is shown by the plan in Bingham, (quod vide.)


Gei'man tlien desired them to accompany him to
the place where Mamertinus had lodged, to look for
the serpent and her crew. When they arrived at the
spot, prayer was offered up, and Mamertinus showed
the cell and the tomb where he had had the vision.
The Bishop ordered the stone to be removed ; eight
serpents were found under it, one of which exceeded
the rest in size. This was the mother. She raised her
head and stared upon all, but especially German.
" Thou wicked serpent, said he, dost thou still cleave
to the heel of the human race, and dost thou dare after
thy crime and defeat,^ stretch thy folds over the limbs
of the venerable Deacon Corcodemus ? As the Lord
liveth, thou deservest death with all thy tribe. But
since thou hast obeyed the Deacon, and hast not injured
his guest, depart untouched and avoid henceforth the
abode of man. Let the forest and desert be thy dwell-
ing, do hurt to no one on thy way. Not I, but Christ,
through me, charges thee." The sei-pent forthwith,
says the writer of these facts, as if burdened with the
mass of her iniquities, bowed the head and unfolding
her long back, departed, and was followed by the rest.
On seeing the vast size of the beast, all fled in terror ;
German however remained motionless, and reproved
them for their want of faith. The serpent, we are in-
formed, was seven cubits in length.

After this, the chapel of the blessed Deacon Cor'-o-
demus, which from the thickness of the briars had
been known to none, became the resort of all devout

' Prsevaricatio and Devictio. The latter word is found in
Tertullian for "victory." Possibly Devinctio may here be the
proper reading, i. e. "binding," Satan being bound by the tri-
umph of the Cross. See Forcellinus ad vocem.



persons, who studiously carried thither their voluntary
offerings of piety. ^

Mamertinus gave himself up to the monastery of
German with such ardour that he never left its en-
closiire without command of his Bishop or his religious
brethren. His holy life and divine knowledge became
so conspicuous, that on tlie death of Alodius,^ the first
Abbot, he was aj^pointed to take his place, and gov-
erned the monastery till about 468. He died near that
time on the 21st of April.

The days on which the memory of the Saints men-
tioned in this chapter are honoured at Auxerre, are as
follows, according to the ^lartyrology of that town,
published in 1751.^ Peregrine, on the 16th May ;
Marcellianus, 13th May ; Eladius, or Helladius, 8th
May ; Valerianus, or Valerius, 7th INIay ; Amator, 2nd
May ; Corcodemus the Deacon, ISth May ; Floren-
tinus, 27th Sept. ; Alexander the Sub-deacon, 4th
Feb. ; Jovinianus the Lector, 5th May ; Jovianus the
Sub-deacon, not known ; Alodius, 28th Sept. ; Mamer-
tinus, 21st April.

' Culturam promeruit. Cellulae votivara gerentcs devotionem.

- Alodius is the name in the Martyrol. Antissiodorense, not
Alogius. It is uncertain whether Alodius or Alogius was the
same as the Bishop of Auxerre of that name.

3 See Tillemont, torn. iv. 480, &c., with respect to the chro-
nology and acts of these Saints. See also Is'otes to Const, by
Boschius, Bollandist.

German's first miracles. 83


German's First Miracles.

We have just seen that Mamertinus recovered the
use of his sight and touch, by the instrumentality of
German ; the following pages will record a series of
miracles, which finished only with his death, and
among which some were of the most astonishing
nature. It has been remarked that ecclesiastical mira-
cles are of a character very tliifereut from that of
Scripture miracles ; alloAving the truth of the remark,
still it seems more applicable to the four first centuries
of the Chnrch than to the fifth ; and again, to public
miracles, which affect the Church in general, than to
those which rather regard individuals. The miracles
of German, as wiU be observed, bear in many cases a
strong resemblance to those of our Lord and His Apos-
tles. They are not less striking in the power they
evince, the effects they produce, or the publicity with
which they were performed. If the consciousness of
the agent be a prominent feature in the miracles of
Scripture, it is not less so in those of German and
others of the same period. Of course this conscious-
ness rested, as in the Apostles' case, not on any feelings
of self-sufl[iciency, but on faith in Christ's merits and
power. Thus we have seen that German sometimes
thought it right to declare that, " Not he liimself, but
Clu-ist through him, gave the charge."^ Among the
earliest of liis miracles is the following : —

' See last Chapter.


There was ^ man of a highly respectable character
called Januarius. When the governor of the province
made his round of visits, Januarius had to collect the
tax-money, and carry it to the treasury. Prompted
once by the vicinity of Auxerre, he deviated a little
from his straight course to see German. In the mean-
while, he lost the tax-bag. It happened that a man
afflicted with an evil spirit had found it, and absconded
with it. Januarius, upon discovering his loss, was
thrown into great alarm, and filled the town with his
enquiries. When all failed, he ventured to require
the restitution at the hands of the Bishop, as if he had
committed the bag to him. Others would have re-
ceived the charge with contempt. But German sub-
mitted at once to the responsibility, and promised in
God's name to restore the money. It was the Sabbath
day ; that is, Saturday. German caused the town to
be searched with the greatest diligence, but in vain.
Three days elapsed — no clue appeared. The tax-gath-
erer, in tears, pleaded the punishment of death which
impended over him. German exhorted him to patience
and confidence. Thereupon, he ordered one of those
who were possessed with devils to be brought to him.
By a strange coincidence, the author of the theft was
the first introduced. German examined and questioned
him closely, told liim that the crime, (whoever had com-
mitted it,) could not remain concealed, and adjured the
enemy of mankind to disclose the fact. No confession
could be extorted as yet. The Bishop then left his
house, and proceeded to the church, to celebrate Mass. ^

' This would be on Tuesday, if it was three days after Satur-
day. In fact, every day this office seems to have been per-

German's first miracles. 85

After he had entered, accompanied by the multitude,
he gave the usual solemn salutation ^ to the congrega-
tion, and fell prostrate to the ground. While he was
praying, the prisoner of Satan, who had been brought
to the Church, was seen to be raised in the air above
the people, and enveloped in a blaze of fire. His cries
filled the place, and spread consternation among all.
Suddenly, with a loud voice, he called out the name of
German, and made public confession of his theft. The
Bishop then rose from prayer, advanced to the head of
the steps leading to the altar, ^ and evoked the evil
spirit. The bag of money was discovered buried in
the ground. The acclamations of the multitude were
loud in German's honour, and the report of the action
spread rapidly. The afflicted man forthwith recovered
the soundness of his mind.

Not long after, a malignant fever infected the town
of Auxerre. Its results were imputed, from their vio-
lence, to supernatural influence. Children fell the
first victims : the glands of their throats unexpectedly
swelled, and they were carried olf within three days.
The malady then attacked every one else, with a ra-
pidity and severity which was compared to the sword
of an avenging enemy. Medical resources Avere ex-
hausted. At last, in desj^air, the people fled to divine
assistance, and sought the intercession of German.
He immediately took some oil, blessed it, and had all
the sick touched with it. Its efficacy proved instanta-
neous ; the symptoms of the disease disappeared, and
the city was at once delivered from all danger. It
appeared, says the Avriter of the account, that the evil

■ This salutation would be the "Dominus Vobiscum" probably.
- Podium is thus explained by Bosch. Boll, ad locum.

86 gerjian's fikst hheacles.

spirits had been the authors of the fever, for one of
the demoniacs out of whom German was evoking the
devil, at the moment of his last paroxysm, affirmed
that the prayers of the Bishop had prevailed in putting
them to flight. The sight of his piety and devoted-
ness had provoked their fury to exert itself in torment-
ing his flock.

It was the custom of German to visit, on alternate
days, the Church and the Monastery, to superintend
the functions of the Clergy on one hand, and of the
Monks on the other. One day, he was prevented from
going to the Monastery where his presence was desired,
and he excused himself on the plea of unavoidable
business. He was not, however, detained so long as
he expected, and he resumed his pui^pose of visiting
the brotherhood, thinking to take them by surprise.
It happened that in the meantime, in the Monastery, a
man possessed with an evil spirit was tlu'own into one
of his fits, in the middle of which he screamed out that
German was already at the bank of the river, and
could not pass without a boat. The Abbot who had
received the refusal of the Bishop, imputed his cries to
tlie evil One. But as he continued in the same asser-
tions, Alodius, (this was the Abbot's name) sent one
of his Monks, who brought back a confirmatory report.
A boat was immediately dispatched, and the Bishop
passed over and was welcomed by all the brothers.
When he was informed of what had passed, he fell
down to pray, and the Monks imitated him. AVhile
they were in this situation, the same fact occurred as
was described above ; the demoniac was suddenly
raised into the air and suspended by the invisible
chains of Satan, to use the language of the narrator.

German's first imiracles. 87

When they got up from prayer, German evoked the
spirit, and healed the man.

In the three instances here described, we evidently
remark a family likeness. The power of the 'Prince of
Darkness over mankind is the prominent feature of
them. It is well known that exorcisms in the early
Church were of frequent occurrence, and they have
been enumerated among the miracles of ecclesiastical
times with the avowed contempt of some modern
writers. ^ Nor is there any way of procuring credit to
them among those who ai-e not strongly impressed with
the truth " that we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of darkness of this world, against sjjiritLial wick-
edness (or rather ' wicked spirits') in high places ;"^
that is, against the " wiles of the devil." It is a fact,
however, Avhich must have weight with serious minds,
that few things have been more universally realized in
the Chi'istian Avorld for the first fom'teen centuries,

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 33)