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ties have almost always their tolerable side. Whether
it be that nothing comes to pass without the lapse of
time, and time baffles in a thousand Avays the appa-
rently unavoidable effects of impending causes ; or tliat
causes in themselves are ever inadequate, or are met by


otliei' antagonist causes, so that the event is less terrible
than was expected, — true it is that mankind always find
an opening which makes life still dear and hopeful to
them. We read of a shocking accident by a rail-road ;
the preparatory circumstances come first, then the crash,
and we think all must be over. But it so happens that
none of our relations perish, though those next to them
have been destroyed. Here is our comfort, we care
but little about the victims ; the world goes on again
as usual ; it is the living who influence, who lead the
world ; and as long as there is one living, his judg-
ment, his views are to be regarded.

It seems scarcely deniable that something of this
kind took place in Europe during the Invasions of the
Barbarians. Salvian talks of a kind of sullen stupor
that had come over the world. ^ Men knew they were
miserable enough, and were ready to ask why believers
in God were the sufferers f yet the past was soon cast
aside and accounted for nothing ; and luxury, vice, ex-
travagance, ambition, public amusements and dissipa-
tion, seemed rather to have increased than diminished.'
Strange to say, the religious feelings which so unpre-
cedented a chain of misfortunes was calculated to pro-
duce, degraded a man in themselves from his station in
society. " Religion, says the same author, makes a
nobleman a boor."* And the disgraceful phenomenon
Avhich was so signally manifested at the time of the
French Revolution, had its vivid precedent in the state
of Gaul and other countries during the fifth century.

' Salvian de Gub. 145. " Sopor Domini irruerat super eos."
Vid. Tillemont Hist, des Enip. torn. v. 548.
- See Gub. Dei, 43, 45, p.
■' Ibid 126, et 143. " Assiduitas calamitatum, augmen-
tum criminum fecit." * Ibid. p. 76.


On the one liand, " language unknown in the Church,
perfectly heathen and monstrous, was everywhere heard;
profane exclamations against God, insulting blasphe-
mies : God, they said, had no care for the world. He
was no governor, no director, but an unmerciful, un-
gracious, inhuman, stern, inflexible being." i On the
other hand, gladiatorial shows grew in esteem. The
treasures of the world were spent in bringing from dis-
tant countries wild beasts ; it was a livelihood to ferret
the deep valleys and the winding mountains of the Alps
for the amusements of the theatre. ^ Words failed to
describe the various pastimes of men. There were
circus, amphitheatres, music rooms, play-houses, pa-
geants, wrestling matches, jugglers, pantomimes, and
other ill-timed spectacles without end.^ In short,
laughing was the order of the day.^ In forcible con-
trast came the reproach from the mouth of the indig-
nant witness : Christ never laughed !

But there was a remnant, a large remnant, wlio re-
flected upon the mysterious dispensations of God that
were going on. Never were there more holy bishops,
more saintly monks, more devout virgins and matrons,
a more zealous clergy. We have high authority for
saying that the fifth century produced more canonized
Bishops in France than all the subsequent centuries
together.^ Numbers of these servants of God had
suffered in the distresses of the age, some death, some
spoliation, some tortures, some other various acts of
violence. This circumstance aggravated the general
calamity, and at the same time increased the perplexity

' See Gub. Dis. p. 84. - Ibid, p. 124.

■•' Ibid. p. 126 et 141. Vid. also Au^. Civ. Dei. p. 43. Ben.
Nova Ed. - p. 130.

* Dubos Hist. Crit. p. 17.


of religious men. How was God's wisdom and justice
to be vindicated amid so much innocence and misfor-
tune ? That it must and could be vindicated none
doubted. The Invasion of the Barbarians, with its
cruel consequences, Christian writers had little hesita-
tion in declaring to be a divine punishment for the sins
of the world. " I will visit their transgressions with
the rod, and their iniquity with sti'ipes," was the lan-
guage of the Psalmist which the orthodox pleader
would cite. " On account of men's excessive pride,
their licentiousness and avarice, their execrable wick-
edness and impiety, God had visited the earth with a
scoiirge."^ " We have hardened ourselves, said another,
as rocks ; the greatest afflictions have not availed to
make us feel our wickedness, and notwithstanding this
inundation of Barbarians, the natives of Gaul are just
as they were."^

But was the world worse than it had been two or
three centuries back, under Tiberius, Nero, Caligula,
Commodus, Heliogabalus ? Had not the empire es-
poused the cause of the Church, and was not Paganism
fast dying away ? Were there not thousands of holy
monks, hermits, virgins, bishops and priests, for a
sweet-smelling savour unto the Lord ? Why had these
very Saints endured cruelties and shame unprece-
dented ? Would not the blasphemies of the heathens
receive encouragement if the introduction of Christ's
religion and the desertion of Jupiter's temples were
announced by such disasters ?^

To these difficulties it was answered, that come what

' St. Aug. Civ. Dei. ch. ix. B. I.
2 Salvian, p. 141.
3 St. Aug. Civ. Dei. Lib. i. Passim. Vid. etiam Prosper, Poem,
de Providentia, apud Hist, de la Gaule. Bouquet.


"would, it was a standiiif^ trutli, tliat the reward of the
good is not in this worhl, that no temporal chastise-
ments are to be considered as the full retribution of the
reprobate. Why do men look for the recompense of a
holy life here on earth ? Why do they despond be-
cause the wicked have leisure to scoff? Adversity is
not for bad men, but for the good. It is true, we may
seek reverently to understand the reason of God's deal-
ings with us, because His government is a moral one.
Might this then not be, that there is a point at which the
Divine justice can no longer endure the accumulated
sins of past years, and wrath goes out from Ilim to
spread general devastation ? And in thus acting does
He not hasten the reward of the good, Avhile he sweeps
away the wicked ? The delays of God's vengeance are
thought a serious objection ; but why ? If He spares
Rome under Nero, He reserves the jjunishment of her
crimes for the next world. If He pours forth His
wrath upon Rome under Honorius and Arcadius, who
knows but this may be part of a merciful dispensation ?
He punishes now that lie may save hereafter. Some
but for this visitation might have died in impenitency.
Nay, there is a plain reason why this shoiUd be so. If
every crime was straightway followed by its correspond-
ing punishment, it might be thought that nothing was
left for the last judgment. On the otlier hand, if no
sin was punished in this world, it might be urged that
there was no Divine Providence always presiding over
the world. However, wisdom is justified of her chil-

liut there are two cardinal mistakes which men
generally make when they dispute the wisdom of God's
dealings ; either by contemplating only individual cases,
they forget the broad principles upon which all govern-


ment hangs ; or they pass over the real nature of the
case, and its pai'ticulars, in endeavouring to lay down
general rules and maxims of justice and prudence.
This last error then was also to be noticed, in order to
settle the real state of the argument. And in fact, by
a close examination into the history of the times, it was
observed that a peculiar and minute providence seemed
to have been in many cases displayed. The better part
of mankind had by no means been so free from guilt
as to expect exemption from a general visitation of
God. While " kings had become the nursing fathers
and queens the nursing mothers" of the Church, a su-
pineness and indiiference unknown to times of persecu-
tion had crept into the Christian community. A love
of worldly things was encroaching even upon the most
serious and strict. With the married portion the cir-
cumstance was notorious. But retired virgins and
monks were now taken up with an idle regard to
opinion ; pride and self-deception were making rapid
strides. And Christians were beginning to show plainly
their secret tenderness for vice, and respect for men's
persons, in the unlawful leniency with which the faults
of others were treated, and which they denominated
charity. But to descend further still into details.
"Wlien Rhadagaisus, in 406, came rushing like a torrent
with his countless multitude of Goths upon the capital
of the empire, he was with his whole army extermina-
ted on the plains of Etruria, without loss on the part of
the Romans. Now at this very time the Pagans in
Rome were vehemently upbraiding the Christians, say-
ing, that Rhadagaisus, the Goth, must of necessity con-
quer and take the city, because their gods had been
exploded and the God of the Christians introduced.^

' It was a popular saying among the Pagans, " Pluvia defit
causa Christiani."



Here the destruction of the irresistible Goths seemed
to come like a miraculous interposition of Divine Jus-
tice. Nothing was better authenticated. The news
was brought from all sides to Carthage, where St. Au-
gustine lived. Again, when Rome was captured and
pillaged by Alaric, there was this to be remarked that
Alaric was a Christian, and a man of high qualities,
though a Barbarian. Nor did he suffer promiscuous
devastation. The natural chances of war had their
play ; but he had given strict orders that the temples
of God should be spared, and all who had taken refuge
there should be safe from the fmy of the soldiery. *


St. German at Milan.

German was now in the last year of his life ; he was
nearly seventy years old, having been born in 378.
He had passed tliirty years in the fulfilment of the
arduous duties of a bishop, a bishop of the fifth cen-
tury. He had acted in the various capacities of Apos-
tle, spiritual overseer, mediator between nations at war,
temporal magistrate, teacher of Gaul, president and
counsellor at Synods, adviser of Bishops and Arch-
bishops. At last he was invested with the office of

' See St. Aug. Civ. Dei. Lib. I. ch. viii., &c. and Lib. IL
ch. iii. Lib. V. ch. xxiii. "22 — St. Chrys. Horn, ad Antioch. § 6.

torn. ii. p. 8 Comp. Le Maistre. Soirees de St. Petersbourg,

torn. ii. p. 143-150. — Jeremy Taylor's Serm. on the Entail of
Curses, and Chateaubriand's Martyrs.


Ambassador. Never since his ordination had he known
peace and tranquillity. Even among so many illustri-
ous prelates, who by their sanctity and vigorous activity
preserved some remaining order in the political agita-
tions which disturbed the world, German seemed to
stand alone. " He went on," says Constantius, " from
strength to strength, according to the Psalmist."

Losing no time, he set off immediately for Italy to
discharge his new functions. At first his way lay in
the direction which he had previously taken, when he
went to Aries tlu'ough Lyons. He came again to the
village in the district of Alesia, where his friend the
presbyter Senator lived. It will be remembered that
on his former journey through this place, Senator and
Nectariola had received him under their hospitable
roof, and that his departure had been followed by a re-
markable miracle. ^ When he arrived there the second
time, Senator presented to him a girl about twenty
years old, who was dumb. German then rubbed her
mouth, her forehead, and her face, with some oil which
he had blessed ; afterwards he took a cup, into which
he had broken three small bits of bread ; placing one
of the bits into her mouth with his own hands, he bade
her swallow it and the others, using a form of grace
beforehand. Immediately with a loud voice she pro-
nounced the thanksgiving, swallowed the bread, and
obtained the faculty of speaking which she had not
possessed till then.

After this miracle, German threw himself into the
arms of liis friend Senator, with a burst of feeling to
which he had not been known to give way ; and having
embraced him affectionately, he exclaimed : " Farewell

1 See Ch, xix. p. 183.


for ever, beloved brother, farewell. God grant that
we may meet at the day of judgment witliout confusion
of face ; for on earth we sliall never again enjoy the
company of each other." Li fact he had been granted
a foresight of his approaching end.

The attendants which he took with liim were few ;
probably as few as were consistent with the dignity of
a nation's representative, as many as his own modesty
would permit. Among these were some of his own
clergy. On a former occasion we find he had travelled
on horseback ; at his more advanced age, he would not
have parted with this small comfort, on a journey of
such length and difficulty. However, tliough he courted
privacy, multitudes thronged to meet him. This jour-
ney was long after famous ; on all the high roads by
which he passed, oratories and images of the cross were
subsequently erected, indicating tlie places Avhere he
had stopped to pray and to preach. When Constantius
wrote nearly forty years after, he could appeal to them
as standing witnesses.

A^Hien he came near to Autun, a large multitude
issued to receive him. It was his practice to visit the
burial places of the Saints, and on this occasion he
directed first his stej^s to the tomb of the Bishop St.
Cassian, which according to custom was situated with-
out the town. The tomb of St. Cassian was renowned
for the veneration in which it was held by the people.
St. Gregory of Tours, at a later period says,^ it was
every where pricked and scraped, and full of holes,
from the number of sick persons who had come to be
cured of their diseases. This St. Cassian, who must
not be confounded with St. Cassian the ]Martyr, or

' Gloria Confess. 74, and Baillet Vie des Saints, Aug. v.


with the famous John Cassian, lived in the fourth cen-
tury ; he was born at Alexandria, and for a time was
Bishop of Ortha, in Egypt. Afterwards he passed
into Gaul, and settled at Autun with St. Rheticius,
Bishop of that j^lace, and finally succeeded to him in
that See. His death, of which no precise account has
been left, but which was apparently natural, secured
him a place among the Confessors of the time. Ger-
man, on approaching his sepulchre, beheld on the white
stone the figure of the cross, formed, as it were, by the
different shades of the marble, a kind of evidence of the
departed Saint's virtues. On seeing this, he offered up
a prayer as he was wont, and exclaimed : " What art
thou doing here, illustrious brother ?" Inunediately St.
Cassian from the tomb answered in the hearing of aU
present : " I am enjoying sweet peace without inter-
ruption, and waiting for the coming of the Redeemer."
Then German replied : " Repose there long in Christ.
But do thou intercede earnestly with our Lord Jesus
Christ for us and for this people, that we may be
esteemed meet to hear the sound of the Divine trum-
pet, and obtain the joys of a holy resurrection."
" Such," remarks Constantius, " was the marvellous
gift of German, that he could hold intercourse even
with those who were concealed in the grave ; each one
of the miracles he performed had its wonders ; but the
rarity of examples of this kind adds to our astonish-
ment ; two Saints of great fame who had never been
in the presence of each other, were here holding con-
verse together, the one among the living, the other
among the dead ; both indeed citizens of the blessed
and heavenly Jerusalem, both enjoying already heaven
in part, both in part yet sojourning on earth ; he who
was already in possession of his country, recognized


his fellow-soldier, still in exile, and responded to his
prayers and address."^

"Wliile German stopped at Autun, surrounded by a
large number of people, a man and his wife came to
him, and kneeling doAvn, presented their daughter, who
was grown up, and afflicted with a grievous infirmity.
From her birth, the nerves of her fingers had been
contracted, and turned round into the palm of her
hand ; the nails had pierced the hand, and penetrated
as far as the bones. German then took hold of her
fingers, and restored them one by one to their proper
direction. Wlien he had done this, so great was his
charity in little things, we are told, that with his own
hands he condescended to cut the nails of the girl,
which had grown to an excessive length.

After this action, he left Autun, and proceeded on
his journey to Italy. He had, as yet, advanced but a
short way. The road from Auxerre to jMilan, by
Vienne and the Cottian Alps, is described in the Anto-
nine Itinerary, '^ as being of the extent of six hundred
and thirty-four Roman miles. We are not informed
by which way St. German went to Italy, but the col-
lection of circumstances may lead to a probable con-
jecture. There seem to have been three principal
roads between Auxerre and Milan, two of which were
the same, as far as Vienne. The other lay in the
direction of the Jura,^ taking in Alesia, Dijon, Besan-
9on, Pontarlier, Orbe, Lausanne, St. Maurice, ]Mar-
tigny, and the Great St. Bernard (the Mons Jovis.)

' " Votis ct alloquio." Vit. S. Germ. Lib. ii. § 64. Boll, and
p. 23, MS. Bodlei.

- Vld. Recueil, des Hist. torn. i. p. 103.
=> See the Map of Bouquet & Le Beuf, in Recueil des Hist. t. i.


That this road was a frequented one in early times,
is shown by the famous massacre of the Christian
Legion, called the Theban, by the Emperor Maximian,
in the beginning of the fourth century, which took
place at Agaunum, the romantic spot since called St,
Maurice, from one of the martyred soldiers ; and in
the ninth century, the remains of St. Urban and St.
Tiburtius, which were brought from Italy to Auxerre,
passed by St. Maurice.^ However, there is more rea-
son to think St. German followed one of the other roads.
Tradition afBLrmed he took Vienne and Vercellas on his
way ;^ and Hericus of Auxerre, whose attention had
been carefully directed to every small circumstance
connected with his patron Saint, tells us that the Pen-
nine Alps were famous for his miracles, and especially
the Mons miJions Jovis, which there is every reason
to suppose was the Little St. Bernard,^ as distinguished
from the Great St. Bernard, the Mons Jovis. This
inference is supported by the fact that a village,
situated just under the Little St. Bernard, is named
to this day Colona Joux, which latter word is a cor-
ruption of Jovis ; and perhaps still more by another
village, close to the same spot, which is stiU called
St. Germain. And indeed Hericus, in the ninth cen-
tuiy, positively affirms that all who go to Rome must
unavoidably pass by this way ; and he informs us that
the village alluded to was called after St. German, be-
cause the body of the Saint not long after rested there,
on its return to Gaul ; and a Church in his honour

1 Heric. de Mir. ch. iii. 109 §.
- Ado Viennensis apud Bolland. notas.
* See D'Aaville Deseript. de la France — Fol. Bosch. Not.
ad locum Herici. ch. viii. de Mir. Arrowsmith's last large
Atlas. 1832.


was there erected. It is conceived, then, that German
went first to Vienne, then to the Little St. Bernard,
afterwards to Eporedia, now called Ivrea, and thence
to Vei'celli, on towards INIilan.

During his passage of the Alps, (for of this there is
no doubt whatever) he fell in with some workmen who
were returning from their labour. Oppressed with
their burdens, they had great difficulty in ascending
the mountainous steeps. They came to the banks of a
torrent which, like Alpine torrents, rushed violently
down the hill. The stepping-stones which were thrown
across, were but uncertain and vacillating. One of
the poor travellers was an old and lame man. Seeing
this, German took himself tlie burden on his shoulders,
and deposited it on the other side ; then he returned,
and carried over the old man in the same way. To
appreciate this signal act of charity, we are desired by
Constantius to consider the extreme age of German
himself. His face, he says, was emaciated by the
rigour of his fasts ; he seldom eat any thing but once
a week, and then only barley bread ; he never got
sleep, except on a hard couch ; was ever employed in
long and wearisome journeys, and was hardly able to
support himself. Such was the man who, born of
noble parents, and raised to the highest stations in the
empire, and dignified with the title of Apostle, could
lower himself towards a poor old labourer in this
touching manner.

Tradition brings German next to VerccUi, where,
not St. Eusebius, as Hericus supposes,^ but some other
Bishop, received him, perhaps St. Albinus. The cir-
cumstances of his reception and its results, will be best

' Heric. de Mir. § 29. Ughellusj Ital. Sacra, torn. iv.


undei'stood at a later period of this narrative. Suffice
it to say, that the Bishop desired St. German to dedi-
cate on his return a Church he was building, which he
promised to do. It is however to be remarked, that
there is still a village near Vercelli, called after St.

German arrived at Milan on the Festival of St.
Protasius and Gervasius ; that is, the 19th of June,
448.^ These were the two martyrs whose remains
had been discovered by Ambrose, and gave occasion to
the well known miracle performed on a blind man. A
great many bishops, "^ with other clergy, were assembled
for the feast. Milan was a metropolitan See, and one
which has ever possessed peculiar and independent
privileges. There were fifteen Suffragan Bishops
within the diocese.'' St. Barnabas the Apostle was
said to have founded the See of Milan. In all proba-
bility St. Lazarus was Bishop when German arrived,
if it be true that he was elected in 440, and governed
eleven years. He has deserved special mention in the
Roman martp'ology, and been praised in ten lines of
poetry by Ennodius Ticinensis.

"We must now imagine St. Lazarus in the prin-
cipal Church clothed with his pontifical vestments, as
for a great festival of the city, after the fashion of
the very ancient Mosaic representation of the Arch-
bishop of Ravenna in the Church of San Vitale^
He would be dressed in a white surplice or albe,
with the pallium, the mark of his dignity, which
was now commg into use in the West after the

1 Bede Ephemeris Junii.
- Sacerdotes. =• Ughellus, Ital. Sacra, torn. iv.

^ See the interesting Drawing in Knight's Ecclesiastical Ar-
chitecture of Italy. Folio, 1842.


custom of the Oriental Churches. This pallium seems
to have been very different from the Archiepiscopal
pall of a later period, which resembles a stole or scarf
passed round the neck and joining over the breast. In
the fifth century there is reason to think it was a white
woollen chasuble or cloak, which covered nearly the
whole body, without seam, and open only at the top to
admit the head, descending nearly to the heels, and
concealing the greater part of the albe. The signifi-
cancy of this vestment consisted in its being an emblem
of the sheep whom the Good Shepherd recovers from
its wanderings and places on His shoulders. Hence it
was called in Greek the Homophorion. ^ Over the
pallium of St. Lazarus, a stole of white silk or other
stuff would be hanging on both sides, with a small
black or coloiired cross at each end. In his right hand
he might be carrying an image of the cross, gilt, or of
gold, with blue spots at intervals, probably some pi'e-
cious stones of great value. The minor clergy about
him would also be clad in white surplices ; some might
be carrying the volume of the Gospels, others the cen-
sers with frankincense. The tonsvu-e would be different
according to the office of the ecclesiastic ; the baldness

' See Thomassin. de Discipl — where the following apposite
passage from St. Isidorus Pelusiota, is quoted. Lib. i. Ep.
136. " Episcopi Pallium, a/*o?of loy ex lana, non ex lino contextum,
ovis illius, quam Dominus aberrantem quajsisit, inventamque
humeris suis sustulit, pellem significat. Episcopus enim qui
Christi typum gcrit, ipsius munere fungitur, atque etiam ipso

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanLives of the English saints (Volume 2) → online text (page 28 of 33)