John McQuirk.

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the poor whom I feed, and who w^ill miss me. I also
bequeath to you this house, that you may consecrate
it as a church, and that it may become the temple of
the Lord forever." She was lying on her right side.
As soon as she uttered these words, her hands fell
by her side; she expired; heaven was opened and
she was forever united to her Spouse.


Thus Cecilia completed the sacrifice begun by her
vow of Virginity. Thus it is that God works : "He
selects the foolish that He may confound the wise;
and the weak that He may confound the strong;
and the things that are contemptible and the things
that are not, that He may bring to naught the things
that are." From nothing He created the world;
from slime He has created our bodies, so fearfully
and wonderfully made. To convert the world, He
selected twelve illiterate fishermen. In the midst of
persecution He makes choice of a child, w^ho, rising
superior to age, the weakness of sex, of temptation,
to the cunning of men, to the allurements of the
world, to the most unheard-of cruelties, confounds
the power of Rome, and converts those sent to seek
her perversion and apostasy from Christ. Well
could she exclaim with the Apostle: ''Who then
shall separate us from the charity of Christ? tribu-
lation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or
danger? or persecution? or the sword? . . . For
I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present,
nor things to come (nor might), nor height, nor
depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to sepa-
rate us from the love of God, which is in Christ
Jesus, Our Lord." Romans, VHI, 35-38.

From the day of Cecilia's death in the third cen-
tury to the recovery of her body in the ninth and
down to the present, painters and sculptors, poets
and musicians, pontiffs and princes, have vied in
commemorating the virtues and cherishing the mem-
ory of this beautiful Saint. They all have found in
her the type of female beauty and loveliness, radiant


with heavenly virtue. And it has ever been the
highest aspiration of painter and sculptor to convey
to the canvas or to chisel in the marble the ineffable
sweetness, the heavenly beauty, of her features.
Homage, too, has been paid to her in those stately
temples and superb sanctuaries which in Rome and
Italy and throughout Europe have been raised to
her honor by the piety and munificence of kings and
popes. The poet has found in the circumstances of
her short life the inspiration of his genius and a
theme worthy of his noblest efforts. Some of the
choicest poems in literature have been the tribute
offered to her memory by those who have sought to
show their love of the Saint by embalming her
praises in verse. All the fine arts have presented
their offerings at the shrine of our Saint.

But it is the musician who has most assiduously
cultivated the memory and sung of the virtues of
Cecilia. Music has ever regarded her as its special
patroness. She has ever been recognized as the
queen of Christian harmony. And this, some say,
from the circumstance that she was the first to em-
ploy the organ in singing the praises of God. For
never did this holy virgin sing to the Lord unaccom-
panied by this musical instrument. But we would
rather say, that this divinest of the arts, having de-
scended from heaven, found in her a patroness, be-
cause it found in her angelic purity and loveliness
the holiest sentiments of harmony, the noblest in-
spirations of music. Her name is inseparably asso-
ciated with all the glories and triumphs of Chris-
tian music. Instinctively have the faithful ever ac-
counted her as the special protectress of this in-


Spiring art. Musical societies have been organized
in her name and placed under her protection. Ar-
tists have dedicated to her their compositions; great
composers have exhausted their genius to produce
what might be worth}' of her festival. Wherever
music is known, the name of Cecilia, as its syno-
nym, is revered. And in Rome, at the present time,
there exists a society composed of the greatest musi-
cal geniuses of Italy, dedicated to her name. The
stranger and the native in Rome, on the eve of her
festival, hasten across the Tiber, forcing their way
through the multitude of people and vehicles, on
the same errand as themselves, to hear the first
Vespers of the Saint in the Church which stands on
the very site of the palace in which she was mar-
tyred. And there for hours the assemblage is
thrilled by the singing and music of the great artists
of Rome, gathered to do honor to her memory.

Nor should we be surprised that the Church has
honored Cecilia as the Queen of music ; that she has
always evinced so profound a solicitude for the cul-
tivation of this heaven-conferred art. Religion
alone is capable of inspiring music worthy of the
name. The Church has always held it under her
benign care and devoted herself to its cultivation.
Music was preserved, as were all the fine arts, by
the Church. Gregory, Leo, Damascus, Ambrose,
labored for its restoration. Popes and Cardinals,
Bishops and Priests, have always encouraged its
growth. Always it has been held to be an indis-
pensable part not only of ecclesiastical, but of edu-
cation in general. No wonder that the Church has
honored Cecilia as its patroness. She blesses all


arts, and makes them all subserve the honor and
glory of God. Poetry, eloquence, painting, music,
each has its sphere of usefulness in the Church. But
ever, in a most especial manner, has she appropri-
ated to herself this divine art of music, as it were,
the language of another world and the symphony
of angels, as the most effectual means of raising the
minds and hearts of men to heaven and uniting them
in the celestial concert, the heavenly harmony which
the angels and blessed spirits perpetually sing before
the throne of God. In the Preface of the Mass she
prays that we, the Church militant, may be per-
mitted to join our voices with the Church trium-
phant, the hosts of heavenly spirits who sing His
glory, adore His majesty, and tremble at His power.
Thus the Church, by her music, raises our thoughts
from earth, fixes them upon heaven, and gives us a
foretaste of our happiness hereafter.

Who has not felt the influence of music upon the
soul? Who that has ever been present under the
wondrous dome of some great cathedral during the
celebration of the Divine Mysteries on some great
solemnity, and with his senses overpowered by the
majesty of the temple and the splendors that sur-
round him, has heard the powerful organ with its
various accompaniments send its volumes of sound
reverberating through the lofty vaults, shaking the
whole temple, can tell the influence of music upon
the soul ; how it transports us out of this world of
sadness and sorrow, and makes us long to partake
in that heavenly harmony and angelic symphony of
which all earthly music is but the faintest echo. It
is then that the soul, lifted heavenwards, forgets its


mundane existence, and, "borne on the swelling
notes," aspires after the glories of Heaven. Well
have the poets sung:

"Our joys below it can improve,
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found.
And to her Maker's praise confined the sound.
When the full organ joins the tuneful choir,
The immortal powers incline their ear;
Borne on the sw^elling notes our souls aspire,
While solemn airs improve the sacred fire.
And angels lean from heaven to hear.
Of Orpheus now no more let poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater power is given ;
His numbers raised a shade from hell,
Her's lift the soul to heaven." Pope.

"At last, divine Ceciha came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast, from her sacred store,
Enlarged the former narrow bounds.
And added length to solemn sounds.
With nature's mother-wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize
Or both divide the crown ;
He raised a mortal to the skies,
She drew an angel down." Dryden.

What conclusion are we to draw from what we
have been saying concerning St. Cecilia? What is
the lesson her life teaches? The Roman Empire
which put her to death and all the other martyrs


of Christ, drunk with their blood, has long since
passed away. The Church of Christ, which it so
cruelly persecuted, has risen in triumph upon its
ruins. Pagan civilization has given way to the
Christian civilization to which the Gospel has given
birth. Where are now Almachius, the persecutor of
Cecilia, and all the other persecutors of the servants
of Christ? By whom are their names honored?
Who even remembers them? Or, if they are re-
membered, is it not as monsters of wickedness and
inhumanity? But the name of Cecilia is honored
and revered by all who profess the Christian name.
For sixteen hundred years her intercession has been
invoked, and shall be invoked till the end of time.
Wherever the name of Christ is known, the name
of Cecilia is celebrated. Wherever, from the rising
to the setting sun, the Sacrifice of Christ's Body and
Blood is offered up, her name is enshrined in that
oblation and is present in the hearts of the faithful.
Thus it is that the servants of God, even in this
life, receive their reward. The temporal hero, as
his career terminates with his life, so, for the most
part, does his honor. But the servant of Christ, as
he lives for all time by the imperishability of his
example and the permanence of his works, so does
his veneration. Thus it is that he is glorified after
death by the world which contemned him during
life. Thus it is that all things subserve the glory
of the saints. Thus it is that virtue triumphs, and
God overcomes the world.


'Tn Christ Jesus through the Gospel, have I begot-
ten you." — St. Paul, I Cor. iv. 15.

These words of St. Paul to the Corinthians may-
be well considered as addressed to-day by St. Patrick
to every Irishman.

After the great festivals by which we commemo-
rate the mysteries of our Redemption, nothing
should be nearer to our hearts than the celebration
of the Feast of him who was the parent of Chris-
tianity in our native land ; who first made known
to our ancestors the truths of Religion, and intro-
duced them from the darkness of paganism into "the
admirable light of the Gospel" ; who planted the in-
destructible faith of our people, — ^^the admiration of
the world ; who laid the foundations — broad and
deep — of the Church of Ireland, — one of the bright-
est glories of the Spouse of Christ.

Nothing is more instinctive to the heart than to
honor and celebrate the lives and deeds of men, who,
during life or by their deaths have sought the ameli-
oration and liberty of their country or kind. By
panegyric or monument from the earliest times to
the present has this prompting of our nature shown
itself in various forms. However, the living words
of the orator or poet- have survived, while the ma-


terial monument has crumbled into dust. The words
pregnant with Hfe and light have been enshrined in
the hearts of men, while the sculptured stone or ani-
mated bust has been effaced or destroyed by the ruth-
less hand of time. The conception of the soul ex-
pressed by the tongue has passed into all languages
and hearts, while the mausoleum decorated with all
human art has not gone beyond where it was erected,
and perished even there.

This keen interest, made more powerful by faith
and motives loftier than human, leads us to com-
memorate the saints and servants of God, who have
spent their lives and maybe shed their blood in
preaching the Gospel, in spreading the Church of
God throughout the world, in opening to its influence
the souls and lives of men, in perpetuating the
Sacrifice and Salvation vouchsafed by Jesus Christ;
men, whether celebrated or remembered in the
Church or not, are yet renowned in heaven, in whose
praise the Lord Himself is praised. ''Let us praise
men of renown and their fathers in their generation
those men of mercy whose goodly deeds
have not failed ; good things continue with their
seed. . . . Let the people show forth their wis-
dom and the Church declare their praise" — Ecclesi.

What is it to be an Apostle? to be called by God
to the Apostolate established by His Son, Jesus
Christ, the Incarnate Word, to carry on the conver-
sion of the world and the salvation of men? To be
with Qirist "co-operator in the ministry of the
Word, and dispenser of the mysteries of God." To
be addressed by Christ in the words He addressed


to the other Apostles : "Amen, I say to you who have
followed Me in this generation, ye shall sit on twelve
thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Nay,
more, having been teachers of men in this world, to
become with Him at the last day judges of the hving
and the dead. No higher dignity can be conceived
than that of being an Apostle of Christ. It is not
only beyond Angelic rank, but beyond Angelic con-
ception to conceive a more exalted office. For as
Christ is above the Angels, those who partake with
Him in His work are likened unto Him, and become
truly His adopted sons. "Ye shall be as Gods," is
said of the elect; how truer of those who, having
"instructed many unto justice, shall shine as stars
for all eternity." To be foreknow^n in God's eter-
nal prescience as co-laborers with the "Lamb slain
before the foundation of the world, in the redemp-
tion of a fallen race, is the surest and most unmis-
takable predestination to life and glory. Tongue of
man or angel could utter no sublimer praise of any
man than that he was made an Apostle. Human
nature is capable of no diviner a work than that of
being sent as the Apostles are sent to announce the
Gospel to unbelieving nations yet sitting in the valley
of the shadow of death.

The grace that calls a man to the priesthood, as
Aaron was called, and as priests in the Old Law and
the New are called, is not sufficient for the vocation
of an Apostle. He must be segregated, as St. Paul,
from his mother's womb. Few are they who receive
this transcendent vocation. It calls for the most
extraordinary endowments of nature and grace.
Hence we find in the Church's history that those


called and sent to announce the truth to nations hid-
den in the darkness of unbelief, and sunk in sin,
original and actual, were the greatest of men, en-
riched with inestimable gifts of grace and the rarest
endowments of nature. Among all of them St.
Patrick was conspicuous. After St. Paul, whom
he wonderfully resembled, there was none greater.
Tillemont, the most accurate of Church historians,
whose painstaking and research has been said to
amount to genius, and to whom Gibbon was indebted
for so much in the history of the Roman Empire,
says that "St. Patrick more closely resembles St.
Paul than any of the Saints who have come after
him." None possessed in a more eminent degree
the virtues and endowments characteristic of the
Apostolate to which God has entrusted the lofty
task of bringing unbelieving nations unto Christ.

The glory of the Apostolate is immeasurably in-
creased when it issues in the marvelous fruits which
attended St. Patrick's labors in Ireland ; converting,
we may say, the whole nation in his lifetime, and
leaving the faith so universally rooted in the hearts
of the people that no time or persecution has been
able to diminish or destroy it. Yes, truly, the glory
of that Apostolate is enhanced beyond all measure
or expression that results in planting such a faith
as that of Ireland, — a faith that has filled the Church
with saints and martyrs and doctors ; a faith that
has filled the world with its fame ; a faith that has
turned a land of paganism and barbarism into a
nation of Apostles, and the sanctuary and school of
Europe for ages afterwards. Like the Jews, who in
their history and prophets carry the proof of Christ


wherever they go, the Irish scattered by oppression
and direful wrong have become teachers and wit-
nesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the

Let us see how God prepared this vessel of election
for his sublime Apostolate. Let us trace the course
of God's providence in his regard from the time of
his birth to the day when he landed in Ireland, now
a Bishop and Apostle, to begin his glorious mission.

St. Patrick was born about the year 372 in Kil-
patrick, near Glasgow, in Scotland. His name was
Maun, to which Patrick was a title of nobility. His
father was Calphurnias and his mother Conchessa.
On the maternal side he was related to St. Martin of
Tours. Much dispute has existed as to the land that
gave him birth. But it is of interest only to the
curious. Seven cities contended for old Homer
when he was dead ; through them alive he had
begged his bread. The sphere of a man's life and
work, said Edmund Burke, is his true country. In
Ireland he spent much of his youth in slavery, and,
with the exception of the years which were spent in
preparation for his ministry, he spent his manhood
and old age in Ireland, where his ashes lie.

His parents had settled in Scotland, whence, about
his sixteenth year, he was captured by pirates or
marauders and sold into slavery in Ireland. Some
say that he was thus enslaved several times for short
periods, others that he was seized but once and then
for several years held in bondage. During his servi-
tude his duty was to herd swine and cattle. Like
another Joseph, who was similarly sold into Egyp-
tian captivity, he repined not at his hard lot, but


recognized the will and hand of God in this gravest
of calamities. Trusting to this providence, he was
submissive and ready to endure all trials and mis-
eries from which he would in the appointed time
find an escape.

He employed his seclusion in studying the ways
of God in his regard, and for consulting Him regard-
ing his future career. What must have obviously
suggested itself to him was the great field of zeal
and usefulness that lay before him in the rescue from
paganism and conversion to the light of the people
around him. Like another Joseph consulting for the
future good of his brethren and people, he beheld
the illimitable opportunity for the spread of the Gos-
pel and the salvation of souls in that prolific race.
Perhaps a vision was vouchsafed of the future of the
Irish people forced from their native land and carry-
ing the Gospel into all parts of the world. It may
have been disclosed to him that he was to be another
Abraham, the father of countless generations, be-
lievers in the true God and Jesus Christ, Whom^ He
hath sent. On the mountain tops of Ireland and in
her lovely valleys, and along her picturesque lakes, he
meditated on the truths of the Gospel, in which he
had been thoroughly grounded by faithful parents.
Nor did his sudden and abrupt seizure from home
and kindred and enforced sojourn among a strange
people fail to inspire him with the vanity of the
world and the waywardness of fortune. It is in
separation from men and in the profound solitude
that such troubles sink deepest in the soul. For
solitude is the mother of saints and the cradle of all
great undertakings, and the source of genius and
lofty thought.


His long continued slavery broke those ties of
home and kindred which are so frequently an ob-
stacle to him who would embrace the Cross. The
prospect of never again seeing his parents and of
enjoying the sweets of home, detached his heart
from earth and earthly objects and fixed it upon
those eternal objects which religion discloses and in
which alone the soul can find perfect happiness. He
looked around upon the people in the midst of whom
he was, and, considering their condition, he was
moved with the profoundest compassion. He be-
held a people not inferior in natural endowments to
any on earth sunk in superstition and giving to the
creature the glory due to God alone. He saw them
offer their pagan sacrifices, and to seek the secrets
of the future by investigating the entrails of animals
and by other absurd rites. He saw^ that withal they
w^ere a religious — a deeply religious — people. Al-
though their belief was superstitious, although their
worship was misapplied, yet they were devotedly
attached to their gods and zealously faithful in the
observance of their rites. Patrick grieved to see so
noble a nation under the bondage of the evil one ;
he longed to introduce it into the flock of Christ and
the admirable light of the Gospel. He saw what
under God's grace it could be made capable of. And,
zealous for the diffusion of Christ's Church, he ar-
dently wished to make known to them the mysteries
of salvation. And here we may admire the provi-
dence of God in the way He took of bringing Ireland
into the Church. As He had allowed Joseph to be
carried captive into Egypt in order that he might
afterwards, during the seven years of famine, bene-


fit not only his father's house but the Egyptians
themselves, so here we see that God allowed Patrick
to be taken prisoner that He might make known to
him the noble nation that he was one day to graft
upon the faith.

Patrick having formed, doubtless by divine in-
spiration, the purjxDse of evangelizing the Irish,
waited with patience God's appointed time for its
accomplishment. He matured it by profound and
unceasing reflection, commended it to God by con-
tinual and fervent prayer, until he felt called of God,
like another Paul, to be the Apostle of the people
among whom he was a slave and, till his advent
among them, a stranger.

At length the hour of deliverance came, and he
was again restored to his family and home, and the
endearments of all who once knew him. But it was
only for a brief moment. A new passion had taken
possession of his love; all worldly ambition, all de-
sire for worldly fame, had given way to the sublime
ambition of living for God only and of saving the
immortal souls of men. His long absence had de-
tached him from home, and his meditations during
his enforced captivity had lifted him above the world
and all the world holds dearest. No inducement
could move him — the fascination of home, the love
of friends, his brilliant prospects and all those other
inducements which were presented to him — could
for a moment shake the resolution he had formed of
devoting his life to the salvation of the nation in
which he had been so many years a slave. He would
thereafter labor for the incorruptible crown in store
for those who shall leave father or mother, sister or
brother, for sake of Jesus Christ.


Yet he knew that the work of the Apostolate was
not to be Hghtly undertaken, that it required great
preparation, that the preaching of the word required
a learning which he did not yet possess. Accord-
ingly, he at once placed himself under the instruc-
tion of masters and spent long years in acquiring the
learning and virtue which should necessarily adorn
him who would preach Jesus Christ. This prepara-
tion, always necessary to the minister of the Gospel,
was doubly so in him who would undertake the con-
version of Ireland. For Patrick had observed dur-
ing his stay among the Irish that with all their super-
stition and ignorance, they were a people of keen wit
and rare intelligence, to whom, if he hoped to an-
nounce the Gospel with success, he would have to
defend its truth and to silence their objections. Af-
ter many years in this preparation he was ordained
priest by St. Martin. He then hastened to Rome,
as Apostles in all ages have done, as St. Paul went
to Peter lest he should have taught amiss, as St.
Augustine did before he set out for England, and
St. Boniface and St. Francis Xavier did. And from
Pope Celestine he received the commission to an-
nounce the Gospel to the Irish people. Returning
from Rome, he was joined by twenty fellow laborers,
and at once set sail for Ireland, about the year 432.
At last he stands upon the coast of Ireland, no
longer a slave, reluctantly torn away from home,
but a man in all his maturity and power, voluntarily
relinquishing the world to preach the Gospel and to
save souls. The imagination can picture no spec-
tacle more sublime than that of a man turning his
back upon the world to devote himself to the Apos-


tolic life, standing upon the shore of some pagan
land, armed with no sword, but the Cross, and about

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 24 of 43)