Skip to comments.[Catholic Caucus] Saint Remigius, Bishop and Confessor, Apostle of the Franks (Gueranger)
Posted on 10/01/2018 12:55:23 AM PDT by CMRosary
SCARCELY HAD TWO CENTURIES elapsed since the triumph of the Cross over Roman idolatry, when Satan began to cry victory once more. While Eutychianism was crowned at Byzantium in the person of Anastasius the Silent, Arianism was rife in the West. Throughout the whole ancient territory of the empire, heresy was supreme, and almost everywhere was persecuting the Church, who had now none but the vanquished for her sons.
“But fear not; rather rejoice,” says Baronius at this point in his Annals; “it is Divine Wisdom still delighting to play in the world. The thoughts of men count for little before him who holds the light in his hands, to hide it when he pleases and, when he wills, to bring it forth again. The darkness that now covers the earth marks the hour when the dawn is about to break in the hearts of the Franks, and the Catholic faith is to shine there in all its glory.”
Little known in our days is such a manner of writing history; yet this was the view taken by the first historian of the Church, and the greatest. On such a feast as this we could not do better than repeat summarily his account of the Franks. “How,” says he, “can we help admiring that Providence which is never wanting to the Church? From the midst of tribes still pagan, on the morrow of the irremediable fall of the Empire, God forms to himself a new people, raises unto himself a prince: against these must break the rising tide of heretics and Barbarians. Such, in truth, appeared in the course of ages the divine mission of the Frankish kings.
“What energy has faith to uphold kingdoms; and what fatal power has heresy to uproot every plant that is not set by our heavenly Father! In proof hereof, see how the principalities of the Goths, Vandals, Heruli, Alani, Suevi, and Gepidi have utterly disappeared; while the Franks behold their little spot of earth blessedly fertilized, and encroaching far upon the surrounding territories.
“Henceforth appeared the might of the Franks, when preceded to battle by the Cross. Hitherto obscure and struggling for existence, they were now everywhere victorious. They had only had to acknowledge Christ in order to reach the highest summit of glory, honor, and renown. In so speaking I say nothing but what is known to the whole world. If they have been more favored than other nations, it is because they were supereminent in faith, and incomprable in piety, so that they were more eager to defend the Church than to protect their own frontiers.
“Moreover, a privilege unique and truly admirable was theirs: never did the sins of kings bring upon this people, as upon so many others, subjection to a foreign yoke. The promise of the Psalm would seem to have been renewed in favor of this nation: If his children forsake my law … and keep not my commandments, I will visit their iniquities with a rod … but my mercy I will not take away from him.”
All honor, then, to the saintly Pontiff, who merited to be the instrument of such heavenly benefits! According to the expression of the holy Pope Hormisdas, “Remigius converted the nation, and baptized Clovis, in the midst of prodigies similar to those of the apostolic age.” The prayers of Clotilde, and labors of Genevieve, the penances of the monks who peopled the forests of Gaul, had doubtless a great share in a conversion which brought such joy to the Angels. Did space allow, we might relate how it was also prepared by the great Bishops of the fifth century, Germanus of Auxerre, Lupus of Troyes, Anian of Orleans, Hilary of Arles, Memertus and Avitus of Vienne, Sidonius Apollinaris, and so many others who, in that age of darkness, held up the Church to the light of day, and commanded the respect of the Barbarians. Remigius, contemporary and survivor of most of them, and their rival in eloquence, nobility, and holiness, seemed to personify them all on that Christmas night forestalled by so many desires, prayers, and sufferings. In the baptistery of St. Mary’s at Rheims, the Frankish nation was born to God; as heretofore on the banks of the Jordan, the dove was again seen over the waters, honoring this time not the Baptism of Jesus, but that of the Church’s eldest daughter; it brought a gift from heaven, the holy vial containing the chrism which was to anoint the French kings in future ages into the most worthy of all the kings of the earth.
Two churches in the city of Rheims claim the honor of these glorious souvenirs: the grand church of our Lady, and the venerable basilica where Remigius lay, with the vial of chrism at his feet, and guarded by the twelve Peers surrounding his splendid mausoleum. This church of St. Remigius bore the name of caput Franciæ, head of all France, until those days of October 1793, when, from its desecrated pulpit was proclaimed the word that the days of darkness were at an end; when the holy ampulla was broken, and the relics of the Apostle of France were thrown into a common grave (they were, however, afterwards discovered and authentically recognized; and are, to this day, an object of the greatest veneration to pilgrims).
After an episcopate of seventy-four years, the longest ever recorded in history, Remigius took his flight to heaven on the 13th of January, the anniversary of his episcopal consecration and also of his birth. Yet in the same century, the first of October was chosen for his Feast; this being the day whereon his relics were first translated to a more honorable place, in the midst of miracles such as those which had graced his life. The Translation of St. Remigius is the name still given to this day by the church of Rheims, which, by a special privilege, celebrates on the Octave day of the Epiphany the principal festival of its glorious patron. We borrow the following Lessons from the Office of that day.
This is a fitting occasion to bring forward the beautiful forumula rightly called the Prayer of the Franks, which dates from the first ages of the monarchy.
St. Leo IX said to his contemporaries, and we echo his words, concerning the land of France: “Be it known to your charity that you must solemnly celebrate the Feast of the blessed Remigius; for it to others he is not an Apostle, he is such with regard to you at least. Pay such honor, then, to your Apostle and Father, that you may merit, according to the divine promise, to live long upon the earth, and, by his prayers, may obtain possession of eternal beatitude.” When he thus spoke, the sovereign Pontiff has just consecrated thy church, then for the third time rebuilt with the magnificence required by the growing devotion of the people. The nine centuries since elapsed have augmented thy claims to the gratitude of a nation, into which thou didst infuse such vigorous life, that no other has equalled it in duration. Accept our thanks, O thou who wast as a new Sylvester to a new Constantine.
Glory be to our Lord, who showed forth his wonders in thee! Remembering those gestes of God accomplished in all climes by her sons the Franks, the Church recognizes (in the Rheims Lectionary) the legitimacy of applying to thee the beautiful words which announced the Messias: Give ear, ye islands, and hearken, ye people, from afar. The Lord hath called me from the womb … And he said: … Behold I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation even to the farthest part of the earth. Truly it was a day of salvation, that Christmas day, whereon it pleased our Lord to bless thy labors and grant the desires of thy long episcopate. By the holy faith thou taughtest, thou wast then the covenant of the people, the new people composed of the conquerors and the conquered in that land of France, which, when once itself raised up, soon restored to God the inheritances that had been destroyed. O true Church, the one only Bride, captive and destitute, behold Remigius rises to say to thy sons that are bound: Come forth, and to them that are in darkness: Show yourselves! From North and South, from beyond the sea, behold they come in multitudes: all these are come to thee. Therefore, give praise, O ye heavens, and rejoice O earth, because the Lord hath comforted his people; after a whole century of heresy and barbarity, God has once more demonstrated that they shall not be confounded that wait for him.
Our confidence in God will again be rewarded if thou, O Remigius, deign to present to our Lord the prayer of the Franks who have remained faithful in honoring thy memory. The renegades sold over to Satan may tyrannize for a time over the deluded crowd; but they are not the nation. A day will come when Christ, who is ever King, will say to the Angels of his guard those words of his lieutenant Clovis: “It displeases me that these Goths possess the good land of France; expel them, for it belongs to us.”
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