Faith and constancy win the day
Those who choose to pray at home sometimes feel that they are being asked to do the impossible, or that the Sacraments they so treasured, which are no longer available to them are a very dear sacrifice that few have ever been asked to make. But this is only an illusion. For while we may hear little of such saints and know indeed little of their sacrifices in times past, the English, the Irish, the Japanese, the French during the Revolution, Russians and others behind the Iron Curtain both before and after the Bolshevik Revolution — all were deprived of the Sacraments and many chose to die as martyrs rather than receive them from the hands of schismatics and heretics. But no one today thinks of these martyrs.
Below we read the life of St. Hermenegild, taken from Lives of the Saints, With Reflections for Every Day in the Year, by Alban Butler, 1894. Hermenegild was one of those many saints mentioned above, and it is amazing to see that rather than profane the Blessed Sacrament, he chose to die, just as the young St. Tarcisius died defending the Holy Eucharist from the pagans. We may not be asked to give our lives for refusing to profane our Lord’s Body and Blood, but if we persevere to the end in refusing to receive the Sacrament from those who are unable to confect it, we will, in obeying God rather than offending Him, offer to Him a white martyrdom such as was suffered by Our Lady and St. John the Beloved Apostle. And this is most fitting, since they are the two who stood with Our Lord at the foot of the cross to the end. So may we all remain there until the very end, in this the passion of His Mystical Body on earth.
April 13 — ST. Hermenegild, Martyr
Leovigild, King of the Visigoths, had two sons, Hermenegild and Recared, who reigned conjointly with him. All three were Arians, but Hermenegild married a zealous Catholic, the daughter of Sigebert, King of France, and by her holy example was converted to the faith. His father, on hearing the news, denounced him as a traitor, and marched to seize his person. Hermenegild tried to rally the Catholics of Spain in his defense, but they were too weak to make any stand, and, after a two years’ fruitless struggle, he surrendered on the assurance of a free pardon. When safely in the royal camp, the king had him loaded with fetters and cast info a foul dungeon at Seville.
Tortures and bribes were in turn employed to shake his faith, but Hermenegild wrote to his father that he held the crown as nothing, and preferred to lose sceptre and life rather than betray the truth of God. At length, Easter night, an Arian bishop entered his cell, and promised him his father’s pardon if he would but receive Communion at his hands. Hermenegild indignantly rejected the offer and knelt with joy for his death-stroke. The same night a light streaming from his cell told the Christians who were watching near that the martyr had won his crown, and was keeping his Easter with the Saints in glory.
Leovigild on his death-bed, though still an Arian, bade Recared seek out St. Leander, whom he had himself cruelly persecuted, and, following Hermenegild’s example, be received by him into the Church. Recared did so, and on his father’s death labored so earnestly for the extirpation of Arianism that he brought over the whole nation of the Visigoths to the Church. “Nor is it to be wondered,” says St. Gregory, “that he came thus to be a preacher of the true faith, seeing that he was brother of a martyr, whose merits did help him to bring so many into the lap of God’s Church.”
Reflection — St. Hermenegild teaches us that constancy and sacrifice are the best arguments for the Faith, and the surest way to win souls to God.