VIGIL OF THE ASCENSION – ROGATION WEDNESDAY – With a Commemoration of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor
For the third time holy Church marshals her children in procession, and makes a solemn appeal to the divine mercy. Let us follow her sacred standard, and join her in invoking the intercession of the Saints. The Litany, in which we pray to all the choirs of the heavenly Jerusalem, is both a magnificent and a powerful prayer: it is the Church Triumphant uniting with the Church Militant in praying for the salvation of the world. 0 Mary! Mother of God, Virgin of virgins, miracle of divine power, exercise, in our favor, thy maternal mediation with Him, who, though God, is thy Son! Michael, the invincible, Gabriel, welcome messenger of our salvation, Raphael, affectionate physician of them that are suffering; Angels and Archangels, who watch over us, and co-operate in the work of our salvation; all ye choirs of blessed Spirits, who are waiting for your ranks to be filled up by the elect of earth; — intercede for your brethren, your clients! John the Baptist, Precursor of the Lamb of God; Joseph, Spouse of Mary Immaculate, and foster-father of the Son of God; Patriarchs, the glorious fore fathers of the human race, and ancestors of the Messias; Prophets, who foretold his coming, and described the events of his life, that so the earth might recognize him as its promised Redeemer; remember us who are living in this exile, through which you also passed!
Peter, universal Pastor, that holdest the keys of the kingdom of heaven; Paul, Apostle of the Gen tiles, armed with the sword of the word, and immolated by the sword of Martyrdom; Andrew, crucified like thy Master; James the Greater, son of thunder, founder of the ” Catholic Kingdom; “John, the Beloved Disciple, the adopted son and guardian of Mary, Evangelist and Prophet; Thomas, Apostle of the Indies, pierced to death by a spear; James the Less, surnamed the Brother of the Lord; Philip, who didst preach the Gospel to the Scythians, and wast crucified at Hierapolis; Bartholomew, the teacher and martyr of Armenia; Matthew, the Evangelist, who didst carry the faith into the scorching regions of Ethiopia; Simon, by whose zeal Mesopotamia was led to the knowledge of Christ; Thaddeus, the courageous destroyer of the idols of Egypt; Matthias, chosen to fill up the place of the Traitor Judas, and well worthy of the honor; Barnabas, Paul’s companion, and the light of the isle of Cyprus; Luke, disciple of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and historian of the Incarnate Word; Mark, disciple of Peter, under whose direction thou wrotest the Gospel of salvation; — we devoutly honor you as our Fathers in the Faith; pray for and with us! Disciples of our Lord, who, though not raised to the rank of Apostles, were chosen by him to be their fellow-laborers, and who, on the Day of Pentecost, were filled with the Holy Ghost; dear Innocents of Bethlehem, first-fruits of the Martyrs; — deign to join us in our supplications! Stephen the Crowned, Laurence the brave and cheerful winner of immortal laurels, Vincent the Victorious, — the glorious triumvirate of Deacons; Fabian, Pontiff designated by a dove sent from heaven; Sebastian, dauntless soldier of holy Church; John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, Gervasius and Protasius, Brothers by nature and martyrdom; oh! all ye holy Martyrs, protect us under the shadow of your palms ! Sylvester, Pontiff of Peace ;
Gregory, Vicar both of the meekness and authority of Christ; Ambrose, whose eloquence was sweet as honey, and whose courage was as that of a lion; Augustine, Doctor of Doctors, and apostle of divine charity; Jerome, in spired interpreter of the Scriptures; Martin, Thaumaturgus of the West, and Nicholas, wonder-worker in the East; holy Pontiffs, holy Doctors of the Church, lead back to Christ all his sheep that are gone astray! Antony, the glory of the desert, and the conqueror of Satan; Benedict, the Abraham of the New Testament, whose children are countless as the stars of heaven; Bernard, pillar of the Church, and favorite of the Mother of God; Dominic, Preacher of divine truth, and scourge of heresy; Francis, friend and spouse of poverty, crucified together with Christ; — we honor you all; enkindle within our souls the desire of Christian perfection! Priests of the Lord; holy Monks, and Hermits, and Confessors; — pray for us who implore your aid !
Mary Magdalene, once a sinner, but afterwards a Saint ; whose devotedness to Jesus was so generous and fervent; obtain for us that compunction of heart, which makes amends for sin by love! Agatha and Lucy, beautiful flowers of fair Sicily; Agnes, who followest the Lamb whithersoever he goeth; Cecily, wreathed with thy roses and lilies, and queen of sweet melody; Catharine, the wise virgin that confoundedst the false wisdom of philosophers; Anastasia, the valiant woman that didst triumph over the trials of life and the severity of tortures over the trials of life and the severity of tortures; oh! all ye holy Virgins, Spouses of Jesus, look with compassion on us who are dwelling in this land of exile ! All ye holy men and women, Saints of God, who now reign in heaven above, think of us your brethren, who mourn in this vale of tears. We, too, are created for eternal happiness; and yet the vanities of time engross our thoughts and affections. Make intercession for us, that, henceforth, we may walk worthy of God, who hath called us unto his kingdom and glory.
The Litany is finished; and, for the third time, the Holy Sacrifice is about to work reconciliation between our God, and us his guilty children. Let us hope that he will make this a year of peace and plenty; and next year, when the Church invites us to join her in this public supplication for pardon, may the number of those who respond to her call, be such as to merit an increase of every blessing! Let us assist at it with a deep conviction of our own insufficiency to make atonement for our sins, and yet, with a firm confidence in the infinite merits of the Paschal Lamb, our Risen Jesus.
The ancient Church of Gaul used to recite the following Prayer on this third of the Rogation Days. It will aid us to a spirit of penance.
It is truly meet and just, yea most meet, that they who fast should seek thee alone, thee that art the teacher of thee that art the teacher of abstinence, and the giver of eternal rewards to them that practice it. To them that fast, thou grantest what they, with faith, ask of thee, — thou cleansest them from the stains contracted by intemperate indulgence. It was thou that didst proclaim holy fasting by thy servant Moses, in the book of Leviticus; wherein thou commandedst that we should humble our souls, lest we should be destroyed, as was the people that gave themselves up to excess in eating. Thine Only Begotten Son sanctified this institution by himself fulfilling it, and, by his Fast, opening to us the kingdom we had lost, and pardoning our sins. Do thou, therefore, graciously accept the fasts thou hast instituted, and, by them, absolve us from all our guilt.
The third morning of the Rogation Days is over; the hour of noon has come, and from it we begin to count the hours of the last day which the Son of God is to spend upon earth in his visible presence. During these three days, we seem to have forgotten that the time of separation is close upon us; but no, — the thought of our coming trial has often presented itself, and the humble supplications we have been presenting to heaven, in union with holy Church, have prepared us to celebrate the last mystery achieved by our Emmanuel on earth. The Disciples are all assembled in Jerusalem. They are grouped around the Blessed Mother, in the Cenacle, awaiting the hour when their divine Master is to appear to them for the last time. Recollected and silent, they are reflecting upon all the kindness and condescension he has been lavishing upon them during the last forty days; they are ruminating upon the instructions they have received from his sacred lips. They know him so well now! — They know in very deed that he came out from the Father. As to what regards themselves, they have learned from him what their mission is: — they have to go, ignorant men as they are, and teach all nations; but, O sad thought! He is about to leave them; yet a little while, and they shall not see him.
What a contrast between their sorrow and the smiling face of nature, which is decked out in her best, for she is going to celebrate the triumphant departure of her Creator! The earth is blooming with the freshness of her first-fruits, the meadows have put on their richest emerald, the air is perfumed with blossom and flower; and all this loveliness of Spring is due to the bright Sun that shines upon the earth to give her gladness and life, and is privileged to be, both by its kingly splendor and the successive phases of its influence upon our globe, the grand symbol of our Emmanuel’s passage through this world.
Let us go back in thought to the dismal days of the winter solstice. The sun looked then so pallid; his triumph over night was slow and short; he rose, and sank again, often without our seeing him; his light had a certain timid reserve about it, and his heat was, for weeks, too feeble to rescue nature from the grasp of frost. Such was our divine Sun of Justice, when first he came on earth; his rays made but little way in the world’s thick gloom; he kept his splendor in, lest men should be dazzled by too sudden a change from darkness to light. Like the material sun, he gained upon the world by slow advances; and even so, his progress was shrouded by many a cloud. His sojourn in the land of Egypt, his hidden life at Nazareth, were long periods of his being wholly lost sight of. But when the time came for him to show himself, his glory shone forth, with all its magnificence, upon Galilee and Judea; — he spoke as one having power his works bore testimony to his being God, and the people hailed him with the cry of Hosannah to the Son of David.
He was almost at the zenith of his glory, when suddenly came the eclipse of his Passion and Death. For some hours, his enemies flattered themselves that they had for ever put out his light. Vain hope! — On the third day, our divine Sun triumphed over this final obstruction; and now stands in the firmament, pouring out his light upon all creation, but warning us that his course is run. For he can never descend; there is no setting for Him; — and here finishes the comparison between himself and the orb of day. It is from heaven itself that he, our beautiful Orient, is henceforth to enlighten and direct us, as Zachary foretold at the birth of the Baptist. The Royal Prophet, too, thus exultingly sang of him: He hath rejoiced, as a giant, to run the way-: his going out is from the highest heaven, and his circuit even to the summit thereof: and there is no one that can hide himself from his heat.
This Ascension, which enthroned our Emmanuel as the eternal center of light, was, by his own decree, to take place on one of the days of the month which men call May, and which clothes, in its richest beauty, the creation of this same God, who, when he had made it, was pleased with it, and found it very good. Sweet month of May! — not gloomy and cold like December, which brought us the humble joys of Bethlehem; not lowering and clouded like March, when the Lamb was sacrificed on Calvary; — but buoyant with sunshine, and flowers, and life, and truly worthy to be offered, each year, to Mary, the Mother of God, — for it is the month of her Jesus’ triumph.
O Jesus! Our Creator and Brother! Our eyes and heart have followed thee from thy first rising upon our world. We have celebrated, in the holy Liturgy, each of thy giant steps. But our very seeing thee thus ever growing in beauty and brightness, told us, that thou must one day leave us, to go and take possession of the place that was alone worthy of thee, — the throne at the right hand of thine Eternal Father. The splendor that has been on thee since thy Resurrection, is not of this world; thou canst no longer abide among us; thou hast remained here below, for these forty days, only for the sake of consolidating thy work: and to-morrow, the earth that has been blessed with thy presence for three and thirty years, will be deprived of its privilege and joy. We rejoice at thy approaching triumph, as did thy Blessed Mother, thy Disciples, Mary Magdalene and her companions; but we are sad at the thought of losing thee, — and thou wilt forgive us. Thou wast our Emmanuel, our God with us; henceforth, thou art to be our Sun, our King, reigning from the throne of heaven, and we shall no longer be able to hear thee, nor see thee, nor touch thee, 0 Word of Life! Still, dearest Jesus, we say to thee with all our hearts: Glory and love be to thee, for thou hast treated us with infinite mercy! Thou owedst nothing to us; we were unworthy of a single look from thee; and yet, thou camedst down to this sinful earth, thou hast dwelt among us, thou hast paid our ransom by thy Blood, thou hast re-established Peace between God and man. Oh, yes! It is most just that thou shouldst now return to Him that sent thee. The Church, thy Spouse, consents to her exile; she only thinks of what is most glorious to her Jesus; and she thus addresses thee, in the words of the Canticle: Flee away, O my Beloved! And be swift as the roe and as the young hart, and ascend to the mountains, where the flowers of heaven exhale their sweet fragrance! Can we, poor sinners as we are, refuse to imitate this loving resignation of her, who is thy Spouse, and our Mother!
Saint Robert Bellarmine, S.J. (Italian: Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino) – 4 October 1542 – 17 September 1621; was an Italian Jesuit and a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation. He was canonized in 1930 and named a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit and Doctor of the Church Born 4 October, 1542, Montepulciano, Italy Died 17 September, 1621, Rome, Italy. Beatified 13 May 1923 by Pope Pius XI Canonized 29 June 1930 by Pope Pius XI.
Bellarmine was born at Montepulciano, the son of noble, albeit impoverished, parents, Vincenzo Bellarmino and his wife Cinzia Cervini, who was the sister of Pope Marcellus II. As a boy he knew Virgil by heart and composed a number of poems in Italian and Latin. One of his hymns, on Mary Magdalene, is included in the Roman Breviary.
He entered the Roman novitiate in 1560, remaining in Rome three years. He then went to a Jesuit house at Mondovì, in Piedmont, where he learned Greek. While at Mondovì, he came to the attention of Francesco Adorno, the local Jesuit Provincial Superior, who sent him to the University of Padua.
Bellarmine’s systematic study of theology began at Padua in 1567 and 1568, where his teachers were adherents of Thomism. In 1569 he was sent to finish it at the University of Leuven in Flanders. There he was ordained, and obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher. He was the first Jesuit to teach at the university, where the subject of his course was the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. His residence in Leuven lasted seven years. In poor health, in 1576 he made a journey to Italy. Here he remained, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to lecture on polemical theology in the new Roman College, now known as the Pontifical Gregorian University.
In 1602 he was made archbishop of Capua. He had written against pluralism and non-residence of bishops within their dioceses. As bishop he put into effect the reforming decrees of the Council of Trent. He received some votes in the 1605 conclaves which elected Pope Leo XI, Pope Paul V, and in 1621 when Pope Gregory XV was elected, but only in the second conclave of 1605 was he papabile.
In his old age he was bishop of Montepulciano for four years, after which he retired to the Jesuit college of St. Andrew in Rome, where he died on 17 September 1621, aged 78.
Declare the word of joy, and let it be heard, alleluia: declare it even to the ends of the earth; the Lord has delivered His people: alleluia, alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all you on earth, sing praise to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise.
O God, from Whom all good things come, grant, we beseech You, that by Your inspiration, we may think what is right and under Your guidance, accomplish it.
Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord…
Commemoration St. Robert Bellarmine Bishop Confessor and Doctor
O God, Who endowed blessed Robert, Your Bishop and Doctor, with wondrous learning and virtue to repel the deceits of error and to defend the rights of the Apostolic See, grant, by his merits and intercession, that we may ever grow in love of truth and that the hearts of the erring may return to the unity of Your Church.
Collect for Rogation Wednesday
Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that we, who in our affliction put our trust in Thy mercy, may ever be defended by Thy protection against all adversity. Through our Lord.
Lesson from the letter of St Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians
Brethren: To each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal. Thus it says, Ascending on high, He led away captives; He gave gifts to men. Now this, He ascended, what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He Who descended, He it is Who ascended also above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some men as apostles, and some as prophets, others again as evangelists, and others as pastors and teachers, in order to perfect the saints for a work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the deep knowledge of the Son of God, to perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to John
At that time, raising His eyes to heaven, Jesus said, Father, the hour has come! Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You, even as You have given Him power over all flesh, in order that to all You have given Him He may give everlasting life. Now this is everlasting life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have glorified You on earth; I have accomplished the work that You have given Me to do. And now You, Father, glorify Me with Yourself, with the glory that I had with You before the world existed. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, and You have given them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have learnt that whatever You have given Me is from You; because the words that You have given Me I have given to them. And they have received them, and have known of a truth that I came forth from You, and they have believed that You did send Me. I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those whom You have given Me, because they are Yours; and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to You.