Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Secret Garden of the Saints

Bottega Di Corrado Giaquinto, Martyrdom of Saints Marius, Martha, Audifax and Abacus (1750) [source]
There’s something exotic about the atmosphere of the traditional Latin Mass, like a secret garden with flowers of rare perfumes. You open your missal at Mass and discover that today’s feast is Saints Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum, with a commemoration of King Canute IV of Denmark. What peculiar names! Who in the world are they? You want to find out more... yet in a way it doesn’t matter too much. It’s already a consolation to know of the vastness of the assembly of the saints -- some of them familiar, others foreign, some recent and others far distant, a cloud of witnesses stretching over thousands of years and every kingdom known or unknown, all of them dear friends in the heavenly Jerusalem.

That being said, the entry in the Roman Martyrology for the four primary saints is beautiful: “At Rome, on the Via Cornelia, the holy martyrs Marius and Martha his wife, and their sons Audifax and Abachum, Persians of noble birth, who came to Rome to pray in the time of the Emperor Claudius. After they had borne scourging, the rack, fire, iron hooks, and the amputation of their hands, Martha was slain in the Nympha, and the others beheaded, and their bodies burnt.” According to legend, when they arrived in Rome they visited the Christian prisoners and got in trouble for it. That might be something that happens soon among us.

As for King Canute, he’s a saint who challenges our modern secularism and offers a true example of the vocation of the laity. He waged war on barbarous enemies, dealt sternly with pirates, and brought new territories to the Faith. He endowed churches, practiced austerities, and prayed assiduously. In the company of his brother and seventeen others, Canute was slain by rebels. That’s what a Catholic ruler looks like (let’s go, Brandon!).

The Collect of today is the kind of prayer that would never have survived the Consilium that “reformed” the Roman liturgy in the 1960s: too potent and too poetic. But we weren’t given a chance to see the patchwork quilt, since his feast, like that of 300 other saints, was simply removed. Easy solution!

But we can still pray it either at the TLM or at home:

“O God, Who for the illuminating of Thy Church didst vouchsafe to adorn blessed King Canute with the palm of martyrdom and with glorious miracles, mercifully grant, that as he himself was an imitator of the Lord’s Passion, so we, walking in his footsteps, may merit to enter into everlasting joys. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, forever and ever.”

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