Double (1954 Calendar): April 13th
In the sixth century St. Hermenegild, the elder son of King Leovigild, the heretical Visigothic ruler of Spain, married a French princess and was converted to the true religion by her holy example.
King Leovigild regarded the converted prince as a traitor and had him put to death. But remorse worked on the royal father's heart, and he died advising his remaining son to become a Catholic and thus to bring the whole nation of the Visigoths in Spain into the Catholic Church.
Saint Hermenegild, Martyr from the Liturgical Year, 1870
It is through a Martyr's palm-branch that we must today see the Paschal Mystery. Hermenegild, a young Visigoth Prince, is put to death by his heretical father, because he courageously refused to receive his Easter Communion from an Arian Bishop. The Martyr knew that the Eucharist is the sacred symbol of Catholic unity; and that we are not allowed to approach the Holy Table in company with them that are not in the true Church. A sacrilegious consecration gives heretics the real possession of the Divine Mystery, if the priestly character be in him who dares to offer Sacrifice to the God whom he blasphemes; but the Catholic, who knows that he may not so much as pray with heretics, shudders at the sight of the profanation, and would rather die than share, by his presence, in insulting our Redeemer in that very Sacrifice and Sacrament, which were instituted that we might all be made one in God.
The blood of the Martyr produced its fruit: Spain threw off the chains of heresy that had enslaved her, and a Council, held at Toledo, completed the work of conversion begun by Hermenegild's sacrifice. There are very few instances recorded in history of a whole Nation rising up in a mass to abjure heresy; but Spain did it, for she seems to be a country on which heaven lavishes exceptional blessings. Shortly after this she was put through the ordeal of the Saracen invasion; she triumphed here again by the bravery of her children; and ever since then, her Faith has been so staunch and so pure, as to merit for her the proud title of The Catholic Kingdom.
St. Gregory the Great, a contemporary of St. Hermenegild, has transmitted to us the following account of the martyrdom. The Church has inserted it in her Second Lessons of today's Matins.Collect:
O God, who didst teach blessed Hermenegild, Thy Martyr, to choose the heavenly kingdom rather than an earthly throne: grant us, we beseech Thee, that, following his example, we may despise the fleeting things of time and seek what is eternal. Through our Lord . . .