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Monday, June 26, 2017
Sts. John and Paul
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Double (1954 Calendar): June 26

 John and Paul, Roman brothers, were imperial officers of high repute. When Julian the Apostate summoned them to appear at his court they refused, in order to remain faithful to their Master in Heaven. Having been allowed ten days in which to reconsider their decision, the brothers used the time distributing their possessions to the poor. Firm in their love of God and fellow men, John and Paul were beheaded in about A.D. 362.

The following is taken from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger:

Amidst the numerous sanctuaries which adorn the capital of the Christian universe, the church of Saints John and Paul has remained from the early date of its origin one of the chief centers of Roman piety. From the summit of the Cœlian Hill it towers over the Coliseum, the dependencies of which stretch subterraneously even as far as the cellarage of the house once inhabited by our Saints. They, the last of the Martyrs, completed the glorious crown offered to Christ by Rome, the chosen seat of his power. The conflict in which their blood was spilt consummated the triumph whose hour was sounded under Constantine, but which an offensive retaliation on the part of hell seemed about to compromise.

No attack could be conceived more odious for the Church than that devised by the apostate Cæsar. Nero and Diocletian had violently and with hatred declared against the Incarnate God a war of sword and torture; and without recrimination, Christians by thousands had died, knowing that the testimony thus demanded was merely the order of things, just as it had been in the case of their august Head before a Pontius Pilate, and upon the cross. But with the clever astuteness of a traitor, and the affected disdain of a false philosopher, Julian purposed to stifle Christianity amidst the bulrushes of an oppression progressive to a nicety, and respectfully abhorrent of human blood. Merely to preclude Christians from public offices, and to prohibit them from holding chairs for the teaching of youth, that was all the apostate aimed at! However, the blood which he wanted to avoid shedding must flow, even though a hypocrite’s hands be dyed therewith; for, according to the divine plan, bloodshed alone can bring extreme situations to an issue, and never was Holy Church menaced with greater peril. They would now make a slave of her whom they had beheld still holding her royal liberty in face of executioners. They would now await the moment when, once enslaved, she would at last disappear of herself, in powerlessness and degradation. For this reason the bishops of that time found vent for their indignant soul in accents such as their predecessors had spared to princes whose brute violence was then inundating the empire with Christian blood. They now retorted upon the tyrant scorn for scorn; and the manifestations of contempt that consequently came showering in from every quarter upon the crowned fool, completely unmasked at last his feigned moderation. Julian was now shown up as nothing but a common persecutor of the usual kind; blood flowed, the Church was rescued.

Thus is explained the gratitude which this noble Bride of the Son of God has never ceased to manifest to these glorious Martyrs we are celebrating today: for amidst the many generous Christians whose outspoken indignation brought about the solution of this terrible crisis, none are more illustrious than they. Julian was most anxious to count them among his confidants: with this view, he made use of every entreaty, as we learn from the Breviary Lessons; nor does it appear that he even made the renouncing of Jesus Christ a condition. Well then, it may be retorted, why not yield to the Imperial whim? Could they not do so without wounding their conscience? Surely too much stiffness would be rather calculated to ill-dispose the prince, perhaps even fatally. Whereas to listen to him would very likely have a soothing effect upon him; nay, possibly even bring him round to relax somewhat of those administrative trammels unfortunately imposed upon the Church by his prejudiced government. Yea, for aught one knew, the possible conversion of his soul, the return of so many of the misled who had followed him in his fall, might be the result! Should not such things as these deserve some consideration? should they not impose, as a duty, some gentle handling? Ah! yes; such reasoning as this would doubtless appear to some people as wise policy. Such preoccupation for the apostate’s salvation could easily have had nothing in it but what was inspired by zeal for the Church and for souls; and indeed the most exacting casuist could not find it a crime for John and Paul to dwell in a court where nothing was demanded of them contrary to the divine precepts. Nevertheless the two brothers resolved otherwise; to the course of soothing and reserve-making, they preferred that of the frank expression of their sentiments, and this bold out-speaking of theirs put the tyrant in a fury and brought about their death. The Church has judged their case, and she has found them not in the wrong; hence, it is unlikely that the former path would have led them to a like degree of sanctity in God’s sight.

The names of John and Paul inscribed on the sacred diptychs show well enough their credit in the eyes of the Divine Victim, who never offers Himself to the God Thrice-Holy without blending their memory with that of His own immolation. The enthusiasm excited by the noble attitude of these two valiant witnesses to the Lord, still re-echoes in the Antiphons and Responsories proper to the Feast. It was formerly preceded by a Vigil and fast; together with the sanctuary which encloses their tomb, it may be said to date as far back as the very morrow of their martyrdom. Granted by a singular privilege a place in the Leonian Sacramentary; whilst so many other martyrs slept their sleep of peace outside the walls of the Holy City, John and Paul reposed in Rome itself, the definitive conquest of which had been won for the God of armies by their gallant combat. That very same day of the year immediately succeeding their victorious death (June 26, 363), Julian fell dead, uttering against heaven his cry of rage: “Galilean, thou hast conquered!”

From the Queen City of the universe their renown, passing beyond the mountains, shone forth almost as soon and with nearly equal splendor in the Gauls. Returned from the scene of his own struggle in the cause of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Hilary of Poitiers at once propagated their cultus. This great Bishop was called to our Lord scarce five years after their martyrdom; but he had already found time to consecrate to their name the church in which his loving hands had laid his sweet daughter Abra and her mother, awaiting the hour when he too should be joined to them in the same spot, expecting the day of the Resurrection. It was from this very church of Saints John and Paul, called later on St. Hilary the Great’s, that Clovis on the eve of the battle of Vouillé beheld streaming towards him that mysterious light, presage of the victory which would result in the expulsion of Arianism from the Gauls, and in the foundation of monarchical unity. These holy Martyrs continued, in after years, to show the interest they took in the advancement of the kingdom of God by the Franks. When the disastrous issue of the second Crusade was filling the soul of St. Bernard with bitterness (for he had preached it), they appeared to him, upraised his courage, and manifested by what secrets the King of Heaven had known how to draw His own glory out of events in which man saw only failure and disaster.
Prayer:

 O Almighty God, let our joy be doubled on this feast of the victory of blessed John and Paul, for they were made true brothers by sharing the same faith and the same martyrdom. Through our Lord . . .

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