Feast of the Deacon St Vincent Calls the Church and her Deacons to Heroic Virtue
Vincent was a man like us who encountered the same Risen Lord Jesus whom we have encountered. He struggled with the choices which always accompany living the Christian life in the midst of a culture which has squeezed God and His truth out of the center of its daily life. A culture much like our own. Vincent shows us the power of the Gospel. He beckons us to rededicate our own lives to heroic virtue and service to Jesus Christ and His Church in this Third Christian Millennium, a new missionary age.We must remember, we are all called to be saints.The same power of the Holy Spirit which was at work in both the life and death of Vincent the Deacon is at work within us.
Vincent was born in the Third Century in Huesca, Spain and born again to eternal life only four days into the fourth century. He lived in Saragossa where he served the holy Bishop Valerius as a Deacon.He was one of the scores of Christians who suffered brutal persecution under the evil Roman emperor named Diocletian. Diocletian is associated with the last of the ten persecutions of the nascent undivided Christian Church of the first millennium of our history. Like many early deacons of the undivided Church such as Stephen, Lawrence and Ephrem, the hagiography which has been passed down through the Church records his holiness of life and heroic virtue. He lived the way he died, as a sign of the power of the Gospel and the truth of the presence of the Risen Jesus Christ in our midst.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On January 23 on the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar in the United States we have an optional memorial for St. Vincent, the Deacon and Martyr. It was moved to commemorate the Day of prayer for the legal protection for unborn children on January 22d.
It is an ancient Feast which is celebrated in the Orthodox Church as well, though on a different day.
Vincent was born in the Third Century in Huesca, Spain and born again to eternal life only four days into the fourth century. He lived in Saragossa where he served the holy Bishop Valerius as a Deacon.
He was one of the scores of Christians who suffered brutal persecution under the evil Roman emperor named Diocletian. Diocletian is associated with the last of the ten persecutions of the nascent undivided Christian Church of the first millennium of our history.
Like many early deacons of the undivided Church such as Stephen, Lawrence and Ephrem, the hagiography which has been passed down through the Church records his holiness of life and heroic virtue. He lived the way he died, as a sign of the power of the Gospel and the truth of the presence of the Risen Jesus Christ in our midst.
In his holy life and martyrs death Vincent has inspired - and continues to inspire - Christians whose eyes are opened to the continued work of the Holy Spirit in and through Christ's Church as she continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be born again.
Hagiography, a word which refers to the stories of the great heroes and saints of the Church, puts legs on the Gospel, making it walk into our own daily lives and challenge us, no matter what our state in life or vocation, to live heroic and holy lives. Or, at least it should, of we pay attention. We are all called to bear witness to Jesus Christ.
Vincent was a man like us who encountered the same Risen Lord Jesus whom we have encountered. He struggled with the choices which always accompany living the Christian life in the midst of a culture which has squeezed God and His truth out of the center of its daily life. A culture much like our own. .
Vincent shows us the power of the Gospel. He beckons us to rededicate our own lives to heroic virtue and service to Jesus Christ and His Church in this Third Christian Millennium, a new missionary age.We must remember, we are all called to be saints.The same power of the Holy Spirit which was at work in both the life and death of Vincent the Deacon is at work within us.
We have many ancient accounts and poems of the life and death of Vincent. They all lead us to consider his response to the invitation to compromise. In his case it was put forth by the minions of that evil emperor when he and his dear Bishop were brought to trial for standing up for Jesus Christ and His Church.
He could have accepted them and saved his own life. He did not. We have many invitations to compromise. How do we respond? At least up till now, for most of us, the choice has not involved the shedding of our blood. Usually it means the shedding of our reputation and worldly comfort.
Vincent chose instead the crown of love and entered into the eternal life of communion. His choice has paved the way for the continuing story of the work of the Risen Savior still being written through the witness of His Body, the Church, of which we are all members.
His outspoken and manly courage so angered the minion of the ruler occupying the seat of the godless secular power of that age that he selected the most vicious of deaths for Vincent. Vincent bore witness to the power which overcomes this world and opens the portal to the new world to come, our faith. (I John 4: 4 and 5)
He was so beloved, in life and death, that several accounts of his victory were put to verse. One recounts the ravens protecting Vincent's body from the vultures, until his Christian brothers and sisters could recover it and treat it with the reverence which holy men and women deserve.
He is considered the patron and intercessor of many groups, including deacons and winemakers. That means his heroic witness of life and death has instructive insight into their own work and vocation. It also means he prays for them from his place in the eternal communion of saints.
The stories of the saints are woven into the stuff of Catholic daily life and culture, reaffirming the truth that to be a Christian is a new way of being human, of being recreated in Jesus Christ, the first born of the new creation. (Colossians1:15, 2 Corinthians 5:17)
As a Deacon of the Catholic Church of the Third Millennium, a time with increasing parallels to the first millennium, the Deacon/Martyr Saints are a great inspiration to me. The older I get the more their heroic witness gives me great comfort and helps me to focus my life and service.
I do not believe it is an accident that the last Council of the Church, Vatican II, which ushered in an age of the lay faithful and reminded all Christians of the universal call to holiness, also restored the Order of Deacon to permanent role of ordained service in the Church.
This is a new missionary age and we need Deacon saints, missionaries and martyrs. We need saints, missionaries and martyrs from among all of the vocations in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. St Vincent the Deacon, please pray for us all.
The great Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, preached a powerful homily honoring the Deacon Vincent which is offered for our reflection this day in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Breviary. I offer it below.
St. Augustine on the Feast of Vincent the Deacon
To you, said the Apostle Paul, it has been granted for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.
Vincent had received both these gifts; he had received them, and he kept them. After all, if he had not received them, what would he have had? But he did have faithfulness in his words; he did have endurance in his sufferings.
So do not any of you be too self-assured when offering a word; do not be too confident in your own powers when suffering trials or temptations; because it is from him that we have the wisdom to speak good things wisely, from him the patience to endure bad things bravely.
Call to mind the Lord Christ warning and encouraging his disciples in the gospel; call to mind the king of martyrs equipping his troops with spiritual weapons, indicating the wars to be fought, lending assistance, promising rewards; first saying to his disciples, In this world you will have distress; then immediately adding words that would allay their terrors: But have confidence: I myself have vanquished the world.
So why should we be surprised, dearly beloved, if Vincent was victorious in him by whom the world was vanquished? In this world, he says, you will have distress; such that, even if it distresses, it cannot oppress you; even if it knocks you down, it cannot knock you out. The world mounts a double attack on the soldiers of Christ. It wheedles in order to lead them astray; but it also terrifies, in order to break them. Let us not be held fast by our own pleasures, let us not be terrified by someone else's cruelty, and the world has been vanquished.
At each attack, Christ comes running to the defence, and the Christian is not vanquished. If, in this passion of Vincent's, one only gave thought to human powers of endurance, it would begin to look unbelievable; but if one acknowledges divine power, it ceases even to be wonderful.
Such hideous cruelty was being unleashed on the martyr's body, and such calm serenity was displayed in his voice; such harsh, savage punishments being applied to his limbs, but such assurance echoing in his words, that we would have imagined that in some marvellous way, while Vincent was suffering, that it was someone else and not the speaker that was being tortured.
And indeed, my dearest brethren, that is how it was; undoubtedly that is how it was: someone else was speaking. Christ, you see, promised even this to his witnesses in the gospel, when he was preparing them for this sort of contest. For he said: Do not think beforehand about how or what you are to speak. For it is not you that are speaking, but the Spirit of my Father who is speaking in you.
So the flesh was suffering, and the Spirit was speaking. And while the Spirit was speaking, not only was ungodliness being confounded and convicted, but weakness was even being strengthened and comforted.
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