SYLVESTER was born in Rome toward the close of the third century. He was a young priest when the persecution of the Christians broke out under the tyrant Diocletian. Idols were erected at the corners of the streets, in the market-places, and over the public fountains, so that it was scarcely possible for a Christian to go abroad without being put to the test of offering sacrifice, with the alternative of apostasy or death. During this fiery trial, Sylvester strengthened the confessors and martyrs, God preserving his life from many dangers. In 312 a new era set in. Constantine, having triumphed under the ” standard of the Cross,” declared himself the protector of the Christians, and built them splendid churches. At this juncture Sylvester was elected to the chair of Peter, and was thus the first of the Roman Pontiffs to rule the flock of Christ in security and peace. He profited by these blessings to renew the discipline of the Church, and in two great Councils confirmed her sacred truths. In the Council of Arles he condemned the schism of the Donatists; and in that of Nicæa, the first general Council of the Church, he dealt Arianism its death-blow by declaring that Jesus Christ is the true and very God. Sylvester died A. D. 335.
Saint for the Day
(A young child’s version of the Bible story can be found at this link http://gardenofmary.com/the-daughter-of-jairus/ )
Gospel- Matt. ix. 18-26. At that time as Jesus was speaking these things unto them, behold a certain ruler came up and adored Him, saying: Lord, my daughter is even now dead: but come, lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. And Jesus rising up, followed him with his disciples. And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed. But Jesus turning and seeing her, said: Be of good heart, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus was come into the house of the ruler, and saw the minstrels and the multitude making a rout, he said: Give place, for the girl is not dead but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn. And when the multitude was put forth, He went in: and took her by the hand. And the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that country.
The Raising To Life of The Daughter Of Jairus
Just before the facts related in this Gospel took place, Our Lord had been defending Himself against the attacks of the Scribes and Pharisees. These people did not love Our Lord, because He would not adopt their ways of thinking and acting; He had not joined or supported them in their pretensions; they thought it was wrong for Our Lord to eat with publicans and sinners, and His disciples did not keep the fasts which were prescribed. And another abomination these followers of Christ were guilty of: they did not wash their hands before they ate bread.
The daughter of Jairus had just died. The father came in haste to Our Lord, and begged Him to resuscitate her. Our Lord might have denied his petition, for Jairus was a Pharisee, and was the very one that got so angry because the divine Master had been working miracles on the Sabbath-day. Our Lord might have remembered all those insults, and denied the ruler’s request; but the heart of Jesus is great and loving even to the ungrateful. Our Lord shows us the same love, though we often deserve punishment. Lo, there is a youth who falls into a very serious fault, and becomes the enemy of Jesus Christ. Would not he deserve to be punished at once for his treason? But, no. Our Lord waits for him, has patience, coaxes and threatens, until there is a change either confirmed obstinacy in sin, or a conversion.
While Our Lord was proceeding to the house of Jairus a great crowd followed Him; they knew what He was about to do and they wanted to be witnesses of this great miracle. Our Lord was closely pressed on all sides, and behold! secretly a poor, sick woman made her way to Him, and touched the hem of His garment. She said to herself with faith and confidence: “If I can only get near enough to touch Him I will be healed; it will not be necessary to claim His exclusive attention. A touch will do.” So with great difficulty she pressed forward through the crowd; she was just able to touch the hem of His garment,, and with that she was healed. But Our Lord did not wish that this great act of faith should go unnoticed, for it might serve as an example to others. Our Lord turned around and asked who had touched Him. “Master” said the people,
“You see the great crowd that surrounds You, and You ask who has touched you?” “Yes,” said Our Lord, “somebody touched Me, for I felt the healing virtue go from Me.” In the meanwhile the poor woman, as if she had done something wrong, acknowledged what she had done, and Our Lord said, “Be of good heart, daughter; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Faith in Christ is very powerful; humble faith in Him will not be disappointed.
If the simple touch of Our Lord s garment could work such a miracle, what should not the reception of the body and blood of Our Lord do for us when we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts? What do we expect, what good shall we derive from this intimate relationship, what benefit will we obtain in Holy Communion? St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi used to say that one communion, properly made, is enough to make a saint. But how many communions does it take to make saints of us! How slow is our improvement because it is not with a lively faith that we eat this bread of angels. No, we do not realize that this is Jesus, the good Master, before whom we ought to sink down and say, “My Lord and my God!” Purify your heart from all sin with earnestness; dispose your soul to be humble with love, and you will obtain great benefit from your communions.
My dear young friends, approach Our Lord and touch the hem of His garment, not like the crowd that jostled Him, but like that poor afflicted woman. Touch Our Lord as St. Philip Neri did, who often at the elevation of the Host and sacred chalice, held the consecrated species as high as he could reach and held it there until his arms were tired. In consuming the sacred blood, he drained every drop from the chalice in such ecstasy that after his communion he was totally bereft of his senses and only after a long time came to himself again. Touch Our Lord as St. Catharine of Sienna did, whose consolation at communion was so great that she relished no joy like it, and such strength did she derive from communion that for weeks she took no other food. The day on which she did not go to communion seemed to her a lost day on earth. Touch Him in Holy Communion like Juliana Veronica did when at ten years of age she made her first communion; she felt her soul all inflamed with the sacred presence, and as she could not account for it, in her simplicity she asked the Sisters if this was always the effect of communion. Sometimes she saw the sacred species shining bright as a star. An acquaintance of mine, a very pious old man, once said to me, “Father, I am afraid to go to communion every day, because I am not worthy, but unless I go, I feel that something is wrong” O, lively and ardent faith! a clear proof that Our Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament. “He who eats this bread shall live forever.”
When Our Lord arrived at the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he found there a great crowd of people as is customary on such sad occasions, and they were making great lamentations. He put them all out of the room and told them to give up these lamentations, for the girl “is not dead, but sleepeth.” Our Lord then went in and closed the door. He wished to perform this miracle without witnesses. Anyone that wanted glory from such an action, if he could do it, would have said, “Now my dear people, see she is dead. As sure yourselves of the fact; feel whether there is a pulse or any sign of life.” The humble Jesus did not do this. The girl was dead indeed, but her death was to be of such short duration that it was but a sleep. He was there with His almighty power to wake her up. The proud people of this world wish their good actions to be known by everybody, and the praise of the deed must be in the mouth of all.
Another lesson that Our Lord wanted to teach us is, that His followers that depart this life are not dead, but asleep in the Lord, and this is the reason that the Church has adopted such expressions as “He fell asleep in the Lord”; “Lazarus, our friend, sleeps.” These expressions are taken from the Scriptures and designate the view the Holy Ghost takes of the death of the faithful.
This peace of which the dead are in possession becomes the share of the just on this earth. Nothing afflicts them. If they have committed sins, they know that the blood of Christ has washed them away, and that God considers them no longer; they care not for the world nor its honors, and when they do not have them they are not disturbed. “The world is crucified to them.” They are happy to depart from this world, like the prisoner who is glad to escape from confinement; happy that the chains of their slavery to the things of this earth are struck off. They rejoice that heaven is so near. The just man does not fear the future, because he is sure of the mercy of God; he thinks of God, speaks of God and awaits His call. There is nothing sad about the death of a good man, when viewed in the proper light; though oppressed with misfortune there is real happiness in his face and joyfulness in his actions; all the dark thoughts disappear when he takes the crucifix in his hands, embraces it, and invokes the name of Jesus and of our Mother Mary. He is sure of heaven. St. Edmund had a great devotion to Mary from his childhood; when near death he said: “How beautiful it is to die in the protection of Mary, of whom I never asked anything but it was granted.” What a happiness is it to the dying man when the sacrament of love, the Holy Eucharist, is brought to him for his last food, his viaticum, to give him strength for that great journey to an unknown world, to receive that Jesus who has been so often his comfort in life; in a short time he will see that same Jesus in heaven, no longer hidden under the sacramental veil. In this manner the Church with its sacraments comforts her faithful followers, detaches them gently from the things of this world, and raises their minds and their hearts to heaven and God. Could not the dying Christian say to his weeping friends that surround his death-bed: “how beautiful heaven is, how magnificent is its glory! And you, my friends, do not wish me to go there! You would rather keep me in this exile. Give me heaven.”
A hermit was once at the point of death, and he spoke in this manner, to the edification of all: “I thank you, my eyes, for the services you have done me in my life, for you have been fountains of tears for my sins. Now look up to heaven, close to the things of this earth; my hands, I thank you for having helped in the castigation of my body. Now you shall do glorious things for God in heaven. Blessed lips, hereafter praise God in heaven.”
Do you, my dear young people, wish to die the death of the just? Then live well; it is not possible to come to a good death through a bad life, unless by a miracle, and miracles are very rare. St. Paul, the first hermit, prayed day and night on his knees and, as a reward, was found dead in the same position. Many of you are still innocent; what a beautiful death yours will be, if you remain so to the end of your lives! Innocence is beautiful in the eyes of God. If you wish to preserve that innocence, pray much. Have recourse to the sacraments, and have a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin. She will assist you now, and at the hour of your death. Now, as a conclusion to this sermon, as well as at the conclusion of your life, make one great sacrifice, one great resolution that will do you good and be a glory to God; that is to be faithful to your holy religion in all its laws and practices, and you will close your eyes in peace, and your death will be precious in the sight of God; then all evil and all temptation will be over, and you will be in the possession of God.