The Roman General— St. Eustachius – continued (3).
Feast Day: September 20th.
God tries those whom He loves. Having chosen Placidus for a vessel of election, he proved him by a series of afflictions, which made the patience of this great servant shine more conspicuously than any other virtue. His biographers have compared him to the great patriarch Job. But that light which had entered his heart had taught him the secret value of trials and afflictions— that they were the choicest favours of Heaven.
He whom he had now taken for his Master and Model was ever in sorrow and affliction; the disciple is not to be better than the Master. A life of ease, a bed of down, silken garments, and ornaments of jewels and gold, are not the armour which distinguishes the soldiers of a naked and crucified God. When we suffer the slight and passing sorrows of life, we should remember they are tokens of God’s predilection and sanctification for our souls.
After his baptism and reception into the Church, Placidus returned to the memorable spot in the Sabine hills where he had beheld the wonderful vision, to give thanks to God. The Most High was pleased with his prompt and generous response to the call of grace, and vouchsafed to give him again other and consoling visions, and to forewarn him of the trials that were awaiting him.
He had no sooner reached his home after his pilgrimage, than the terrible storm of sorrow broke on him and crushed him to the very earth. The sad tale of his trial would excite pity in the hardest heart. In a few days he lost all his horses and cattle, and every living thing about his house, even his servants and domestics were swept away by a virulent pestilence. The awful gloom that death had spread around, the stench of unburied carcases, and the unhealthy state of the corrupted atmosphere, obliged him to leave his home for awhile; but this was a source of new affliction. During his absence thieves had entered his house and removed everything he had; he was reduced to absolute beggary. At this time the whole city was rejoicing and celebrating the triumph of the Roman arms over the Persians. Placidus could not join in these festivities, and, overcome with grief, disappointment and shame, he agreed with his wife to flee to some unknown country, where at least they could bear their sufferings and their poverty without the cruel taunts of proud and unfeeling friends.
They made their way to Ostia, and found a vessel about to start for Egypt. They had no money to pay for a passage ; but the captain, who was a cruel and bad man, seeing the youth and beauty of Theopista, the wife of Placidus, felt an impure passion spring up in his heart, and thought, by permitting them on board, he might be able to gratify his wicked desires. But he knew nothing of the beauty, the sublimity, the inviolability of the virtue of chastity in the Christian female; and when he found himself treated with the scorn of indignant virtue at even the whispered suggestion of infidelity, he writhed under his disappointment, and meditated revenge. The devil suggested a plan. Arrived at the shores of Africa, the captain again demanded the fee for the passage, and intimated to Placidus, if it were not paid, he would keep Theopista as a hostage. He was sent on shore with his two helpless little children, and his beautiful and faithful spouse was forcibly detained on board; they immediately set sail for another port.
“Talk not of grief till thou hast seen the tears of warlike men.”
Poor Placidus felt the warm tears steal down his cheek as he saw the sails of the little bark filled with a fair wind, and waft from him the greatest treasure he possessed in this world. He saw himself on a barren and inhospitable shore, exiled, poor, and widowed. Did his faithful legions but know of his sad fate, how their trusty swords would flash in vindication of their injured general! Looking on his little ones, robbed of their mother and protector, he drew them near his breaking heart, and pointing, with a trembling finger, to the white speck the little vessel had now made on the blue horizon, he cried out: “Your mother is given to a stranger.” Striking his forehead with his hand, he bent down and wept bitterly. There is no pang in human sorrow so galling as blighted affection, and this is more keenly felt when the object of our love is handed over, not to death, to bloodshed, or want, but to infamy and dishonour. Even the pagan parent would plunge the dagger into the heart of his Virginia rather than let her live in dishonour.
But “better is the patient man than the brave.” The man who can bear trials and misfortune is greater than the hero of the battle-field. Remembering his promise to God in the ravine of the Apennines, he instantly checked his grief; and rising up, with an ejaculation like holy Job, and taking his two little children by the hand, he moved towards the interior of the country with a brave and resigned heart. But God had other trials to prove him yet more.
He had not gone far when he came up to a river much swollen by some late rains; it was fordable, but Placidus saw it would be dangerous to take his two children over together, so he determined to take one first then another. Leaving one on the bank, he entered into the stream with the youngest. He had scarcely reached the opposite bank when the screams of the other child attracted his attention, and looking round, he beheld an enormous lion taking the child in his mouth and carrying it away to devour it. Placidus left the infant in his arms on the bank, and, reckless of fear or danger, plunged once more into the rushing torrent. Grief must be terrible when it can make an unarmed man believe he can chase and fight the king of the forest. He was scarcely out of the stream when his other child was seized by a wolf. This last afflicting sight paralysed his courage, and he could not move another step. He fell on his knees, and appealed to the great God who he knew had arranged all; with the fervour of his young faith and the natural sorrow of a bereaved father, he prayed for patience that no blasphemy might escape from his lips—that no misgivings might undermine the confidence of his worship. He remained for some time in prayer, and felt the balm of heavenly consolation gradually creeping over his troubled soul. Faith alone can break the barriers of time and waft the soul in anticipation to the union that immortality must bring. Placidus committed his family to God, and knew they were happy; and as for himself, he determined to bear manfully the few days of trouble which Providence had yet allotted to him, He arose once more from his prayer, strengthened and consoled, more detached from every human consolation, more united to God. He soon left the vicinity of these sad and sorrowful scenes, and fled to another part of the country.
We next find Placidus as a poor labourer in a farm called Bardyssa. But this is the last part of the dark night of his trial, the twilight that precedes a glorious sunrise. Almighty God had now proved His servant by the severest adversity which can befall a man: in a whirlwind of affliction he blasted all his temporal comforts, his domestic felicity and paternal affection; and the neophyte vessel of election was found faithful, and now comes the sunshine of his crown. Some years had passed since he lost his wife and children, and he had spent all that time unknown, in labour, prayer, and solitude, mounting higher and higher on the ladder of perfection, and in union with God; but the time of his reward is at hand, and by one grand stroke of that all-directing Providence which knows no chance, he was restored to all his former honour and comfort. He was again placed at the head of the Roman army, and restored to the embraces of his wife and children, never more to be separated, not even by death for they were all brought together to the endless joys of heaven by the glorious death of martyrdom. Let us follow the course of events that brought about these great and consoling effects.
 A little chapel was built on this spot in the fourth century, and rebuilt in after ages. It still stands to commemorate the extra ordinary conversion of Placidus.
 “Væ mihi et vobis quia mater vestra tradita est aliengnæ marito.”—Acts. Bollandists, 20th Sept.
 Portans vero unum infantem super humeras suos reliquit alterum circa ripam et transposuit infantem quem portaverit super terram et ibat ut reportaret et alterum. Cum venisset, autem, in medium fluminis, nimis autem fluvius dilatatus erat intendens vidit et ecce leo rapuit filium ejus et abiit in sylvas. Et desperans de eo, reversus est in patientia, spem habens alterius et cum abiret videt et ecce similiter lupus rapuit alterum filium ejus et abiit et non potuit eum consequi, etc.—Acts, ib.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
Of the Consideration of the Misery of Man.
II. Many unstable and weak men are apt to say: Behold how well such a one lives, how rich, how great, how mighty and powerful!
But attend to heavenly goods, and thou wilt see that all these temporal things are nothing, but very uncertain, and rather burdensome! because they are never possessed without care and fear.
The happiness of a man consisteth not in having temporal things in abundance: but a moderate competency sufficeth.
It is truly a misery to live upon earth. The more a man desireth to be spiritual, the more this present life becomes distasteful to him; because he the better understands and more clearly sees the defects of human corruption.
For to eat, drink, watch, sleep, rest, labour, and to be subject to other necessities of nature, is truly a great misery and affliction to a devout man, who desires to be released and free from all sin.–Thomas à Kempis–Imitation of Christ Bk I, Ch XXII pt II.
September Devotion: The Holy Cross.
Virtues to practice: Piety, fervor in the performance of sacred duties, the spirit of prayer.
Mary, most holy Virgin and Queen of Martyrs, accept the sincere homage of my filial affection. Into thy heart, pierced by so many swords, do thou welcome my poor soul. Receive it as the companion of thy sorrows at the foot of the Cross, on which Jesus died for the redemption of the world. With thee, O sorrowful Virgin, I will gladly suffer all the trials, contradictions, and infirmities which it shall please our Lord to send me. I offer them all to thee in memory of thy sorrows, so that every thought of my mind, and every beat of my heart may be an act of compassion and of love for thee. And do thou, sweet Mother, have pity on me, reconcile me to thy divine Son Jesus, keep me in His grace and assist me in my last agony, so that I may be able to meet thee in heaven and sing thy glories. Amen.
An indulgence of 500 days
Crux mihi certa salus.
Crux est quam semper adoro.
Crux Domini mecum.
Crux mihi refugium.
The cross is my sure salvation.
The cross I ever adore.
The cross of my Lord is with me.
The cross is my refuge.
His Holiness, Pope Pius IX., by an autograph rescript, June 21, 1874, granted to all the faithful who, with at least contrite heart and devotion, shall say these prayers, drawn up in the form of a cross by the Angelic Doctor, S. Thomas Aquinas: AN INDULGENCE OF THREE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
Adoramus te, sanctissime Domine Jesu Christe, benedicimus tibi; quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
We adore Thee, O most blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, we bless Thee; because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.
His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of indulgences, March 4, 1882, granted to all the faithful who, with at least contrite heart and devotion, shall recite this ejaculation: AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
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