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the Arians, who denounced his act as atrocious sacrilege, sold the rich church ornaments of Milan to rescue some captives who had fallen into the hands of the Goths, and this practice—which was afterward formally sanctioned by St. Gregory the Great-became speedily general.
When the Roman army had captured, but refused to support, seven thousand Persian prisoners, Acacius, Bishop of Amida, undeterred by the bitter hostility of the Persians to Christianity, sold all the rich church ornaments of his diocese, rescued the unbelieving prisoners, and sent them back unharmed to their king. During the horrors of the Vandal invasion, Deogratias, Bishop of Carthage, took a similar step to ransom the Roman prisoners. St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Cæsarius of Arles, St. Exuperius of Toulouse, St. Hilary, St. Remi, all melted down or sold their church vases to free prisoners. St. Cyprian sent a large sum for the same purpose to the Bishop of Nicomedia. St. Epiphanius and St. Avitus, in conjunction with a rich Gaulish lady named Syagria, are said to have rescued thousands. St. Eloi devoted to this object his entire fortune. St. Paulinus of Nola displayed a similar generosity. When, long afterward, the Mohammedan conquests in a measure reproduced the calamities of the barbarian invasions, the same unwearied charity was displayed. The Trinitarian monks, founded by John of Matha, in the twelfth century, were devoted to the release of Christian captives, and another society was founded with the same object by Peter Nolasco, in the following century. WILLIAM EDWARD HARTPOLE LECKY,
THE AGES OF FAITH.
THOSE were brilliant and glorious times, when Europe formed one Christian country, when one Christendom inhabited this civilized portion of the globe; and one common interest bound together the most remote provinces of this widelyextended spiritual empire. Without great secular possessions, one head guided and united the great political powers. A numerous corporation, to which every one had access, stood in subordination to this head, and executed his mandates, and zealously strove to consolidate his power. Every member of this order was universally respected.
A filial confidence attached men to their instructions. How serenely could each one perform his daily task, when by these holy men a secure futurity was prepared for him, and every transgression was forgiven, and every dark passage of life was blotted out and effaced. They were the experienced pilots on the great unknown sea, under whose guidance we might safely disregard all storms, and confidently expect a secure landing on the coast of our true country.
The most savage, impetuous passions were compelled to bend with awe and submission to their words. Peace went out from them. They preached nothing but love for the holy marvellous Virgin of Christianity, who, endowed with heavenly power, was prepared to rescue every believer from the most fearful dangers. They spoke of long-departed men of God, who, by their attachment and fidelity to that blessed mother and her divine child, had withstood the temptations of the world, had attained unto heavenly honors, and were now become tutelary and beneficent powers to their brethren on earth, willing helpers in their wants, intercessors for human frailty, and efficacious friends to humanity at the throne of God. With what serenity of mind did men leave the beautiful assemblies in those mysterious churches, which were adorned with heart-stirring pictures, filled with the sweetest odors, and enlivened by a holy and exalting music. In them were gratefully preserved, in costly vessels, the sacred relics of those venerable servants of God. And in these churches, too, glorious signs and miracles attested as well the efficacious beneficence of these happy saints, as the Divine goodness and omnipotence. In the same way as tender souls preserve locks of hair, or autographs of their departed loves, and nourish thereby the sweet flame of affection, down to the reuniting hour of death ; so men then gathered with pious assiduity whatever belonged to these holy souls, and every one esteemed himself happy, who could possess, or even touch, such consoling relics. Here and there the grace of heaven lighted down on some favored image or tombstone. Thither men flocked from all countries to proffer their fair donations, and brought back in return those celestial gifts—peace of mind, and health of body.
This powerful but pacific society zealously sought to make all men participators in its beautiful faith, and sent forth its missionaries to announce everywhere the gospel of life, and make the kingdom of heaven the only kingdom in this world.
At the Court of the Head of the Church, the most prudent and most venerable men in Europe were assembled. The destroyed Jerusalem had avenged herself, and Rome had become Jerusalem -the holy abode of God's government on earth. Princes submitted their disputes to the arbitration of the common Father of Christendom, willingly laid down at his feet their crowns and their regal pomp, and esteemed it a glory to become members of the great clerical fraternity, and pass the evening of their lives in divine contemplation within