25 May 2024

St Urban, Pope & Martyr

From Dom Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year

This day is beautified by the triumph of two sainted Popes; and the Seventh Gregory, when he quitted this earth, was introduced into the court of Heaven by one of the predecessors. Urban was a Martyr by the shedding of his blood; Gregory was a Martyr by the sufferings he had to endure during his whole pontificate. Both fought for the same glorious cause. Urban laid down his life, rather than obey an earthly potentate, who bade him degrade himself by adoring an idol; Gregory preferred to endure every temporal suffering, rather than allow the Church to be the slave of Cæsar. Both of them adorn the Paschal Season with their beautiful palms. Our Risen Jesus said to Peter: Follow me! (John 21:19)—and Peter followed him, even to the Cross. Urban and Gregory were Peter’s successors, and, like him, they were the devoted Disciples of the same Divine Master. We honor them both on this day; and, in their triumph, we have a proof of the invincible power which, in every age, the Conqueror of death has communicated to them whom he appointed to bear testimony to the truth of his Resurrection.

The labors and merits of the holy Pope Urban are thus commemorated in the Liturgy.

Urban, a Roman by birth, governed the Church during the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. By his learning and holy life, he converted many to the Christian Faith. Among these were Valerian, the husband of St. Cecily, and Tiburtius, Valerian’s brother; both of whom, afterwards, courageously suffered martyrdom. Urban wrote these words regarding property that is given to the Church: “Things that have been offered to the Lord by the Faithful, should not be put to any other use than such as is for the benefit of the Church, the Brethren in the Christian faith, or the poor: because they are the offerings of the Faithful, the return made for sin, and the patrimony of the poor.” He reigned six years, seven months, and four days. He was crowned with martyrdom, and was buried in the cemetery of Prætextatus, on the eights of the Calends of June (May 25). In five ordinations held in the Decembers of different years, he ordained nine Priests, five Deacons, and eight Bishops for divers places.

Holy Pontiff! the joy of this day of thy triumph is enhanced by its being the anniversary of the entrance into heaven of thy illustrious successor Gregory. Thou hadst watched his combats here on earth, and his courage delighted thee, as being equal to that of the Martyrs. He, when dying at Salerno, thought of thy Martyrdom, and the thought inspired him with energy for his last trial. How admirable is the union that exists between the Church triumphant and militant! How sublime the brotherhood that exists between the Saints! What a joy it is for us to know that we may share in it! Our Risen Jesus invites us to be united with him for all eternity. Each generation is sending him its elect, and they cluster around him, for he is their Head, and they are the Members that complete his mystical body. He is the first-born of the dead; (Apocalypse 1:5) and he will give us to share in his Life, in proportion to our having imitated him in his Sufferings and Death. Pray, O Urban, that we may become more and more inflamed with the desire of being with Him, who is the way, the truth, and the life; (John 14:6) that we may be detached from earthly things, and comport ourselves, here below, as men who believe themselves to be exiles, who are absent from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:6)

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