Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13: Bl. James of Voragine, B., C., O.P., Commemoration

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we make a commemoration of Blesssed James of Voragine, Bishop, Confessor, of the Order of Preachers.  Since today is a ferial day, the ferial office is prayed.  A commemoration is made of Bl. James of Voragine at Lauds only.  The collect prayer for this holy bishop speaks of his love for peace and truth.  In these days where there is very little peace, whether between nations, peoples, citizens of the same country, members of Holy Mother Church, and even within families, due so often to a lack of knowledge of, or regard for, Truth, may this holy Dominican bishop pray for us and our deplorable times.

Blessed James is the author of the famous "Golden Legend", a medieval manuscript of saints’ lives that was extremely popular in the Middle Ages.  From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):

BLESSED JAMES was born in the little village of Voragine, also called Varazzo, not far from Genoa. He entered the Order of Saint Dominic at the early age of fourteen, and devoted himself to the acquisition alike of learning and of sanctity, making marvelous progress in both. After teaching theology in various places, he was sent to preach throughout Northern Italy. Such was his eloquence and such the purity with which he spoke his mother tongue, that he took his place at once in the foremost rank of Italian orators. He was the first to translate the Bible into Italian; and he wrote several works, in particular a large and valuable book of sermons, a treatise in praise of our Blessed Lady, to whom he bore a tender devotion, and a collection of Lives of the Saints, known as the "Golden Legend," which became the most popular book of spiritual reading in the Middle Ages. It was translated into various languages, and was perhaps more widely diffused than any other work before the invention of printing.

He became Prior of the Convent of Genoa, and when only thirty-seven was elected Provincial of Lombardy. His appointment to this important post, whilst still so young, created some surprise throughout the Order, but when the Friars became witnesses of his benevolence and charity, and of the blessings which his wise and saintly administration drew down upon the Houses committed to his charge, this feeling of surprise was exchanged for one of admiration and gratitude, and he continued to hold the office for the then unprecedented period of nineteen years. In the year 1288, Pope Honorius IV entrusted to him the delicate task of absolving the city of Genoa, in his name, from the censures and the interdict which it had incurred. Blessed James discharged this mission with such prudence and tact as to win all hearts, and not long afterwards the Cathedral Chapter unanimously elected him as Archbishop.

Genoa was at this time in a very distracted state, torn by the rival factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, the scene of horrible murders and civil war. The saintly Archbishop succeeded in re-establishing peace and order. He showed himself to be truly the father of his people, sparing no labor on their behalf, and stripping himself of everything in his boundless liberality to the poor. He also bestowed munificent benefactions on the hospitals, convents, and churches of his diocese. The Crusaders had brought back with them, after the capture of Constantinople in 1203, a great quantity of holy relics. A portion of those which had fallen to the share of Venice passed into the possession of the Genoese, together with a considerable piece of the True Cross. The pious Archbishop succeeded in obtaining them, and deposited them in the Dominican Church in Genoa, under two tables which he plated with silver.

All through his life, Blessed James had made it his study to acquire interior peace, and his soul had become, according to the testimony of his contemporaries, a perfect mirror of the happiness of heaven. After eight years spent in governing his flock with such wisdom and success that most of the Bishops of Northern Italy took him for their counselor and model, and adopted his statutes for the reformation of their clergy, the saintly Archbishop of Genoa gently fell asleep in the Lord in the July of the year 1298. His body was laid under the high altar of the Church of Saint Dominic in Genoa, where it received the veneration of the faithful until A.D. 1798, when it was translated to the Church of the Friars Preachers at Santa Maria di Castello. A fresh and very solemn translation took place in the year 1885.  Blessed James was beatified by Pius VII., A.D. 1816.


O God, you rendered your blessed confessor and bishop, James, a glorious herald of truth and an effective peacemaker; grant us, at his intercession, to love both peace and truth, and to reach you in whom peace is most perfect, and truth most pure.  Through Our Lord...