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ST. DIONYSIUS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS
From St. Greg. of Tours, Hist. Fran.1. 1, c. 30. The acts of their martyrdom extant in Bosquet, Eccl. Gallic. Hist. t. 2, pp. 68, 73, were compiled from oral relations about the 7th century, those which were written by Massus, bishop of Paris, under Constantius Chiorus, almost contemporary, not being then extant. See Rivet, Hist. Litter, t. 4, p. 38; t. 1, part 1, p. 305; part 2, p. 49. Tillemont, t. 4. p. 443. Dom. Felibien, Hist. de l’Abbaie de St. Denys, anno 1707, folio. Append. p. 162. Due Bois, Hist. Eccl. Paris, t. 1. Orsi,1. 7, n. 4, t. 3, p. 141.
A. D. 272.
THE faith is said by some to have been planted in part of Gaul by St. Luke, and especially by St. Crescens, a disciple of St. Paul. The churches of Marseilles, Lyons, and Vienne, were indebted for the light of the gospel to Asiatic or Grecian preachers, though they had received their mission and orders from the apostolic see of Rome. For pope Innocent I. positively affirms1 that no one had established churches in the Gauls, or in Spain or Africa, but persons who had been ordained bishops by St. Peter and his successors. The history of the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, in 177,2 proves the flourishing state of those churches in the second century. St. Irenus very much advanced the faith in Gaul, and left many eminent disciples behind him, though two of the most illustrious among them, Caius and St. Hippolytus, left Gaul, and displayed their abilities and zeal in Italy and other foreign countries. Nevertheless, the light of the gospel did not spread its beams so early upon the remoter parts of Gaul, as is expressly affirmed by Sulpicius Severus,3 and in the Acts of St. Saturninus. St. Germanus of Paris, and seven other French bishops, in a letter to St. Radegondes,4 say, that the faith having been planted in Gaul, in the very birth of Christianity, made its progress slowly till the divine mercy sent thither St. Martin in 360. Numerous churches, however, were established before that time in most parts of that country, by seven bishops sent thither by the bishop of Rome to preach the gospel.*
Of all the Roman missionaries sent into Gaul, St. Dionysius carried the faith the furthest into the country, fixing his see at Paris, and by him and his disciples the sees of Chartres, Senlis, and Meaux were erected,5 and, shortly after, those of Cologne and others, which we find in a flourishing condition and governed by excellent pastors in the fourth century, witness St. Maternus of Cologne, &c. SS. Fuscian and Victoricus, Crispin and Crispinian, Rufinus and Valerius, Lucian of Beauvais, Quintin, Piaton, Regulus or Riticius of Senlis, and Marcellus, are called disciples or fellow-laborers of St. Dionysius, and came from Rome to preach the name of Christ in Gaul. We are assured in the acts of the martyrdom of St. Dionysius, that this zealous bishop built a church at Paris, and converted great numbers to the faith. A glorious martyrdom crowned his labors for the salvation of souls, and the exaltation of the name of Christ. He seems to have suffered in the persecution of Valerian, in 272, though some moderns defer his death to the beginning of the reign of Maximian Herculeus who resided chiefly in Gaul from the year 286 to 292. Ado calls the judge by whom he was condemned, Fescenninus. The Acts of his Martyrdom, St. Gregory of Tours, Fortunatus, and the western martyrologists inform us, that after a long and cruel imprisonment he was beheaded for the faith, together with Rusticus, a priest, and Eleutherius, a deacon. The Acts add, that the bodies of the martyrs were thrown into the river Seine, but taken up and honorably interred by a Christian lady named Catalla, not far from the place where they had been beheaded. The Christians soon after built a chapel over their tomb. In 469, through the pious exhortations of St. Genevive, a church was raised upon the ruins of this chapel, which was a place of great devotion, much resorted to by pilgrims, as appears from the works of St. Gregory of Tours, in many places, by which it is clear that this church stood without the walls of the city, though very near them. By a donation of Clotaire II., it appears that here was then a religious community governed by an abbot. Dagobert, who died in 638, founded the great abbey in this place, in which he was interred, and which has been for many ages the usual burial-place of the French kings. Pepin and his son Charlemagne were principal benefactors to this monastery, which was magnificently rebuilt by abbot Suger. The relics of SS. Dionysius, Rusticus, and Eleutherius, are kept here in three silver shrines.* The miraculous cure of pope Stephen II., in this church, has been already related.6 St. Dionysius of France is commonly called St. Denis, from the French Denys. A portion of his relics is said to be possessed by the abbey of St. Emmeran, at Ratisbon.†
Those apostolic pastors who converted so many nations to Christ were men filled with his Spirit, who regarded nothing but his glory, and acted and lived for him alone. Christ on earth never entertained any regard but for the glory of his Father, to whom he offered himself and his kingdom. Whoever becomes his minister, must, in like manner, have no aim, no intention but to advance the divine honor: for this he must be dead to the world, and have bid adieu to it, that is, to all desires of honors, applause, pleasures riches, or any earthly goods whatever. Such a one sees nothing in this world which he hopes or desires; nothing that he much fears; he seeks no composition with it while he is engaged in the cause of his master; no threats or apprehensions of terror from its persecution can damp his courage in defending the honor of God, or cool his zeal for the salvation of souls.