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ST. MAMMERTUS, CONFESSOR, ARCHBISHOP OF VIENNE
From a homily of St. Avitus, his disciple, on the Institution of the Rogation-Days, t. 2; Op. Sirmond, p. 136, and from St. Sidonius Apollinaris, 1. 7, ep. 1, p. 1014;1. 5, ep. 14. See Ceillier, t. 15, p. 23. Rivet, Hist. Littér. Fr. t. 2, p. 480.
A. D. 477.
ST. MAMMERTUS, archbishop of Vienne in Dauphiné, in which see he succeeded Simplicius in the fifth age, was a prelate renowned in the church for his sanctity, learning, and miracles. He instituted in his diocese the fasts and supplications called the Rogations, on the following occasion.1 Almighty God, to punish the sins of the people, visited them with wars and other public calamities, and awaked them from their spiritual lethargy by the terrors of earthquakes, fires, and ravenous wild beasts, which last were sometimes seen in the very market-places of cities; such was the desolate state to which the country was reduced. These evils the impious ascribed to blind chance; but religious and prudent persons considered them as tokens of the divine anger, which threatened them with entire destruction, unless they strove effectually to avert it by sincere repentance. Amidst these scourges, St. Mammertus received a token of the divine mercy. A terrible fire happened in the city of Vienne, which baffled the efforts of men; but by the prayers of the good bishop, the fire on a sudden went out. This miracle strongly affected the minds of the people. The holy prelate took this opportunity to make them sensible of the necessity and efficacy of devout prayer, and to improve their salutary dispositions to sincere compunction and penance, and a thorough amendment of life. On Easter-night, a second great fire happened, which alarmed the city more than ever. The zealous pastor had recourse to his usual arms, and poured forth his prayers with many tears, lying prostrate before the altar till the flames were extinguished in a manner which his successor, St. Avitus, calls miraculous.2 During this second conflagration, the archbishop formed a pious design of instituting an annual fast and supplication of three days, in which all the faithful should join, with sincere compunction of heart, to appease the divine indignation by fasting, prayer tears, and the confession of sins. The church of Auvergne, of which St. Sidonius was bishop, adopted this pious institution before the year 475, as appears by the letter of St. Sidonius, quoted above; and it became in a short time a universal practice. We have two sermons of St. Mammertus, one on the Rogations, the other on the repentance of the Ninevites, being the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth among the discourses which bear the name of Eusebius of Emisa. It is clear from the homily of St. Avitus, On the Rogations, that St. Mammertus regulated the psalms to be sung, and the rite to be observed on the three Rogation days. The ancient mass and lessons appointed for them in Gaul, are found in the ancient Gallican liturgy, published by Mabillon. St. Mammertus’s younger brother, Mammertus Claudian, who is celebrated by St. Sidonius Apollinaris as the greatest scholar of his age, but was much more commendable for his modesty and virtue, being a priest, governed the affairs of his diocese under him. He was author of the hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi prælium certaminis,* and other elegant works.† He died about the year 474. Our saint survived him three years, dying in 477, and is commemorated in the Roman Martyrology.
Under temporal afflictions we are to remember that God chastises us in this life only in mercy: by these visits he desires to cure the disorderly attachments of our souls, and to compel us to acknowledge that he is our only salvation, comfort, and strength, and to seek him with our whole hearts. To neglect human precautions and remedies against temporal evils, would be to tempt God: but so to rely on the means of human prudence as not to have recourse to God by earnest prayer, is to refuse to acknowledge our dependence upon him, and to deprive ourselves of his blessing, which alone can give success even to natural means. St. Mammertus shows that prayer on these occasions must be accompanied with compunction, penance, and almsdeeds. We must begin to implore the divine mercy by renouncing sin as the greatest of evils, the cause of all the chastisements which are inflicted on us, and an evil of an order infinitely superior to all other calamities, insomuch that it is really the only evil we ought truly to fear. Can we hope that God will hear our prayers if we only ask of him what will entertain in us the kingdom of the devil: not his grace, but the things of this world, and the objects of our irregular passions? Such petitions are not prayers, but inordinate desires. Have we not reason to fear that ours are often such, if we cry to God with tears when any temporal calamity threatens us; but are insensible to the miseries of our souls, and cold and remiss under spiritual dangers? If we seek first the kingdom of God and its justice all other things will be given to us.