Catholic History


A NAME given to the fast kept on Wednesdays and Fridays. In the Roman Church the fast was one of devotion, not of precept, and it ended at none i. e. three o'clock (Tertull. "De Jejun." 2). Tertullian ("De Orat." 19) explains the word from the military usage; the Stations were days on which the Christian soldiers stood on guard and "watched in prayer." It was characteristic of the Montanists to prolong the fast of the Stations till the evening ("De Jejun." 10). Prudentius ("Peristeph." vi. 52 seq.) relates of the martyr Fructuosus that he refused the cup offered him because it was a Station and the ninth hour had not come. In the East, on the other hand, the fast of the Stations was obligatory ("Apost. Const." v. 20: "Canon Apost." 69 ;1 Epiphan. "Haer." 75 n. 3). In the West the fast on Wednesday, never obligatory, died out altogether, while that on Friday became obligatory about the end of the ninth century. The Greeks, on the other hand, still maintain the fast of Wednesdays and Fridays. (Thomassin, "Traite des Jeunes," P. ii. ch. 15.)

(2) The word, in another sense, still holds its place in the Roman Missal. Many of our readers must have noticed the words "Statio ad S.Petrum, ad S. Mariam majorem," etc., before the Introit of certain masses. Mabillon ("Museum Italicum," tom. ii. p. xxx). explains the term as meaning either a fast or "a concourse of the people to an appointed place i. e. a church in which the procession of the clergy halts on stated days to say stated prayers. It is an ancient custom in Rome that the Roman clergy should on particular days meet for prayer in some one church where Mass and other divine services are performed. The procession of the Roman clergy to these Stations is either solemn or private: the latter when individuals betake themselves privately to the appointed place, the former when the Pope and the rest solemnly proceed thither singing litanies and other prayers." The gathering of clergy and people before this procession, Mabillon continues, was called collecta, and the name was then given to the prayer said over the people before the procession started from one church to the other in order to make the Station. "It was St. Gregory who regulated the Stations at Rome i. e. the churches where the office was to be performed daily in Lent, on the Ember days, and on the solemn feasts. For the feasts of the saints were celebrated in the churches which contained their relics. St. Gregory then marked these Stations in his Sacramentary, as they are now in the Roman Missal, and attached them chiefly to the patriarchal and titular churches; but although the Stations were fixed, the Archdeacon did not fail, after the Pope's Communion, to announce the next Station to the people" (Fleury, "H. E." livr. xxxvi. § 17). In the Easter of 774, Charlemagne assisted at the Station of Easter Sunday at St. Mary Major, of Easter Monday at St. Peter's, Tuesday at St. Paul's the same Stations still noted in our Missal (Eginhard, apud Fleury, xliv. §5).

Stations Of the Cross

A SERIES of images or pictures representing the different events tin the Passion of Christ, each Station corresponding to a particular event. Usually, they are ranged round the church, the first Station being placed on one side of the high altar, the last on the other. The Stations are among the most popular of Catholic devotions, and are to be found in almost every church. Sometimes they are erected in the open air, especially on roads which lead to some church or shrine standing on a hill.

The devotion began in the Franciscan order. The Franciscans are the guardians of the holy places in Jerusalem, and these stations are intended as a help to making in spirit a pilgrimage to the scene of Christ's sufferings and death. Innocent XII., in 1694, authentically interpreting a brief of his predecessor Innocent XI in 1686, declared that the indulgences granted for devoutly visiting certain holy places in Palestine could be gained by all Franciscans and by all affiliated to the order if they made the way of the cross devoutly i. e. passed or turned from Station to Station meditating devoutly on the various stages of the history.

Benedict XIII., in 1726, extended these indulgences to all the faithful; Clement XII., in 1731, permitted persons to gain the indulgences at Stations erected in churches which were not Franciscan, provided they were erected by a Franciscan with the sanction of the ordinary. At present the connection of the Stations with the Franciscan order is almost forgotten, at least in England, except as a matter of history. Our bishops can, by Apostolic faculties, erect the Stations with the indulgences attached to them, and they constantly delegate this faculty to priests. The English bishops received faculties to this effect, provided there were no religious in the neighborhood to whom the privilege belonged, in 1857. In 1862 these faculties were renewed without this limitation. The faculties are quinquennial. (Cone. Prov.Westmonast. II. Append. I. Concil. IV. Append. II.)

There are fourteen Stationsviz. (1) the sentence passed on our Lord by Pilate; (2) the receiving of the cross; (3) our Lord's first fall; (4) His meeting with His mother; (5) the bearing of the cross by Simon of Cyrene; (6) the wiping of Christ's face by Veronica with a handkerchief; (7) His second fall; (8) His words to the women of Jerusalem, "Weep not for Me," etc.; (9) His third fall; (10) His being stripped of His garments; (11) His crucifixion; (12) His death; (13) the taking down of His body from the cross; (14) His burial. In the diocese of Vienna the number of the Stations at the end of the last century was reduced to eleven. On the other hand a fifteenth Station has been sometimes addedviz. the finding of the cross by Helena These changes are unauthorized


THE word occurs in Gal. vi. 15: "I bear the marks of Jesus in my body." Such brands or marks (stigmata) were set on slaves who had run away, on slaves consecrated to the service of a heathen god, rarely on captives, and sometimes soldiers branded the name of their general on some part of their body. Probably St. Paul's metaphor is taken from the second of these customs. He regarded the marks of suffering in Christ's cause as consecrating him the more to his Master's service. The Latin versions retain the word "stigmata," but no Catholic commentator of repute, so far as we know, ever dreamt that St. Paul received miraculous marks of Christ's Passion. Neither St. Thomas nor Estius allude to such an interpretation, and Windischmann only mentions it to dismiss it.

Still the idea that miraculous wounds on the hands, feet, and side, like those borne by our Lord, were a mark of divine favor, certainly existed in the mediaeval Church independently of St. Francis, for in 1222, at a council in Oxford, an impostor who claimed to have stigmata of this kind confessed his guilt and was punished accordingly (Fleury, "H. E." lxxviii. § 56). Only two years later i. e. 1224 St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) was on Mount Alvernus to keep his annual fast of forty days in honor of St. Michael. One morning, says St. Buonaventure, about the 14th of September, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Francis saw a seraph flying towards him. There was a figure of a man attached to a cross between the wings. After the vision disappeared, the hands and feet of the saint were found to be marked with nails, and there was a wound in his side. The wounds were seen by some of the friars and by Alexander IV. during the lifetime of the saint, and after his death by fifty friars, St. Clare, and a multitude of seculars. St. Buonaventure assures us that he had the testimony of Alexander IV. from the Pope's own lips. The Church keeps a feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, instituted by Benedict XII.

The Dominicans claimed a similar distinction for one of their own order, St. Catharine of Siena (13471380). They appealed to a letter from the saint to her confessor, Raymond of Capua, in which she states that our Lord had impressed the stigmata upon her, but had at her own request made them invisible to others. They also quoted the testimony of St. Antoninus and the hymn which alludes to the stigmata, inserted in the Office of St. Catharine with the approval of Pius II. The Franciscans, who maintained that the privilege was peculiar to their own founder, carried the matter before Sixtus IV. in 1483. The Pope (himself a Franciscan) forbade under severe penalties any one to paint images of St. Catharine with the stigmata. (See Fleury, "H. E." lxxix. § 5, cxv. § 103.)

Still the fact of her stigmatisation is recorded in the Breviary Office, and a special feast in commemoration of it was granted to the Dominicans by Benedict XIII. In a work on the subject Dr. ImbertGourbeyre enumerates 145 persons, twenty men, the rest women, who are stated to have received the stigmata. Of these eighty lived before the seventeenth century. Some are canonized, others beatified, others simply persons of reputed holiness. More than one is still living. The work just referred to ("Les Stigmatisees") was published by Palme in 1873.

The Origin of Bells.

NOTHING certain is known as to the date of their introduction, which has been attributed sometimes to St. Paulinas of Nola, sometimes to Pope Sabinian. During the heathen persecution it was of course impossible to call the faithful by any signal which would have attracted public notice. After Constantine's time, monastic communities used to signify the hour of prayer by blowing a trumpet, or by tapping with a hammer at the cells of the monks. Walafrid Strabo, in his celebrated book on the divine offices, written about the middle of the ninth century, speaks of the use of bells as not very ancient in his time, and as having been introduced from Italy. However, we learn from the history of St. Lupus of Sens that churchbells were known in France more than two centuries before Strabo's time. For long the Eastern Church employed instead of bells, clappers, such as we still use on Good Friday, and bells were not known among the Orientals till the ninth century. Even then their use cannot have become universal among them, for Fleury mentions the ringing of churchbells as one of the customs which the Maronites adopted from the Latins on their reunion with the Catholic Church in 1183. The classical words for bell are, kodon and tintinnabulum. From the seventh century onwards, we find the names campana (from the Campanian metal of which they were often made), nola (from the town where their use is said to have been introduced), and cloccae (French cloche). Originally, churchbells were comparatively small. Large ones of cast metal first appear in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; those of the greatest size, in the fifteenth. In the tenth century the custom began of giving bells names.

Before the Church sets aside bells for sacred use she blesses them with solemn ceremonies. The form prescribed in the Pontifical is headed "the blessing of a bell," though it is popularly called "the baptism of a bell," a title by which the office is mentioned as early as the eleventh century. The bishop washes the bell with blessed water, signs it with the oil of the sick outside, and with chrism inside, and lastly places under it the thurible with burning incense. He prays repeatedly that the sound of the bell may avail to summon the faithful, to excite their devotion, to drive away storms, and to terrify evil spirits. This power of course is due to the blessings and prayers of the Church, not to any efficacy superstitiously attributed to the bell itself Thus consecrated, bells become spiritual things, and cannot be rung without the consent of the ecclesiastical authorities.

Hitherto, we have been treating of the large churchbell. Small bells are also used during Mass, and are rung by the server at the Sanctus and Elevation. The object of this rite is to excite the attention and devotion of the faithful. The practice of ringing the bell at the Elevation was introduced after the custom of elevating the Host had become common in the Church. The Elevationbell is mentioned by William of Paris. This bell is not rung when Mass is said before the Blessed Sacrament exposed, nor again in the private chapel of the Apostolic palace if the Pope says or hears Mass.

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