Of the love of solitude and silence [I]
Seek a suitable time for thy meditation, and think frequently of the
mercies of God to thee. Leave curious questions. Study such matters
as bring thee sorrow for sin rather than amusement. If thou withdraw
thyself from trifling conversation and idle goings about, as well as
from novelties and gossip, thou shalt find thy time sufficient and apt
for good meditation. The greatest saints used to avoid as far as they
could the company of men, and chose to live in secret with God.
--Thomas à Kempis ---Imitation of Christ Bk 1, Ch 20
• October 22nd - St. Abercius
In the year 161, when Marcus Aurelius became Emperor, Abercius was
Bishop of Hierapolis (in today’s Turkey), a city dedicated to Apollo
and evangelized by St. Paul. He was already known for his virtues when
an episode occurred that made him famous.
The new Emperor had intensified the cult to the idols and since the
city of Hierapolis was consecrated to one of them, the number of
processions to the pagan gods there increased. Abercius suffered
greatly from this and frequently prayed to God asking for the
destruction of the temple idols. One night as he slept, he saw an
Angel who handed him a rod and told him: “Wake up! The time has come!
Take this rod and strike down the false gods that deceive the people.”
He arose and made haste to the temple, and destroyed Apollo, Hercules,
Diana and Venus, breaking them into pieces. Roused by the enormous
noise, the priests and guards entered, surprised to find the Bishop
Abercius told them: “Go and tell the magistrates and the people of
Hierapolis that their gods, overstuffed with flesh and wine, became
drunk and fell, one on top of another, and are now reduced to pieces.
Take away this rubble if you have any use for it.”
With these words he left the temple. No one dared to touch him. He
continued on his way to give his customary morning class to his
Shortly afterward, however, the furious pagans sought him out to kill
him. Three men of the city who were known to be possessed, shouting
and biting themselves, placed themselves between the Bishop and the
crowd. The mob fell silent. Albercius raised his hands over the
possessed men and prayed, saying these words: “Almighty God, Father of
Jesus Christ, whose mercy infinitely surpasses the malice of men, I
beg Thee, free these unfortunate men from the chains of Satan, so that
the people may recognize Thee as their true God.”
He touched the possessed men with his rod, and they fell motionless at
his feet. He helped them to their feet and they stood before the
crowd, safe and sound. Then he told them to return to their houses.
Witnessing this spectacle, the multitude called out in unison:
“Baptism, baptism! The God of Abercius is the true God!”
After this episode, the fame of St. Abercius spread throughout Asia.
People came from far and wide to ask for his help. The Emperor himself
asked St. Abercius to heal his daughter Lucilla, who was possessed.
Forewarned supernaturally of his death, he prepared his tomb to be
built in marble and wrote a long epitaph, which became known as the
Inscriptions of Abercius. He died in 167 with 72 years of age.
Comments of the late Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: (died 1995)
In this selection there is an answer to a frequent obliteration in
presenting the lives of saints. When writing about saints, many
Catholic historians make this syllogism: Since this life is a valley
of tears and one must walk through it along the way of the cross in
the footsteps of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and since all saints suffer a
great deal, then the saints should be presented as defeated persons.
This is incorrect reasoning, because even though the presupposition is
true, the consequence does not necessarily follow.
Such depictions project the false idea that if a person is not always
defeated, not always in a lower place in society, not always assuming
an attitude of inferiority before the enemies of Christ, then he is
not a saint.
These histories produce a kind of timid, fearful and sentimental
Catholic who is scrupulous about being triumphant and victorious. He
deems it impious to be intrepid against his enemies, even against the
Devil. This produces a decadent type of Catholic who harms the
militancy of the Church and encourages all kinds of heresies.
Actually, many lives of saints are made up of defeats. In others, even
if the defeats are not frequent, they constitute the most sublime
parts in their lives. Catholic life often includes the acceptation of
failure as a means to unite with Our Lord.
We should not conclude from this, however, that defeat is inherent to
sanctity. The life of St. Abercius is an extraordinary example of the
opposite. He appears as a habitually triumphant man who smashes
impiety with his virtue and courage, and like a cavalry charge, sets
evil to flight, just as we would like to do with the Revolution.
It is interesting that he suffered a great deal because of the
presence of idols in Hierapolis, and he prayed to God to destroy them.
It is an admirable example for us: we also should suffer because of
the new idols of our day--money, pleasure, health, beauty, success,
immorality etc--equivalent to the pagan gods of Mammon, Apollo, Bios,
Diana, Hercules, Venus etc. What caused his suffering was the offense
to God the cult of these idols produced. He could not find joy and
satisfaction in life because the glory of God was despised. He felt
the need to destroy those idols, but realized the great disproportion
between his personal strength and the task he desired to accomplish.
So he had recourse to prayer. From that prayer the solution came. He
had a dream. In it he received a miraculous rod, and an Angel told him
to go to the temple and destroy the idols with it. He went, struck the
idols with that rod, and they fell to the ground with an enormous
Then, in Act Two, the priests and guards rush in with torches. They
find Abercius, who calmly faces them. They ask: “Who committed this
sacrilege?” Abercius ridicules the gods and justifies his action:
“They were overstuffed with the wine and food you offered them. They
fell drunk, one over another, and broke into pieces. They were false
gods, nothing but this pile of rubble that you are welcome to remove
should you have any use for it.”
Then, after speaking these words, he calmly leaves the temple. It is a
beautiful pre-figure of the triumph of the Church over Paganism after
the decree of Constantine which would be issued in 313....
I will not live an instant that I do not live in love. Whoever loves
does all things without suffering, or, suffering, loves his suffering.
Dearly beloved, follow not that which is evil: but that which is
good. He that doth good is of God: he that doth evil hath not seen
God. [3 Jn 1:11] DRB
Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this
night, that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting
world may repose upon Your eternal changelessness, through the everlasting
Christ our Lord. - Amen