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face should be celebrated annually on the 5th of
S. Boniface has left few writings behind him, except his letters. A treatise on the duties of bishops and priests is attributed to him. In it he recommends conditional baptism in all cases of doubt, and gives rules for hearing confessions. His life was written by S. Willibald bishop of Eichstad, one of his disciples.
I saw thee once, and nought discerned
A serious aspect, but it burned
Thy speech was rare and high;
I saw once more, and awe-struck gazed
Lyra Apostolica, p. 70.
S. Alban, Martyr.
HISTORIANS are not agreed about the time when the Christian Faith was first preached in Britain. There seems to be good reason for believing that it was during the age of the Apostles. But whether S. Peter, S. Paul, or S. Joseph of Arimathea was the first missioner, it is certain that, towards the end of
the second century, Lucius, a sovereign prince of Britain, was converted, and sent to the Bishop of Rome for instruction. And in the tenth general persecution which afflicted the Catholic Church under Dioclesian and Maximian, in the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth, England was honoured to make a devout confession for God. This persecution was more cruel, and lasted longer, than any that had gone before it. It began in the East, and spread gradually westwards, and seems to have reached this country in the year 303. Constantius Chlorus, the father of the emperor Constantine the Great, was then governor of Britain, under Maximian. He secretly favoured the Christians, but did not dare openly to disobey the edicts of the emperor. The storm fell with great fury upon the British Church, and as Ven. Bede relates, “the proscription of innocent persons, the burning of churches, and the executions of the martyrs, continued for a while without ceasing." Those who escaped with their lives retired to the woods and deserts to await the return of peaceful times, which took place, in the Western Church, on the abdication of Dioclesian and his colleague in 305.
It was in this persecution that S. Alban, the Protomartyr of Britain, suffered; of whom Fortunatus, a Christian poet and bishop of Poictiers in the beginning of the seventh century, says, Albanum egregium fœcunda Britannia profert-Britain, fruitful in martyrs, first offers the renowned Alban. was a native of Verolamium, a city of considerable importance in the time of the Romans. It was called by the Saxons Uverlamacestir or Uvarlinga
cestir, and the site of its ruins is near the present town of S. Alban's. The saint was of noble family, and had travelled to Rome for his education. When the storm of persecution first reached Britain, he was a pagan, devoted to the idolatrous worship of his ancestors. A Christian priest, who was flying for life, came to his house, and begged for shelter. He received him, and entertained him hospitably. The time of the holy man was spent in continual prayer and watching, night and day. Alban was so charmed by his demeanour, that he asked to be instructed in the faith of the Christians. As his guest unfolded to him the mystery of godliness, his heart was touched by Divine grace, and with many tears he renounced the errors of paganism, and professed his belief in the religion of the Cross. He was admitted into the Church by the sacrament of regeneration; and the holy father remained with him for some days longer, to finish the work of instruction which he had begun. Thus were fulfilled the words of the Saviour, “ He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward." Alban, while a pagan, had shown kindness to the Lord in one of His persecuted disciples, and was rewarded by the grace of faith, and the crown of martyrdom.
It was not long before the retreat of the Christian priest was made known to the governor of Verolamium, who sent a party of soldiers to take him. When Alban heard of their coming, he assisted his guest to escape by covering him with his own cloak; and he went out to meet the soldiers, wearing the caracalla, or long garment, which had belonged to the priest. He was immediately seized and bound, and
led before the judge, who was at that instant standing by an altar, sacrificing to the demons. "When he saw Alban," says Venerable Bede, "he was enraged beyond measure, because he had dared to surrender himself voluntarily to the soldiers, and had given himself up to danger instead of his guest; so he ordered him to be brought before the images of the demons, which he himself was worshipping-'Because you have chosen to conceal a rebel and a sacrilegious person,' he said, 'rather than give him up to the soldiers, that he might suffer the punishment due to his impiety, as a blasphemer of the gods, you must undergo the tortures due to him, if you dare to depart from the worship of our religion.' But S. Alban, who had freely confessed to the persecutors of the faith that he was a Christian, did not in the least fear the threats of the judge; but, girded with the armour of a spiritual soldier, declared openly that he would not obey his orders. Then said the judge, 'Of what family or kindred are you?' And Alban answered, 'What does it signify from what stock I am descended? But if you desire to hear the truth of my religion, know that I am a Christian, and that I will join only in the Christian worship.' Then said the
judge, What is your name? I command you to
tell it me without delay.' And he replied, 'I am called Alban by my parents; and I always adore and worship the true and living God, who created the worlds.' Then the judge was full of fury, and cried out, 'If you would enjoy the happiness of eternal life, delay not to sacrifice to the great gods.' But Alban answered, 'These sacrifices which you offer to demons can neither assist those who offer them, nor
can they grant the desires and prayers of their suppliants. Nay, more than this, whoever sacrifices to those idols shall receive the eternal punishment of hell for his reward.'
"When the judge heard this, his fury was without bounds, and he ordered the holy confessor of God to be scourged by the torturers, thinking to bend the constancy of his heart by stripes, since he could not by words. But when his sufferings were most severe, the martyr bore them patiently, yea, joyfully, for the sake of his Lord. And when the judge saw that he could not be overcome by torture, and would not renounce the Christian worship, he commanded that he should be beheaded. As he was led to death, he came to a river whose rapid current separated the city wall from the opposite bank, where he was to suffer. He saw a vast multitude of men and women, who had come together, no doubt by a divine instinct, to encourage the blessed confessor and martyr; and they so crowded the bridge over this river, that the whole company could hardly have passed before the evening. Nearly all the inhabitants had come out to see, and the judge remained unattended within the city. S. Alban then, whose soul burned with desire to arrive quickly at his martyrdom, and yet was delayed by the torrent, raised his eyes to heaven, and presently he beheld the stream fall back, and open a way for him to pass. And when the executioner, among others, saw this, he hastened to meet him, as he came towards the place where he was to die, and moved by divine grace, he threw away his sword which he had held drawn in his hand; and he prayed to be allowed to suffer either with the martyr whom he had been ordered to put to