Saint Eusebius of Vercelli (283-371), first bishop of northern Italy, confessor, and early Church father. Born to a noble family on the isle of Sardinia, Saint Eusebius learned what it meant to stand up for the Christian faith at an early age. His father was imprisoned and later died as a martyr for the faith. His mother, now a widow, brought he and his infant sister to Rome, where he was instructed in the practice of piety, and in the study of sacred learning, and ordained lector by Saint Sylvester.
Having served as a lector for most of his childhood, Eusebius was naturally drawn to the priesthood. He studied in Vercelli (in Piedmont), where he was later ordained. Saint Eusebius served the Church of Vercelli with such zeal that when it came time to appoint a new bishop, he was unanimously chosen by both clergy and the congregation.
At that time, the Church was in danger from the heretical beliefs of the Arians—that Jesus Christ was not eternal, but created. Arius, the originator of these teachings, described the Arian beliefs as follows:
“But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that he does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by his own will and counsel he has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect God, only begotten and unchangeable, and that before he was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. We are persecuted, because we say that the Son has a beginning, but that God is without beginning.”
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem years earlier, and adopted by the full Church), and demanded that everyone sign the Creed before condemning Athanasius. The Nicene Creed directly contradicts Arian teaching by proclaiming that Jesus is ‘one in being with the Father.’ Saint Eusebius’ copy of the Creed was torn from his hands in anger, and his pen was broken.
Emperor Constantius had grown tired of his arguments, and insisted that Saint Eusebius condemn his colleague. Under pain of imprisonment, torture, and death, the emperor demanded their participation. Along with Saint Dionysus of Milan and Lucifer of Cagliari, Saint Eusebius refused to condemn Athanasius as a heretic. Rather than death, the three were exiled to Palestine by the emperor.
letters of encouragement to his flock and to the other true Catholics. Saint Dionysus died in prison, causing him great sadness. Saint Eusebius was moved to Asia Minor, and then to Egypt, treated cruelly in each prison. However, he continued to confound his tormentors with unwavering faith and hope in the Lord.
When Constantius died in the year 361, the new Emperor Julian allowed all the exiled Prelates to return to their sees. Saint Eusebius went to Alexandria to consult with Athanasius about convoking a synod, which in 362 was held there under their joint leadership. During that synod they extended leniency to all the Catholic bishops whose faith had wavered during the Arian heresy.
St. Eusebius affirmed the divinity of Your Son.
By keeping the faith he taught,
may we come to share the eternal life of Christ,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
With his sound formation in the Nicene faith, Eusebius did his utmost to defend the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as "of one being with the Father". To this end, he allied himself with the great Fathers of the fourth century - especially St Athanasius, the standard bearer of Nicene orthodoxy - against the philo-Arian policies of the Emperor. For the Emperor, the simpler Arian faith appeared politically more useful as the ideology of the Empire. For him it was not truth that counted but rather political opportunism: he wanted to exploit religion as the bond of unity for the Empire. But these great Fathers resisted him, defending the truth against political expediency.
Eusebius was consequently condemned to exile, as were so many other Bishops of the East and West: such as Athanasius himself, Hilary of Poitiers - of whom we spoke last time - and Hosius of Cordoba. In Scythopolis, Palestine, to which he was exiled between 355 and 360, Eusebius wrote a marvellous account of his life. Here too, he founded a monastic community with a small group of disciples. It was also from here that he attended to his correspondence with his faithful in Piedmont, as can be seen in the second of the three Letters of Eusebius recognized as authentic. Later, after 360, Eusebius was exiled to Cappadocia and the Thebaid, where he suffered serious physical ill-treatment. After his death in 361, Constantius II was succeeded by the Emperor Julian, known as "the Apostate", who was not interested in making Christianity the religion of the Empire but merely wished to restore paganism. He rescinded the banishment of these Bishops and thereby also enabled Eusebius to be reinstated in his See. In 362 he was invited by Anastasius to take part in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon the Arian Bishops as long as they returned to the secular state. Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another 10 years, until he died, creating an exemplary relationship with his city which did not fail to inspire the pastoral service of other Bishops of Northern Italy, whom we shall reflect upon in future Catecheses, such as St Ambrose of Milan and St Maximus of Turin.
The Bishop of Vercelli's relationship with his city is illustrated in particular by two testimonies in his correspondence. The first is found in the Letter cited above, which Eusebius wrote from his exile in Scythopolis "to the beloved brothers and priests missed so much, as well as to the holy people with a firm faith of Vercelli, Novara, Ivrea and Tortona" (Second Letter, CCL 9, p. 104). These first words, which demonstrate the deep emotion of the good Pastor when he thought of his flock, are amply confirmed at the end of the Letter in his very warm fatherly greetings to each and every one of his children in Vercelli, with expressions overflowing with affection and love. One should note first of all the explicit relationship that bound the Bishop to the sanctae plebes, not only of Vercellae/Vercelli - the first and subsequently for some years the only Diocese in the Piedmont - but also of Novaria/ Novara, Eporedia/Ivrea and Dertona/ Tortona, that is, of the Christian communities in the same Diocese which had become quite numerous and acquired a certain consistency and autonomy. Another interesting element is provided by the farewell with which the Letter concludes. Eusebius asked his sons and daughters to give his greeting "also to those who are outside the Church, yet deign to nourish feelings of love for us: etiam hos, qui foris sunt et nos dignantur diligere". This is an obvious proof that the Bishop's relationship with his city was not limited to the Christian population but also extended to those who - outside the Church - recognized in some way his spiritual authority and loved this exemplary man.
The second testimony of the Bishop's special relationship with his city comes from the Letter St Ambrose of Milan wrote to the Vercellians in about 394, more than 20 years after Eusebius' death (Ep. extra collecitonem 14: Maur. 63). The Church of Vercelli was going through a difficult period: she was divided and lacked a Bishop. Ambrose frankly declared that he hesitated to recognize these Vercellians as descending from "the lineage of the holy fathers who approved of Eusebius as soon as they saw him, without ever having known him previously and even forgetting their own fellow citizens". In the same Letter, the Bishop of Milan attested to his esteem for Eusebius in the clearest possible way: "Such a great man", he wrote in peremptory tones, "well deserves to be elected by the whole of the Church". Ambrose's admiration for Eusebius was based above all on the fact that the Bishop of Vercelli governed his Diocese with the witness of his life: "With the austerity of fasting he governed his Church". Indeed, Ambrose was also fascinated, as he himself admits, by the monastic ideal of the contemplation of God which, in the footsteps of the Prophet Elijah, Eusebius had pursued. First of all, Ambrose commented, the Bishop of Vercelli gathered his clergy in vita communis and educated its members in "the observance of the monastic rule, although they lived in the midst of the city". The Bishop and his clergy were to share the problems of their fellow citizens and did so credibly, precisely by cultivating at the same time a different citizenship, that of Heaven (cf. Heb 13: 14). And thus, they really built true citizenship and true solidarity among all the citizens of Vercelli.
While Eusebius was adopting the cause of the sancta plebs of Vercelli, he lived a monk's life in the heart of the city, opening the city to God. This trait, though, in no way diminished his exemplary pastoral dynamism. It seems among other things that he set up parishes in Vercelli for an orderly and stable ecclesial service and promoted Marian shrines for the conversion of the pagan populations in the countryside. This "monastic feature", however, conferred a special dimension on the Bishop's relationship with his hometown. Just like the Apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at his Last Supper, the Pastors and faithful of the Church "are of the world" (Jn 17: 11), but not "in the world". Therefore, Pastors, Eusebius said, must urge the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling place but to seek the future city, the definitive heavenly Jerusalem. This "eschatological reserve" enables Pastors and faithful to preserve the proper scale of values without ever submitting to the fashions of the moment and the unjust claims of the current political power. The authentic scale of values - Eusebius' whole life seems to say - does not come from emperors of the past or of today but from Jesus Christ, the perfect Man, equal to the Father in divinity, yet a man like us. In referring to this scale of values, Eusebius never tired of "warmly recommending" his faithful "to jealously guard the faith, to preserve harmony, to be assiduous in prayer" (Second Letter, op. cit.).
Dear friends, I too warmly recommend these perennial values to you as I greet and bless you, using the very words with which the holy Bishop Eusebius concluded his Second Letter: "I address you all, my holy brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, faithful of both sexes and of every age group, so that you may... bring our greeting also to those who are outside the Church, yet deign to nourish sentiments of love for us."
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."