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Saint Hyacinth

The Liturgical Year


Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.


Saint Hyacinth




One of the loveliest lilies from the Dominican field to-day unfurls its petals at the foot of Mary's throne. Hyacinth represents on the sacred cycle that intrepid band of missionaries who, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, faced the barbarism of the Tartars and Mussulmans which was threatening the West. From the Alps to the Northern frontiers of the Chinese Empire, from the islands of the Archipelago to the Arctic regions, he propagated his Order and spread the kingdom of God. On the Steppes, where the schism of Constantinople disputed its conquests with the idolatrous invaders from the North, he was seen for forty years working prodigies, confounding heresy, dispelling the darkness of infidelity.


The consecration of martyrdom was not wanting to this, any more than to the first Apostolate. Many were the admirable episodes, where the Angels seemed to smile upon the hard combats of their earthly brethren. In the convent founded by Hyacinth at Sandomir on the Vistula, forty-eight Friars Preachers were gathered together under the rule of Blessed Sadoc. One day the lector of the Martyrology, announcing the feast of the morrow, read these words which appeared before his eyes in letters of gold: AT SANDOMIR ON THE 4TH OF THE NONES OF JUNE, THE PASSION OF FORTY-NINE MARTYRS. The astonished brethren soon understood this extraordinary announcement; in the joy of their souls they prepared to gather the palm, which was procured for them by an irruption of the Tartars on the very day mentioned. They were assembled in choir at the happy moment, and whilst singing the Salve Regina they dyed with their blood the pavement of the church.


No executioner's sword was to close Hyacinth's glorious career. John, the beloved disciple, had had to remain on earth till the Lord should come; our Saint waited for the Mother of his Lord to fetch him.


Neither labour nor the greatest sufferings, nor above all the most wonderful divine interventions were wanting to his beautiful life. Kiew, the holy city of the Russians, having for fifty years resisted his zeal, the Tartars, as avengers of God's justice, swept over it and sacked it. The universal devastation reached the very doors of the sanctuary where the man of God was just concluding the Holy Sacrifice. Clothed as he was in the sacred vestments, he took in one hand the most Holy Sacrament and in the other the statue of Mary, who asked him not to leave her to the barbarians; then, together with his brethren, he walked safe and sound through the very midst of the bloodthirsty pagans, along the streets all in flames, and lastly across the Dnieper, the ancient Borysthenes, whose waters, growing firm beneath his feet, retained the marks of his steps. Three centuries later, the witnesses examined for the process of canonisation attested on oath that the prodigy still continued; the footprints always visible upon the water, from one bank to the other, were called by the surrounding inhabitants St. Hyacinth's Way.


The Saint, continuing his miraculous retreat as far as Cracow, there laid down his precious burden in the convent of the Blessed Trinity. The statue of Mary, light as a reed while he was carrying it, now resumed its natural weight, which was so great that one man could not so much as move it. Beside this statue Hyacinth, after many more labours, would return to die. It was here that, at the beginning of his apostolic life, the Mother of God had appeared to him for the first time, saying: "Have great courage and be joyful, my son Hyacinth! Whatsoever thou shalt ask in my name, shall be granted thee." This happy interview took place on the Vigil of the Assumption. The Saint gathered from it the superhuman confidence of the thaumaturgus, which no difficulty could ever shake; but above all he retained from it the virginal fragrance which embalmed his whole life, and the light of supernatural beauty which made him the picture of his father Dominic.


Years passed away: heroic Poland, the privileged centre of Hyacinth's labours, was ready to play its part, under Mary's shield, as the bulwark of Christendom; at the price of what sacrifices we shall hear in October from a contemporary of our Saint, St. Hedwiges, the blessed mother of the hero of Liegnitz. Meantime, like St. Stanislaus his predecessor in the labour, the son of St. Dominic came to Cracow, to breathe his last sigh and leave there the treasure of his sacred relics. Not on the Vigil this time, but on the very day of her triumph, August l5th, 1257, in the church of the Most Holy Trinity, our Lady came down once more, with a brilliant escort of Angels, and Virgins forming her court. "Oh! who art thou?" cried a holy soul who beheld all this in ecstasy; "I," answered Mary, "am the "Mother of mercy; and he whom I hold by the hand, is brother Hyacinth, my devoted son, whom I am leading to the eternal nuptials." Then our Lady intoned herself with her sweet voice: "I will go to the mountain of Libanus," and the Angels and Virgins continued the heavenly song with exquisite harmony, while the happy procession disappeared into the glory of heaven.


Let us read the notice of St. Hyacinth given by the Liturgy. We shall there see that his abovementioned passage over the Dnieper, was not the only circumstance wherein he showed his power over the waves.


Hyacinth was a Pole and born of noble and Christian parents in the town of Camien of the diocese of Breslau. In his childhood he received a liberal education, and later he studied law and Divinity. Having become a Canon of the church of Cracow, he surpassed all his fellow-priests by his remarkable piety and learning. He was received at Rome into the Order of Preachers by the founder St. Dominic, and till the end of his life he observed in a most holy manner the mode of life he learnt from him. He remained always a virgin, and had a great love for modesty, patience, humility, abstinence and other virtues, which are the true inheritance of the religious life.


In his burning love for God he would spend whole nights in prayer and chastising his body. He would allow himself no rest except by leaning against a stone, or lying on the bare ground. He was sent back to his own country; but first of all on the way there, he founded a large house of his Order at Friesach, and then another at Cracow. Then in different provinces of Poland he built four other monasteries, and it seems incredible what an amount of good he did in all these places by preaching the word of God and by the innocence of his life. Not a day passed but he gave some striking proof of his faith, his piety, and his innocence.


God honoured the holy man's zeal for the good of his neighbour by very great miracles. The following is one of the most striking: he crossed without a boat the river Vistula which had overflowed, near Wisgrade, and drew his companions also across on his cloak which he spread out over the water. After having persevered in his admirable manner of life for forty years after his Profession, he foretold to his brethren the day of his death. On the feast of our Lady's Assumption in the year 1257, having finished the Canonical Hours, and received the Sacraments of the Church with great devotion, saying these words: "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit," he gave up his soul to God. He was illustrious for miracles in death as in life, and Pope Clement VIII. numbered him among the Saints.


Great was thy privilege, O son of Dominic, to be so closely associated to Mary as to enter into thy glory on the very feast of her triumph. As thou occupiest so fair a place in the procession accompanying her to heaven, tell us of her greatness, her beauty, her love for us poor creatures, whom she desires to make sharers, like thee, in her bliss.


It is through her thou wert so powerful in this thy exile, before being near her in happiness and glory. Long after Adalbert and Anscharius, Cyril and Methodius, thou didst traverse once more the ungrateful North, where thorns and briars so quickly spring up again, where the people, whom the Church has with such labour delivered from the yoke of paganism, are continually letting themselves be caught in the meshes of schism and the snares of heresy. In his chosen domain, the prince of darkness suffered fresh defeats, an immense multitude broke his chains, and the light of salvation shone further than any of thy predecessors had carried it. Poland, definitively won to the Church, became her rampart, until the days of treason which put an end to Christian Europe.


O Hyacinth, preserve the faith in the hearts of this noble people, until the day of its resurrection. Obtain grace for the Northern regions, which thou didst warm with the fiery breath of thy word. Nothing thou askest of Mary will be refused, for the Mother of mercy promised thee so. Keep up the apostolic zeal of thy illustrious Order. May the number of thy brethren be multiplied, for it is far below our present needs.


Akin to thy power over the waves, is another attributed to thee by the confidence of the faithful, and justified by many prodigies: viz., that of restoring life to the drowned.  Many a time also have Christian mothers experienced thy miraculous power, in bringing to the saving font their little ones, whom a dangerous delivery threatened to deprive of Baptism. Prove to thy devout clients that the goodness of God is ever the same, and the influence of his elect not lessened.


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