Tuesday, May 12, 2009


“Saint Pancras”
by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri,
MAY 12


Biographical Information about Saint Pancras [1]

Readings for the Memorial of Saint Pancras

Readings and Commentary:

Revelation 19:1, 5-9a

I, John, heard what sounded like the loud voice
of a great multitude in heaven, saying:

Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God."

Then a voice coming from a heavenly throne said:

"Praise our God, all you his servants,
and you who revere him, small and great."

Then I heard something like the sound of a great multitude
or the sound of rushing water or mighty peals of thunder,
as they said:

The Lord has established his reign,
our God, the almighty.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear
a bright, clean linen garment."

(The linen represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)

Then an angel said to me, "Write this:
Blessed are those who have been called
to the wedding feast of the Lamb."
Commentary on
Rev 19:1, 5-9a

“A victory song follows, sung by the entire church, celebrating the marriage of the Lamb, the union of the Messiah with the community of the elect.”
[3] The significance of this passage as it relates especially to martyrs is the earlier reference to the “white robed” martyrs who have “have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb” (Revelations 7:14). The wedding feast to which they are invited indicates their reception into the fullness of the Heavenly Kingdom.

CCC: Rv 19:1-8 2642; Rv 19:1-9 677; Rv 19:6 865; Rv 19:7 757, 1602, 1612; Rv 19:9 1329, 1602, 1612
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18

R. (1) O bless the Lord, my soul!

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and forget not all his benefits.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!

But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward his children's children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. O bless the Lord, my soul!
Commentary on
Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18

This hymn of praise focuses on God’s power and will to heal all ills and to support us in times of trouble. It is through his own will that he does this. The final two strophes reference God as a Father loving his children. This memorial recognizes that Saint Pancras was a child (14) at his martyrdom and enjoys the special favor of God reserved for his children.

CCC: Ps 103 304
Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus responded:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes. Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
or I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Commentary on
Mt 11:25-30

Jesus has just completed a fairly scathing criticism of the people in the places he has been and performed miracles, yet many have not accepted him as the Messiah. He now concludes this section on a more joyous note as he reflects that, while the Scribes and Pharisees (“the wise and learned”) have not understood who he is, those with simple faith have accepted him freely. He then issues an invitation to all who “labor and are burdened” quoting an invitation similar to one in Ben Sirach to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (
Sirach 51:23, 26).

“This Q saying, identical with Luke 10:21-22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.” [5]

The final verses of this section are found only in St. Matthew’s Gospel and promise salvation to those who are downtrodden or in pain.

CCC: Mt 11:25-27 2603, 2779; Mt 11:25-26 2701; Mt 11:25 153, 544, 2785; Mt 11:27 151, 240, 443, 473; Mt 11:28 1658; Mt 11:29-30 1615; Mt 11:29 459

St Pancras is one of the most ancient Saints of the Church, martyred at the beginning of the fourth century (304 AD). His legend is summarized:

"Fourteen-year-old orphan, brought to Rome by his uncle, Saint Dionysius. Convert to Christianity. Martyred with Saint Nereus, Saint Achilleus, and Saint Domitilla for publicly proclaiming his faith. Pope Saint Vitalian sent his relics from the cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to the British Isles as part of the evangelization of England, so they would have relics of the Church at large, and to install in altars in new churches. Saint Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church in England to Saint Pancras, and subsequent churches throughout England are similarly named for him." [4]

While little is known about St. Pancras, what is known causes his name to be mentioned among the martyrs of Rome. His steadfast faith in the face of torture and death and his subsequent veneration demonstrates that the Lord’s purpose for each of us may be obscure to the world but later reveals itself for his greater glory.

Did the fourteen year old boy think as he was forced to lay his neck on the chopping block “This is great, now I will be a saint”? It was probably the furthest thing from his mind. Rather the Holy Spirit must have given him strength for his exceptional virtue. The Lord himself, not doubt, gave him peace even as the ax made its arc. His courage, faith, and virtue placed him in a revered position among the faithful, while his soul winged its way to heaven enjoying the eternal joy of his master’s praise.

We ask for his prayers on this his feast day. May we too find strength and courage in the Holy Spirit when we are assailed for our faith. May we also be steadfast, an image of God’s presence on earth.


[1] The picture is “Saint Pancras” by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1616
[2] Text of Readings is taken from the New American Bible, Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Excerpts from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 1973, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] See NAB
footnote for Revelations 19:5-10
[4] Biography of St. Pancras taken from http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-pancras-of-rome/
[5] See NAB footnote on Matthew 11:25ff

No comments: