Monday, August 15, 2016
It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that at Mass, the Holy Spirit descends from heaven and comes down upon the altar to bless and hallow the Divine Sacrifice. What follows is an inspiring story confirming this teaching, which recounts a supernatural event that occurred at the end of the first millennium, probably during the pontificate of Pope Agapetus II, pope from 946 to 955.
From The Incredible Catholic Mass, by Fr. Martin von Cochem, pp. 265-67, TAN Books.
"At Formello, near Rome, there was in early times a bishop who acquitted himself most conscientiously of all the duties appertaining to his office and was most reverent in his manner of saying Mass. Notwithstanding this, he was accused by some evil-minded persons to Pope Agapetus of having given scandal to his flock by using one of the sacred vessels at table. The pope, believing the accusation, caused the bishop to be brought to Rome and put into prison.
"On the morning of the third day of his unjust incarceration, a Sunday, an angel appeared to the pope in a dream and said to him, "On this Sunday neither shalt thou nor any other prelate say Mass, but only the bishop whom thou hast placed in confinement." The Pontiff awoke, and thinking over this dream, said to himself, "Shall I allow a prelate to say Mass under so grave an accusation of sacrilege? Before answering his own question he fell asleep again, and again heard the same voice saying, "I told thee, no one but the imprisoned bishop is to say Mass." While the pope still hesitated whether he should comply with this injunction, the voice spoke for the third time, "Beware that thou not permit any other than the bishop who is in prison to celebrate in thy presence today."
"Thereupon, the pope in some alarm sent for the bishop and inquired of him what was his manner of life and bade him give an account of his actions. The prelate answered with only these words, "I am a sinner." Then the pope asked, "Is it true that you ate and drank out of the vessels consecrated to the service of the altar?" The bishop replied as before: "I am a sinner." As no other answer could be elicited from him, the Pontiff proceeded, "You will celebrate Mass in our presence today." And when the bishop in his humility begged to be excused, he only repeated the command: "You will officiate at a Solemn High Mass today before ourselves and all the cardinals."
"Upon receiving this express order the good bishop expostulated no longer, but prepared to obey. Attended by many acolytes, he went to the altar and commenced the Mass. When he got to the prayer which is said at the time of making the first Sign of the Cross over the host and chalice, "Come O Sanctifier, Almighty, Eternal God, and bless this sacrifice prepared to Thy holy name," he repeated it four times, and then stopped. The people grew impatient; at length the pope said: "Why do you delay and repeat this prayer so often?"
"The bishop answered, "Pardon me Holy Father, I repeated the prayer because I have not yet seen the Holy Ghost descend upon the altar. May I request your holiness to bid the deacon leave my side? I cannot venture to do so myself." The pope then told the deacon to move a little distance; no sooner had he done so than both the pope and the bishop beheld the Holy Ghost come down from heaven, while the celebrant, with the deacon and acolytes, was enveloped in a luminous cloud.
"This miracle convinced pope Agapetus of the innocence and sanctity of the bishop, and he much regretted having put him in prison. He resolved for the future not to act so precipitously and to investigate a charge carefully before giving credence to it."
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