ST. DIONYSIUS, bishop of Corinth, flourished under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and was one of the most holy and eloquent pastors of the church in the second age. Not content assiduously to instruct his own flock with the word of life, he comforted and exhorted others at a distance. Eusebius mentions several of his instructive letters to other churches, and one of thanks to the church of Rome, under the pontificate of St. Soter, for the alms received from them according to custom. “From the beginning,” says he, “it is your custom to bestow your alms in all places, and to furnish subsistence to many churches.—You send relief to the needy, especially to those who work in the mines; in which you follow the example of your fathers. Your blessed bishop Soter is so far from degenerating from your ancestors in that respect, that he goes beyond them; not to mention the comfort and advice he, with the bowels of a tender father towards his children, affords all that come to him. On this day we celebrated together the Lord’s day, and read your letter, as we do that which was heretofore written to us by Clement.” He means that they read these letters of instruction in the church after the reading of the holy scriptures, and the celebration of the divine mysteries. This primitive father says that SS. Peter and Paul, after planting the faith at Corinth, went both into Italy, and there sealed their testimony with their blood. He in another place complains that the ministers of the devil, that is, the heretics, had adulterated his works, and corrupted them by their poison. The monstrous heresies of the three first centuries sprang mostly, not from any perverse interpretation of the scriptures, but from erroneous principles of the heathenish schools of philosophy; whence it happened that those heresies generally bordered on some superstitious notions of idolatry. St. Dionysius, to point out the source of the heretical errors, showed from what sect of philosophers each heresy took its rise. The Greeks honour St. Dionysius as a martyr on the 29th of November, because he suffered much for the faith, though he seems to have died in peace: the Latins keep his festival on this day, and style him only confessor. Pope Innocent III. sent to the abbey of St. Denys, near Paris, the body of a saint of that name brought from Greece. The monks, who were persuaded that they were before possessed of the body of the Areopagite, take this second to be the body of St. Dionysius of Corinth, whose festival they also celebrate.
We adore the inscrutable judgments of God, and praise the excess of his mercy in calling us to his holy faith, when we see many to whom it was announced with all the reasonable proofs of conviction, reject its bright light, and resist the voice of heaven: also others who had so far despised all worldly considerations as to have embraced this divine religion, afterwards fall from this grace, and become the authors or abettors of monstrous heresies, by which they drew upon themselves the most dreadful curses. The source of their errors was originally in the disorder of their hearts, by which their understanding was misled. All those who have made shipwreck of their faith, fell because they wanted true simplicity of heart. This virtue has no affinity with worldly simplicity, which is a vice and defect, implying a want of prudence and understanding. But Christian simplicity is true wisdom and a most sublime virtue. It is a singleness of heart, by which a person both in his intention and all his desires and affections has no other object but the pure and holy will of God. This is grounded in self-knowledge, and in sincere humility and ardent charity. The three main enemies which destroy it, are, an attachment to creatures without us, an inordinate love of ourselves, and dissimulation or double dealing. This last, though most infamous and base, is a much more common vice than is generally imagined, for there are very few who are thoroughly sincere in their whole conduct towards God, their neighbour, and themselves. Perfect sincerity and an invariable uprightness is an essential part, yet only one ingredient of Christian simplicity. Nor is it enough to be also disengaged from all inordinate attachments to exterior objects: many who are free from the hurry and disturbance of things without them, nevertheless are strangers to simplicity and purity of heart, being full of themselves, and referring their thoughts and actions to themselves, taking an inordinate complacency in what concerns them, and full of anxieties and fear about what befals, or may befal them. Simplicity of the heart, on the contrary, settles the soul in perfect interior peace: as a child is secure in the mother’s arms, so is such a soul at rest in the bosom of her God, resigned to his will, and desiring only to accomplish it in all things. The inexpressible happiness and advantages of this simplicity can only be discovered by experience. This virtue disposes the heart to embrace the divine revelation when duly manifested, and removes those clouds which the passions raise, and which so darken the understanding, that it is not able to discern the light of faith.
Butler’s Lives of the Saints