In Greek mythology, Bellerophon was a brave hero who caught and tamed the winger horse Pegasus. By his aid Bellerophon won great victories; but his pride and ambition grew, until thinking himself to be a god he flew up toward Mount Olympus, whereupon Zeus sent a gadlfy to sting the flying horse, who cast his rider to earth. Bellerophon survived the fall, but lived out his remaining days a crippled hermit.
“History is all irony”, said Belloc. There is at any rate a fine irony in the fact that when Napoleon Bonaparte was looking for a way out of France after the great fall at Waterloo, it was to a ship called HMS Bellerophon that he went, as it patrolled the coastal waters off Rochefort. There he surrendered to the British, with the words: “I am come to throw myself on the protection of your Prince and your laws.”
Poor Napoleon, thrown off his magic horse to become a hermit on St Helena! And poor France, with its ‘Law of Separation’, which might equally be called a ‘Law of Death’; for the Church should be to the State as the soul to the body, and the separation of these two is the very definition of death. After such a fall, can any give life to the dead?
POPE HONORIUS, of happy memory, charged St Dominic to gather in one enclosure all the nuns who were lying scattered all over the city, and then, after he had constructed a monastery for them at St Sixtus, to make them continue in common life. St Dominic, however, asked the Pope to name other fitting helpers for carrying out so hard an under taking: accordingly the Pope gave him for helpmates the Cardinal Ugolino, bishop of Ostia, who became Pope later on, Stephen of Fossa-Nuova, Cardinal by the title of the Twelve Apostles, and Nicholas, Cardinal and bishop of Tusculum, and bade them stand by him should he need their aid.
Now when all the other nuns would obey neither the Pope nor St Dominic in this matter, the abbess of St Mary’s across the Tiber, and all her nuns, with only one exception, offered themselves and their property with all the revenues of their monastery to St Dominic. Then St Dominic and the three Cardinals associated with him gave orders that on the first Wednesday in Lent, after the imposition of ashes, they should all meet at St Sixtus for the said abbess to resign her office before them and all the nuns, and make over to him and his companions all rights over the monastery. While St Dominic was sitting with the three Cardinals, and the said abbess and her nuns were standing by, lo, a man came in tearing his hair and shouting aloud: ‘Alas, alas!’ When those present asked what was amiss, he rejoined: ‘The Lord Cardinal Stephen’s nephew has fallen from his horse and is dead.’ The young man’s name was Napoleon, and at the news his uncle swooned away in St Dominic’s arms. The others held him up and St Dominic sprinkled him with holy water. Then, leaving him, he went out to where the dead man lay, horribly crushed and mangled, and bade them carry him into a house outside the enclosure and shut him up therein. Next he told Brother Tancred and the others he had brought with him to prepare the altar for him to say mass.
Now there were standing in that place St Dominic and the Cardinals with their followers, and the abbess with her nuns, for the Cardinals and St Dominic held her in great reverence for her sanctity. Then St Dominic said Mass with abundance of tears. On coming to the elevation of the Lord’s Body, holding it uplifted in his hands, as he generally did, St Dominic was seen to be raised a span from the ground. All who were present witnessed it, and were lost in wonderment at the sight.
When the mass was finished he went back to the corpse, and with him went the Cardinals and their company, the abbess and her nuns, and on coming to the body he with his own most holy hands laid out the crushed and mangled limbs, from the head down to the feet: then he knelt down and wept much while he prayed by the bier. Thrice he composed the lacerated head and limbs, praying the while, then he got up and made the sign of the cross over the body, and standing at the dead man’s head, his hands upraised to heaven, and himself uplifted by divine power above a span from the ground, he called aloud: ‘O young man, Napoleon, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I bid thee arise!’ And instantly, in the sight of all those who had crowded in to see what marvel would happen, the young man rose up sound and well, and said to St Dominic: ‘Father, give me something to eat.’ Then St Dominic gave him both meat and drink, and restored him to his uncle hale and happy, and without a trace of his injuries; now he had lain dead from early morning till nine of the clock. Sister Cecilia narrated this wondrous miracle just as it is herein set down, for she was present all the while, and saw everything with her own eyes and heard all with her own ears (from the ‘Story of St Dominic’ by Blessed Cecilia Cesarine O.P.)