Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A bit of humour ...

... on the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.

The new bishop began visiting the churches of his diocese, and on this particular feast day, happened to be in a rather 'progressive' parish. Concelebrating Mass with the pastor and associates, he grew more and more infuriated as the liturgical abuses piled up. Nonetheless, he bit his tongue, not wanting to scandalize the parishioners. But when the liturgical dancers came out to 'interpret' the Gospel description of the Baptist's martyrdom, it proved to much. As Salome sashayed across the sanctuary, he leaned over to the pastor and whispered,

"If she asks for your head on a platter, she'll get it."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

St. Augustine and the Culture Wars.

Pope Leo XIII cites Saint Augustine's prescient description of the 'two cities' in the Encyclical Humanum genus:

1. The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, "through the envy of the devil," separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God.

2. This twofold kingdom St. Augustine keenly discerned and described after the manner of two cities, contrary in their laws because striving for contrary objects; and with a subtle brevity he expressed the efficient cause of each in these words: "Two loves formed two cities: the love of self, reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the love of God, reaching to contempt of self, a heavenly one."[De civ. Dei, 14, 28 (PL 41, 436)] At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardor and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself. They are planning the destruction of holy Church publicly and openly, and this with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Lamenting these evils, We are constrained by the charity which urges Our heart to cry out often to God: "For lo, Thy enemies have made a noise; and they that hate Thee have lifted up the head. They have taken a malicious counsel against Thy people, and they have consulted against Thy saints. They have said, 'come, and let us destroy them, so that they be not a nation'."[Ps. 82:24]

3. At so urgent a crisis, when so fierce and so pressing an onslaught is made upon the Christian name, it is Our office to point out the danger, to mark who are the adversaries, and to the best of Our power to make head against their plans and devices, that those may not perish whose salvation is committed to Us, and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ entrusted to Our charge may not stand and remain whole, but may be enlarged by an ever-increasing growth throughout the world.

You can read the rest of Humanum genus at Papal Encyclicals Online.

Saint Jerome to Saint Augustine

"Honour to you! Honour to the man whom the raging winds have not been able to overthrow! ... Continue to be of good courage. The whole world celebrates your praises; the Catholics venerate and admire you as the restorer of the ancient faith. But what is a mark of still greater glory, all the heretics hate you. They honour me, too, with their hatred. Not being able to strike us with the sword, they kill us in desire."

Hieron. epist. cxli, al. lxxx.
cited in Gueranger.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Saint Joseph Calasanctius

"St. Joseph Calasanctius was born in Aragon in 1556. Having become a priest, it was revealed to him that he should teach the children of the poor. He founded the Order of the Poor Clerks Regular of the Pious Schools of the Mother of God. He was ever a devout pilgrim at the shrines of the martyrs, and daily visited the seven Churches of Rome, where he lived for fifty years. He died August 25, 1648" (NRM). As the founder of a religious order, he is honoured with a statue in St. Peter's Basilica.

His relics are in the Church of Saint Pantaleon.

In the ordinary form, today is the feast of Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine; her feast in the extraordinary calendar is May 4. St. Monica is most remembered for the ceaseless tears she poured out for her son, who for many years languished in an immoral life, and followed after the detestable heresy of Manichaeism. When she approached Saint Ambrose to beg for his prayers, he replied, 'Surely the son of so many tears cannot be lost'. Monica lived to see the conversion of both her son and her husband. Her relics are in the Church of St. Augustine in Rome, where I'll be headed this afternoon to offer extra prayers for my own mother.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

26 August - Saint Zephyrinus, Pope and Martyr

"St. Zephyrinus, a pope of the third century, after a lengthy reign in the course of which he earned the title of martyr by his suffering, died a holy death. He is said to have forbidden the use of wooden chalices in the celebration of the Mass, and to have prescribed that all the faithful should receive communion on Easter day. He defended the Church against heresies and especially of those who denied the Trinity." From the supplement to the New Roman Missal by Father F. X. Lasance, et al.

14th Successor of Saint Peter

Born: ?
Reigned: 199 - 217

Friday, August 24, 2007

“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile”

Saint Bartholomew, one of the twelve Apostles, is often identified with Nathaniel, to whom the quote above refers. The Gospels always associate him with the Apostle St. Philip, who led him to Christ.

As with most of the Apostles, very little is known definitively about his life. Nonetheless, there is a wealth of information from Church fathers and from tradition that forms the basis of later legends about the Saint. Eusebius, the great Church historian, relates that after the Ascension of our Lord, he evangelized the countries of the 'Indies'. Now, for the ancient world, this could mean anywhere from Arabia to India proper, but Butler, in his Lives of the Saints, argues that the reference to Brahmans points to a journey to the country of India. In fact, a later missionary, Saint Pant├Žnus, is said to have been shown a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew, left by today's Apostle.

He is said to have met St. Philip in Phrygia, and then to have traveled throughout Asia Minor; this according to St. John Chrysostom, although the specific names of the places he visited have been lost.

Perhaps his most important journey was his last, to the ancient land of Armenia. With St. Thaddeus, he was the first evangelist of that country, which later, under the influence of Gregory the Illuminator, was to become the first Christian nation, perhaps a decade or more before the Edict of Milan made Christianity legal throughout the Roman Empire. Most of the medieval legends revolve around Bartholomew's time in Armenia.

According to the Golden Legend, (which is largely based on one of the early, apocryphal, Acts of the various Apostles), St. Bartholomew, having come to Armenia, entered the temple of a pagan god Ashtaroth, who was known for his healing powers. After the arrival of the Apostle, the demon was no longer able to do anything; the worshippers of this false god, consulting another demon, learned that Ashtaroth was bound with chains of fire by Bartholomew. The adherents of Ashtaroth asked for a description of Bartholomew, in the hopes of capturing him:
And the servants of the Greeks said to him: 'Tell us what he is like, that we may be able to find him'. And the demon answered and said: 'He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, two large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middle height, and neither tall nor stunted, but middling, clothed with a white undercloak bordered with purple, and upon his shoulders a very white cloak; and his clothes have been worn twenty-six years, but neither are they dirty, nor have they waxed old. Seven times a day he bends the knee to the Lord, and seven times a night does he pray to God. His voice is like the sonnet of a strong trumpet; there go along with him angels of God, who allow him neither to be weary, nor to hunger, nor to thirst; his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing; he foresees everything, he knows and speaks every tongue of every nation'.
Later, having cured a demoniac and then the daughter of the king, and having expounded the teachings of the faith, he cast the demons out of the temple, and baptized the king.

This in fact was the chief cause of his martyrdom. For when the king's elder brother, also a king, heard of his brother's conversion, he ordered the arrest of Bartholomew. When Bartholomew refused to worship the false gods, he was summarily executed.

There is some confusion about the method of execution. Some accounts indicate he was crucified or beheaded; the most enduring story, though, is that he was flayed alive. Artist, of course, love this subject. He is usually represented with a tanner's knife, often as an old man holding his own skin, as can be seen in the pictures in this post. With her traditional sense of dark humour, Holy Mother Church honours Bartholomew as the patron saint of tanners, leather workers, and shoemakers. He is, of course, one of the patron saints of Armenia, and is invoked against demonic possession and neurological diseases.

The majority of Saint Bartholomew's relics, after several long journeys, finally came to rest in Rome, in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all'Isola, on the Tiber Island, which I visited today. Later, an arm of the Saint was sent to St. Edward the Confessor, the King of England, who bestowed it on the cathedral Church at Canterbury.

The Basilica of San Bartolomeo is a beautiful Church with a fascinating history. I'll try to put up another post on my visit there soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Today's Feasts

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We also celebrate the feast of Sts. Timothy, Hippolytus and Symphorian, Martyrs.

In the Novus Ordo, today is the feast of the Queenship of Mary.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Saint Helena - Empress

August 18 is the feast of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. For today’s feast we are visiting the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, on the Capitoline hill (where her relics are venerated), and the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The latter was constructed by Saint Helena on the grounds of her palace, to house the relics of the True Cross, which she had discovered during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Lord hath blessed thee by His power,
because by thee He hath brought our enemies to naught ...
Thou art the glory of Jerusalem, thou art the joy of Israel,
thou art the honour of our people.

from today's Epistle

The Definition of the Assumption
by Pope Pius XII

For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that:

the Immaculate Mother of God,
the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life,
was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 11

Today is the feast of Saint Tiburtius and of Saint Susanna. Dom Gueranger offers the following reflections:

e is followed today by the son of Chromatius, prefect of Rome, who also suffered upon burning coals for the confession of his faith. Though forty years intervened between the two martyrdoms, it was the same Holy Spirit that animated these witnesses of Christ and suggested to them the same answer to their executioners. Tiburtius, walking upon the fire, cried out, 'Learn that the God of the Christians is the only God, for these hot coals seem flowers to me.'

"Equally near to the great archdeacon stands an illustrious virgin, so bright herself as not to be eclipsed by him. A relative of both the Emperor Diocletian and the holy Pope Caius, Susanna, it is said, one day beheld the imperial crown at her feet. But she obtained a far greater nobility; for, by preferring the wreath of virginity, she won at the same time the palm of martyrdom."

Today's visit was to the church of Santa Susanna, one of the oldest in Rome. On account of the many pilgrims who travel here from all parts of the world, the Catholic Church has designated certain 'national' churches to serve the needs of pilgrims from a given country or region. The American national parish church is that of Santa Susanna, served by the Paulist fathers. The site for Santa Susanna is pretty well organized and offers a lot of information, including an expanded history of the Saint herself and other information about the church.

As mentioned above, Santa Susanna is one of the oldest churches in Rome, built over the house of Susanna and her family, and originally named for her uncle, Pope Saint Caius. The church was re-named by Saint Gregory the Great in 590, on account of the 'the great devotion that had grown up around the tomb of Susanna' (whose relics had earlier been moved here from the catacombs). The Paulist priests who serve the church note that in that same year, the Pope made Rusticus Cardinal-Priest of Santa Susanna, and from that time they can trace 77 cardinal priests who have held the title. Of these, five have become Popes, and three are saints. The current Title-holder is Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop emeritus of Boston.

On the Novus ordo calendar, today is the feast of Saint Claire.

The Last Few Days

It's been a busy couple of days. On Wednesday I spent the day in Bologna to celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic. Unfortunately, in Bologna the keep his original feast of August 4th. This is what we get for doing something on the Novus Ordo calendar.

On the 9th I saw Father Kramer off to Australia, where he will be spending a much needed vacation. In the afternoon I made a special trip over to Santa Maria sopra Minerva, to commemorate the death of Tommaso de Vio Cardinal Cajetan, a Dominican and one of the great Thomistic commentators of all time.

Finally, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Lawrence, one of the most important in the Roman calendar. I visited five of the most important churches dedicated to the martyred Deacon.

All of this will, hopefully be followed by additional posts on the various places I've been.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

My Two Cents ...

On the Motu proprio.

Today's Feasts

August 7, 2007

Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Cajetan of Thienna (Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene). Born 1480 in Vicenza, in Venetian territory; died at Naples in 1547. He is the Founder of the Clerks Regular (C.R.) or Theatines.

Also today, Saint Donatus. From the Martyrology: At Arezzo in Tuscany the death of the holy bishop Donatus. Besides other miracles, he restored, by means of his prayer, a chalice broken by pagans, according to the account of Pope St. Gregory I. He was slain under Julian the Apostate about the year 363.

In the Novus Ordo:
Optional Memorial of Sts. Sixtus II, pope and martyr and companions, martyrs; and,
Optional Memorial of St. Cajetan, priest

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Mother of All Churches

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the titular feast of the Archbasilica of the Holy Saviour -- more commonly referred to as Saint John Lateran. As the Cathedral Church of Rome, it proudly bears the inscription 'Omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput', the Mother and Head of all the Churches of the City [Rome] and of the World.

In addition to the liturgical commemoration of the manifestation of Christ's glory on Mount Thabor, Rome also celebrates the memorial of Pope St. Sixtus II, martyred on this date with four of his deacons (Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus); two other deacons were martyred on the same day. It is said that Sixtus was beheaded while sitting upon his episcopal throne; the blood-stained cathedra was enshrined behind his tomb in the catacomb of Saint Callixtus.

The martyrdom of the Pope with his deacons was the prelude to the perhaps more spectacular martyrdom of St. Lawrence three days later. We will recount that story at the proper time. For now, we'll finish this post with the inscription composed by Pope St. Damasus for his heroic predecessor:

At the time when the sword pierced the bowels of the Mother, I, buried here, taught as Pastor the Word of God; when suddenly the soldiers rushed in and dragged me from the chair. The faithful offered their necks to the sword, but as soon as the Pastor saw the ones who wished to rob him of the palm (of martyrdom) he was the first to offer himself and his own head, not tolerating that the (pagan) frenzy should harm the others. Christ, who gives recompense, made manifest the Pastor's merit, preserving unharmed the flock.
Finally, today is the anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, whose mortal remains lie in the Vatican Grottoes beneath St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescant in pace.