Today we are joined by Justin Leedy, a college graduate and former seminarian who is discerning a religious vocation, about what options exist for those discerning a vocation who are laden with hefty college debt. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Church history
The Immaculate Conception and the Orthodox Tradition
The Immaculate Conception was formally declared as a dogma of the faith by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1854 by a Solemn Definition with his document “Ineffabilis Deus“. Some people have gotten the idea that this came out of the blue, as it were, and elevated an old dispute into an article of faith, or created the liturgical celebration of it. This is actually not the case. Continue reading
Aude Sapere 006 – Meet Archbishop Bruno Forte
Today on the Aude Sapere podcast, we will take a look at the author of the “homosexual passages” of the Synod’s mid-term report which have predictably rocked the headlines around the world. Continue reading
The Battle of Lepanto
For the great feast celebrating Our Lady’s intercession at Lepanto, I offer the following:
This is a good talk on the battle.
Then there is dramatic video, which starts slow but gets better.
Lastly, here is a talk on G.K. Chesterton’s poem Lepanto. None of it produced by me. I would do more, but I have too much on my plate to do this topic justice. Please pray for me and my family.
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis is perhaps the universal saint of the universal Church. All of the circumstances of his life were directed, by divine providence, to conform completely to the life of our Savior. Here, I’m providing an excerpt from a book I reprinted, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, by Candide Chalippe, OFM. It is a truly amazing book, and I can’t recommend it enough. I have also kept the price low so that more people can take advantage of it, while maintaining readability with an excellent layout and beautiful art (not to mention retention of the footnotes, which another edition dropped since many of them attack “the heretics” (usually meaning at that time Protestants, and it was deemed to not be ecumenical).
Count Orlando had a church built in Mount Alvernia, according to the plan which the Saint had given him, which, it was confidently said, had been given to him by the Blessed Virgin, who appeared accompanied by St. John Baptist, and St. John the Evangelist.
While they were at work at his building and at the cells for the brethren, Francis explored the mountain on all its sides, to discover the sites best adapted for contemplation. He found one, where there were some large openings in the rock, great masses overhanging them, deep caverns, and frightful pits; and what seemed to him to be most curious, there was a rock so split that the interior formed a room with a smooth flooring, and a sort of ceiling which had a small opening which admitted the light. He was anxious to know whether this was the natural formation of the rock, or whether it was not the effect of an earthquake; and, after having recited the seven penitential Psalms, he begged God to grant him information on this head. An angel acquainted him, in an apparition, that this had happened at the death of Jesus Christ, when the earth shook and the rocks were rent asunder. This circumstance gave Mount Alvernia additional value in the eyes of the servant of Jesus Christ crucified. He never afterwards saw these openings without thinking of the sufferings his Divine Master endured on the cross,1 and without wishing that his feelings of compassion might break his heart. In the opinion of the holy Fathers, the rocks which were rent when Jesus Christ expired were reproaches to the Jews for the hardness of their hearts, and this reproach falls equally on Christians who are insensible to His sufferings.2
We can have no difficulty in thinking, with Cardinal Baronius, that the rocks on Mount Alvernia were split at the death of our Saviour, since the earthquake was universal, according to the opinions of Eusebius, St. Jerome, and many others, and even according to the testimony of pagan authors.
It is also very credible that the Son of God has manifested to His special servants, some of the effects of this motion of the earth, in order to impress more vividly on their minds the remembrance of His passion: and may we not think that the Lord, who is the beholder of all ages,3 as the wise man says, and who had selected Mount Alvernia as the place in which He would do His servant Francis the favor of imprinting the stigmata on him, as we shall see further on, was pleased to give this mountain some resemblance to that of Calvary, where St. Cyril of Jerusalem assures us, that in his time the rents caused by the earthquake were seen?
Among the masses of rock on Mount Alvernia, there is one much more elevated and much larger than the rest, and which is separated from them by precipices, to which there is no access but by throwing a bridge across. There, as in an insulated citadel, a celebrated brigand had his stronghold, who was called the Wolf; on account of the plunder and murders he committed in the surrounding country, either by himself, or by the gang of which he was the chief. He often, also, by means of a flying bridge, confined travelers in this place, whom he had surprised on the high-roads, and whom he detained till their ransom was paid. The establishment of Francis and his brethren displeased him greatly: people of that sort do not like having neighbors. He gave them several times notice to begone, and he threatened them should they not obey. Their great poverty gave them nothing to fear from thieves, but there was just cause for apprehending that the murderer might massacre them all. Divine Providence, however, saved them by a change which might well be called the word of the Most High. The villain came one day determined upon expelling them, and used the most atrocious language to them. Francis received him with so much mildness, listened to him with so much patience, and induced him by degrees to hear reason, so that his anger entirely fell, and he not only consented to their remaining, but he begged that they would admit him into their poor dwelling. He witnessed during several days their angelic mode of life, and he became so changed, that he determined upon adopting a similar plan. The Saint perceiving that from a ravenous wolf he was become a gentle lamb, gave him the habit of the Order, and the name of Brother Agnello, under which he expiated his crimes by religious penance, of which he rigidly fulfilled all the duties. This fact was of such notoriety, that the rock to which he used to retire has always been called since, and is still known, by the name of Brother Wolf’s prison.
2S Hieron. in Amos. cap. 3.
Aude Sapere Podcast 004 – Scottish Independence
If you have seen the news about the Scottish Independence referendum and wondered, “How did Scotland get in the Union anyway? Why are they trying to leave?” Today we will trace the origins of Scotland’s inclusion in the UK, in all of the gory details. Join us, as we go from the Stuarts to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Rewritten from a post by the same title on the Old Athanasius Contra Mundum, 14 September 2009.
Today is the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross, which is a distinct feast from the finding of the true Cross by St. Helena, which is commemorated in March. This feast, commemorates the victory of the Eastern Roman Empire over the Persians in the 7th century, and the recovery and return of the cross to Jerusalem. In most Traditional Missals there will be a short description of the event, that Heraclius, the Roman Emperor in Constantinople, could not enter the city with the cross because of some spiritual force which stopped him. When he asked the bishop, he was told that it was because he was dressed in kingly robes. To enter, he had to dress in rags, so as to not carry the cross into Jerusalem in a manner above our Lord who carried it in rags. After that he was able to carry the cross in.
However there is much more to this story, and the background history deserves to be told. In the year 570, the Roman Emperor in Constantinople, Maurice, supported Khusru, or Khusroes II (sometimes written Chosroes in western history books) to the throne in Persia, and gave Roman aid to his cause. (Roman here refers to what scholars call the “Byzantine empire”, but I use Roman generally speaking since it was the accepted term by which the Byzantines called themselves as well as what their enemies called them). Khusroes showed his gratitude by ending the war with Constantinople, and ceded to the Eastern Empire half of Armenia, which had long been disputed. After hundreds of years there was peace between Rome and Persia.
Then something else happened. In the year 602, The emperor Maurice was overthrown, and replaced by Phocas, a centurion who was selected by the troops present. He was little more than a monster, who murdered all of Maurice’s family save a few, was a rapist and a completely inept leader. He was entirely ineffectual against incursions by Avars, Slavs and assorted steppe peoples, emptied the treasury and brought the Eastern Empire to near destruction. He was unable to restore order when Monophysite mobs rose all over Syria and Egypt and killed orthodox bishops, replacing them with heretics.
Theodosius, a surviving member of Maurice’s family, escaped to Persia to Maurice’s friend and ally, Khusroes. What landed in his lap was a sequence of events few leaders could hope for. Politically, he could march on the Eastern Empire as Theodosius’ champion, much as Maurice had done for him. He could also use it to take control of a good chunk of territory, if not destroy the Roman Empire for good and reestablish ancient Persia, and on top of that Phocas was a murderer and a barbarous tyrant which appeared to give him the moral right. Best of all he had a pretender he could place on the throne loyal to him.
Though slow to get started, under Khusroes the Persians invaded the Levant and took every city from Antioch to Alexandria, including Jerusalem in 608. They took the true Cross from the basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, and brought it back with them to Persia, and were prepared to march on Constantinople. It appeared as if the Eastern Empire was to be destroyed. However, there was Africa, where St. Augustine lived and preached and which Justinian’s able general, Belisarius, had recovered a century earlier. Its general, Heraclius was a pious man, fully orthodox, and in 610 he set sail for Constantinople with an army, and an icon of Our Lady on the masthead of his flag ship. The coup was almost instant, everyone wanted Phocas gone, and he was killed by a mob.
Heraclius was crowned in the Church of St. Stephen and could now set on the task of saving the Empire. Phocas had ruined the treasury, and sunk the last gold in the Bosphorus to keep Heraclius from getting it. To fight the Persians, who now marched on Constantinople after three years of unbroken victory, Heraclius needed an army. The loss of Jerusalem had inspired temporary reunion of the Monphyistes, and inspired the Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople to offer to Heraclius all the gold available at that time in the Churches for equipping, feeding and transporting an army. For two years the emperor raised this army. Then in 622, he prayed at Hagia Sophia on Easter Monday then embarked with his troops and an image of Jesus Christ as the army’s banner to Asia Minor, where he won victory after victory and drove the Persians back. He made straight for Persia, preparing to devastate it. He made an alliance with a Mongol people, the Khazars, and with their troops and his own (plus reinforcements of troops which had broken a Persian siege of Constantinople when he was away) he swept into Mesopotamia with a huge force, and smashed Khusroes near the ruins of Nineveh. The latter fled and was killed in an uprising while hiding in the mountains. Peace was made with Persia, and the true cross was returned to Jerusalem, which Heraclius brought to Jerusalem himself. That is the principle event which is commemorated in the liturgy today.
It is worth noting, that in 625, while Heraclius was pursuing his strategy of going straight at the enemy to draw them off from the difficult to defend heart land of Anatolia, the Persians and a Steppe tribe called the Avars, jointly besieged Constantinople. With the army away in Persia, it looked disastrous, and the people prayed to the Blessed Virgin, carrying on vigils and prayers, Liturgies, and processions, and composing a hymn which remains in the Eastern Tradition even today, the Akathistos (Akathist) hymn. Suddenly a hurricane appeared and scattered the Persian fleet, while at the same time creating havoc in the Avar camp and led to their retreat. With the siege being broken, more Roman troops could join Heraclius in the East.
The Tradition is that the Emperor, upon arriving with the cross at Jerusalem, attempted to enter but found himself prevented by an invisible force. He could not enter the city. St. Zacharias, the patriarch of Jerusalem, informed him that he could not carry the cross which the king of kings carried in rags, while he wore kingly robes. Therefore Heraclius divested himself of his royal garments, and wearing a simple tunic he was able to bring the true cross into Jerusalem without any further obstruction.
Pope St. Leo the Great, in a sermon, wrote a marvelous Latin prose which is used in the Breviary today:
O admirabilis potentia Crucis! o ineffabilis gloria passionis, in qua et tribunal Domini, et judicium mundi, et potestas est Crucifixi! Traxisti enim, Domine, omnia ad te, et cum expandisses tota die manus tuas ad populum non credentem et contradicentem tibi, confitendae majestatis tuae sensum totus mundus accepit. Traxisti, Domine, omnia ad te, cum in exsecrationem Judaici sceleris, unam protulerunt omnia elementa sententiam, cum, obscuratis luminaribus coeli, et converso in noctem die, terra quoque motibus quateretur insolitis, universaque creatura impiorum usui se negaret. Traxisti, Domine, omnia ad te, quoniam scisso templi velo, Sancta sanctorum ab indignis pontificibus recesserunt, ut figura in veritatem, prophetia in manifestationem et lex in Evangelium verteretur.
If your Latin is a bit week I have rendered it here:
How amazing is the power of the Cross! O how unutterable is the glory of the Passion, in which is the Lord’s judgment-seat, and the judgment of the world, and the might of the Crucified one! You have drawn all things to yourself, o Lord! and although you spread out your Hands all the day unto an unbelieving and opposing people, nevertheless, the world has felt and owned your Majesty! Lord! You drew all things unto yourself when all the elements advanced one opinion on the curse of the Judaic crime, when the lights of the firmament were darkened, day turned into night, earth quaked with strange tremblings, and all God’s work refused itself to be of use to the impious. You drawn all things unto thee O Lord, because the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, the Holy of Holies itself slipped away from unworthy Priests, that the figure might be changed into truth, prophecy into realization, and the Law into the Gospel.
However, there is one more important facet to this story. Heraclius had returned to Constantinople, and the patriarch Sergius, bowing to pressure from those who thought Church riches ought not to have been given for worldly ends (no matter how necessary), demanded repayment of all the Church’s wealth in full. No man could have seen the firestorm about to come from Arabia, it appeared as if no enemy remained for the Romans to fight, with Persia having been completely laid low and reduced to a conquered nation which sent tributes to Constantinople. Thus it seemed wise to reduce the military apparatus to the same level of weakness it had prior to the Persian assault. There is a tradition, which the Muslims have preserved in the Al-Hadith, that Mohamed had written to Heraclius encouraging him to make the Romans subject to Islam, but all historians, including Islamic ones, agree that it post dates Mohamed and could not be genuine. Whatever the truth of that, no one expected the Arabs to break out of Arabia, and when they did do so, the Eastern Roman Empire was woefully unprepared. To make things worse, Heraclius in later life developed a phobia for water, and refused to cross the Bosphorus, but he did send a decent army to Syria which was subsequently defeated by the Arabs, when a sandstorm rose up. The rest, is another story.
The Power of a unified Catholic community
This was Originally published on the old Athanasius Contra Mundum in June 2009. I have come to believe that the majority of “elections” are actually quite worthless, nevertheless this period still has many lessons to teach us, such as when a group will not listen to the establishment. -Rubens, formerly Athanasius
It is often said today that we must choose an established candidate, even when we don’t like them, or that we are obligated to vote for one candidate to prevent a worse one from getting elected, such as in the last election when it was proposed that Catholics had to vote Republican even though John McCain’s pastor despises Catholics, McCain himself is not pro-life and many of his policies were no more Catholic than Obama.
However, Catholics living their faith in America in the 19th century had an entirely different view. Unlike us spineless Catholics today, they took their faith seriously as a block when they went to vote, there were not divisions between liberal and conservative, devout and not so much, you were either Catholic or not, and being Catholic meant that you fought for the glory of the Church in spite of what the established parties told you.
One great example of this is the education crisis in New York City under Archbishop John Hughes. He was one of the greatest bishops in American history (and he would be a complete embarrassment to the ecumenical establishment of today), who took the great issues of his time wherever he had to in order to bring resolution. He didn’t meet other Bishops in fancy hotels and establish committees for action plans. He took ownership and made his plan happen. At his death the number of parishes and schools in New York City alone were more than double that present in the state of New York when he assumed the episcopal throne.
At that time public education was basically Protestant education, since Protestants ran the schools, forced the King James Bible on all and degraded Catholic doctrines while teaching revisionist history to put down the Church. Bishop Hughes, in proposing that Catholic schools should receive state funds, argued that the state of affairs would be acceptable if Protestantism was the state religion, but since there was no official state religion the situation was intolerable and an offense to proper religion. A history of the Church in the US at that time explains the issue this way:
Simple as the petition of the Catholics was-that their schools conforming to the law should enjoy a share in the public moneys monopolized by the Public School Society-a Protestant institution which ignored the law-the question was misstated in the hall of the Common Council, and has been misrepresented a thousand times. The fact that the Catholics proposed to subject their schools to State supervision, and conform the teaching to the State requirements, is perpetually overlooked, and the charge that Catholics asked the exclusion of the Bible repeated in a thousand shapes. The question was no longer before the tribunal of justice; it had been evoked before that of prejudice- what wonder that the petition of the Catholics was rejected?
The Catholics had anticipated the result; but the step taken was necessary before submitting the case to the Legislature of the State. IN due time petitions were forwarded, signed by a large number of citizens, Catholics and Protestants, natives as well as foreigners. The prayer of this petition was received favorably, because it seemed to be but reasonable and just. A bill was drawn up which passed the Assembly, but at the close of the session was lost in the other house! All now looked forward to the next Legislature; and no calumny that ingenuity could devise was left untried to prejudice the popular mind against the Catholics, and to lead to a resistance to any change in the law. As the election drew nigh, the opponents of free education called on voters to require the candidates of both political parties to pledge themselves to refuse the prayer of the petitioners. The candidates of the Whig party did so; the candidates of the Democratic party, to which the great mass of Catholics belonged, did so; and the Catholics saw an election approach, at which every candidate, without waiting for a discussion in the legislative halls, had decided to deny them justice. No alternative was left. Those who asked the schools free from sectarian bias-where teachers should not be allowed to attack any creed, where no school-books should slur on any Church, where neither Protestant nor Catholic Bible should be forced on those who disowned it-resolved to adopt a new and independent ticket. As Bishop Hughes well remarked, “They would deserve the injustice and degradation of which they complained, if they voted for judges publicly pledged beforehand to pass sentence against them.”
The step, totally unexpected by the Democratic party, which counted the Catholics as its willing slaves [160 years, has anything changed?], left them in a minority and they were totally defeated. The election showed the numerical force of the Catholics, and the Whigs now sought to gain, the Democrats to recall them. All the politicians who had scorned the petitions of the Catholics became suddenly sensible that the old school law was very defective, and before long a new act was passed, erecting ward-schools on a far more equitable basis.
-The Catholic Church in the United States,
by Henry de Courcy and John Gilmary Shea; 1879
There are many things to draw from that, but the most important of all is the end. Catholics refused to vote for the main candidates. They did not vote for the lesser of two evils. They voted for the candidate which resolved to correct an injustice, and they did so as Catholics, at the behest of their Bishop. If the boring and tired old crowd which props themselves up at every election and informs us that we must vote republican (implicitly or explicitly) were around in these days, school reform would never have been accomplished, and the rights of Catholic families scarcely vindicated.
Politicians are already aware of the “Catholic vote” in our time, and they are aware that it is a fickle and fluid thing, not to be alienated as such, but also not unified either. Even Obama being the most admittedly pro-abortion president of our time was insufficient to unite Catholics behind John McCain, let alone a third party candidate who might have represented a Catholic position.
What is most important about the Catholic school crisis in New York, is that the Bishop and all the clergy were unanimous and on unified. They taught clearly, they lead by example, going before the boards and arguing for the rights of the Church, they got out of their chanceries and made the sacrifices to create schools for Catholic parents to send their children. They didn’t sit around at USCCB meetings in expensive hotels at the people’s expense whining about how the average person doesn’t understand ineffable. The lesson we ought to gleam from this is that reform is possible, even of government, but not without the clarity of Tradition, clear catechises and clear leadership by the hierarchy. Without these things Catholics have no common bond, and for that matter no common religion. The bishops are the link of unity, the apostolic faith, handed down for 2000 years, is the matter of Catholicity that makes us one. Without one, let alone both as in our day, there is no unity, only a sham unity of feelings and emotions.
Unecumenical Saints: St. Benedict of Nursia
Much has been said by Traditional Catholics such as myself about the novelty and emptiness of ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Yet we have few better proofs of this than the saints themselves in their dealings with non-Catholics.
Today we have the example of St. Benedict:
The fortified town of Cassino lies at the foot of a towering mountain that shelters it within its slope and stretches upward over a distance of nearly three miles. On its summit stood a very old temple, in which the ignorant country people still worshiped Apollo as their pagan ancestors had done, and went on offering superstitious and idolatrous sacrifices in groves dedicated to various demons.
When the man of God [St Benedict] arrived at this spot, he destroyed the idol [he did not show it respect at an inter-religious prayer service for world peace, twice, or dialogue with the people], overturned the altar and cut down the trees in the sacred groves. Then he turned the temple of Apollo into a chapel dedicated to St. Martin [of Tours], and where Apollo’s altar had stood he built a chapel in honor of St. John the Baptist. Gradually the people of the countryside were won over to the true faith by his zealous preaching. (Emphasis mine)
-St. Gregory the Great
The Dialogue, Book II