Saturday, November 18, 2017

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter & Paul

Today, 18 November, is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome.

These two great Archbasilicas house the relics of the great Saints and Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, the patron saints of Rome.  They sit at the Vatican hill just west of the Tiber and on the Ostian Way just south of the city walls, respectively.

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St. Peter's Basilica with the Tiber River and Ponte Sant'Angelo in the foreground.
["Vatican City at Large" by Sébastien Bertrand from Paris, France - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commonsg]

St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican is perhaps the most famous church in the world.  It was constructed on the site of the tomb of St. Peter -- the first Basilica constructed during the reign of the Emperor Constantine.  Indeed, the November feast commemorates the dedication of the structure in 325AD by Pope St. Sylvester I.  Beginning in 1506 under Pope Julius II, and concluding in 1626, the current structure was constructed.

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An interior view of St. Peter's with the confessio and main altar in the center.
["Vatican Altar 2" by Patrick Landy known as FSU Guy at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

Here is an article on St. Peter's Basilica: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Peter's Basilica

Follow this to the official webpage of the Basilica: Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano

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The facade of St. Paul's Outside the Walls -- San Paulo fuori le mura.

St. Paul's Basilica -- St. Paul's Outside the Walls -- is the burial place of St. Paul the Apostle, and home to a Benedictine Abbey.  This Basilica, located on the Ostian Way, was, like St. Peter's first constructed during the time of the Emperor Constantine.  A fire in the 19th century, however, meant that the majority of the structure was rebuilt and rededicated in 1823.  When it was reconstructed, however, it was done in much the same style of its original construction.  The Basilica of St. Paul's is famous for its medallions of all of the Popes.

The interior of St. Paul's.  Notice the circular medallions right above the arches -- those picture the various successors of St. Peter.
["Rom, Sankt Paul vor den Mauern (San Paolo fuori le mura), Innenansicht 1" by Dnalor 01 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

Here is an article on the Basilica of St. Paul's: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Paul's

Follow this link to the official website of the Basilica: Basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura

Live well!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Feast of St. Albertus Magnus, OP

St. Albert the Great in a Fresco at Treviso, Italy dating to 1352 by Tommaso da Modena.

Today is the feast of St. Albert the Great (+1280), Dominican and Doctor of the Church.

St. Albert was a rather notable philosopher, scientist, and professor in his day, famously teaching St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274).  Born in Swabia, Albert began his studies at the University of Padua in Italy, where he came across the new Order of Preachers, the Dominicans.  In 1245, he was sent to the University of Paris to receive his doctorate.  It was there that he first came into contact with St. Thomas Aquinas, the two proceeding to the University of Cologne in 1248 where St. Albert became Studium Generale.  From 1254-1257 Albert served as Provincial of the Dominican Order in Germany.  He would end up coming to Rome during those years to defend the new mendicant orders.  St. Albert ended up as Bishop of Ratisbon, appointed to that see in 1260.  St. Albert remained a friend and ally of St. Thomas Aquinas, and after the younger man's death in 1274, St. Albert defended his memory from attacks of those suspicious of the Angelic Doctor.

Here is a link to the Church of Saint Andreas in Cologne, where the Universal Doctor is buried: Church of St. Andreas, Cologne

Although now overshadowed by his pupil, St. Thomas, St. Albert was a great scholar in his own right, penning treatises on a host of subjects.  His scientific experimentation is worthy of note.  He noted: "The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements [narrata] of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature." (De Miner., lib. II, tr. ii, i).  Of St. Albert, it is written: "he was an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry (alchimia), zoölogy, physiology, and even phrenology. On all these subjects his erudition was vast, and many of his observations are of permanent value."  It is for this reason that he remain the patron saint of scientists.

Here are a couple of accounts of the rather remarkable life of Albertus Magnus:

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Albertus Magnus

Catholic Saint Info: St. Albert the Great

Live well!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pope St. Martin I & the Monothelite heresy

Today is traditionally the Feast of Pope St. Martin I, a great pontiff of the 7th century, and opponent of the Monothelite heresy.  His new calendar feast falls on 13 April, for reference.  So, what follows is an account I wrote of his rather interesting times:

Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (610-638), trying to reconcile the Monophysites (an earlier heresy, centered in Egypt, that claimed Christ had one nature), came up with a new heresy that appears on the scene in 630.  He argued that Christ has only “one will,” and two natures: this is the Monothelite heresy.  The Armenians liked the idea, but the Patriarch of Alexandria objected.  Rome, under Pope Honorius I (625-638) responded with a vague letter that was taken as consent.  The Emperor Heraclius (610-641) threw his weight behind this idea in 638, and signed a Monothelite statement [Ecthesis] proposed by the Patriarch Sergius.

Here is an article with more detail on the Monothelite heresy: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Monothelites

The next Emperor, Constans II (641-668) did, however, initially withdraw the Monothelite statement.  In 648, though, Constans II actually ended up sided with the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople, Paul II (641-654), by forbidding discussion of the issue [the document was called the “Type”].

Pope St. Martin I (649-655)

In 649 a new Pope took the Chair of Peter: St. Martin I (649-655).  He convened a synod in 649 at the Lateran, condemned the heresy, and excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople – for which he was arrested in that same Church in 653 by Byzantine troops (Pope St. Martin I would die in exile in the Crimea in 655).  This was a real persecution.

Here is a link with more information on Pope St. Martin I: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope St. Martin I

Here is a second: Catholic Saints Info: Pope St. Martin I

Finally, a third: Butler's Lives of the Saints: Pope St. Martin I

In 663, Byzantine Emperor Constans II actually came to Rome; the first time an Emperor had been in the city in 200 years.  Constans II settled in Sicily, but was murdered in his bath in 668 -- beaten to death with a silver bath bucket -- and followed on the throne by his son, Constantine IV (668-685).  Constantine suggested to the Supreme Pontiff that the Monothelite matter be laid to rest.

Pope St. Agatho (678-681) responded with a letter that reaffirmed the teaching of the Popes, and a council – the 6th Ecumenical Council, the Third Council of Constantinople, was opened in November 680.  It would meet until September 681.  The Emperor presided, and Papal legates led the theological discussions.  The Council not only condemned the heresy, but made a list of condemned heretics – a list that included Pope Honorius I!  Before he could approve the Council’s acts, though, Pope Agatho died.  The new pope elected in his place was Pope St. Leo II (681-683).  He was versed in Greek and looked through the documents.  He reworded the condemnation of Honorius, to merely condemn his lack of vigor in fighting the heresy, and then approved the council.  Indeed, the case of Pope Honorius is a good reminder of how popes may not officially promulgate heresy, but they can be negligent in teaching the truth with clarity.  If a pope fails to uphold and teach the truth of the Faith, and this clearly, he has much to answer for!

Remember, of course, that this is happening in the context of the lightening strikes of the Islamic Conquest, which began against the Byzantine Empire during the reign of the Emperor Heraclius and threatened Constantinople itself by the late 600s, having overwhelmed the Holy Land, Syria, Egypt, and much of North Africa.

Live well!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Martinmas & St. Martin of Tours

In the United States, today is celebrated as Veterans Day; elsewhere, today is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.  These civil observances this day are derived from the Armistice signed on 11 November 1918AD that ended the First World War.  Hence, it is a fitting time to offer prayers and express gratitude to those Veterans that have offered their service to their country in the Armed Forces.

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St. Martin and the Beggar by El Greco.

11 November is also the rather ancient feast of St. Martin of Tours -- himself a veteran before he would become a bishop -- who died in 397AD.  Thus, today is Martinmas!

St. Martin of Tours was long one of the most beloved saints in the history of the Church, and his life is a remarkable example of virtue in one of the first to be celebrated on the Church calendar as a saint without having been martyred: a "confessor."

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The Charity of St. Martin, by Jean Fouquet.

St. Martin was born a pagan in the area of modern Hungary.  He would end up in the Roman army, and, while in Gaul, received baptism at the age of 18.  The famous episode of St. Martin dividing his cloak for the beggar took place prior to his baptism!  Departing the army, St. Martin would become a monk, receive guidance from the great Doctor of the Church, St. Hilary of Poitiers, and, in the end, become Bishop of Tours.  St. Martin, as bishop, was a bulwark against the external attacks on the Church by paganism and those internal from Arianism.  More than anything else, St. Martin was known for his "boundless charity to the poor."

St. Martin, then, would quickly become a widely beloved saint.  His feast, falling as it does toward the end of the harvest time, and before the season of Advent, was an occasion of great celebration and festivity in the Christian world.  Martinmas lanterns and bonfires are certainly worthy of note!  In Europe of old, and perhaps still in a few places, the "Indian Summer" of Americans was known as "St. Martin's Summer."

Statue of St. Martin in St. Martinsville, Louisiana.

Innumerable places and individuals would bear the name of St. Martin -- from St. Martinville, Louisiana, burial place of Longfellow's Evangeline, to the Protestant notable, Martin Luther.  It is said that over 400 towns and 4,000 churches have been named for St. Martin in France alone.

For more on his life you should note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Martin of Tours

Patron Saints Index: St. Martin of Tours

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Martin of Tours

This next site is a good resource for a few customs of the day, and a wonderful weather prediction of our Medieval forebears: "If the geese at Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas."

Fisheaters: St. Martin of Tours (Martinmas)

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The Basilica of St. Martin in Tours.
["Tours, Saint Martin" by Parsifall - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

St. Martin is buried in a grand Basilica bearing his name in Tours, France -- location of the great battle in 732AD when Charles Martel turned back the Islamic invader.  You can view the official website of the Church where he is buried here: Basilica of St. Martin

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The Tomb of St. Martin in Tours, France.
["Tombeau de Saint-Martin de Tours" by Tipoune - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons]

Perhaps today is the day to revive a few Martinmas customs, and give a toast to our Veterans while we are at it?

Live well!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

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The Facade of St. John Lateran by Alessandro Galilei, 1735.

Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Archbasilica in Rome that is, technically, the Cathedral Church of the Pope.  It sits in the southeast corner of the old city, just inside the Aurelian walls.

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The Interior of St. John Lateran.  Enclosed in the Baldachin over the altar are the relics of the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul.  Inside the altar itself is the relic of an altar of St. Peter.

The Basilica was originally donated to the Church by the Emperor Constantine sometime in the early 4th century.  It was officially dedicated by Pope St. Sylvester in 324AD on this day of 9 November.  Originally dedicated to our Holy Savior, it has come to be associated also with St. John the Apostle and St. John the Baptist -- hence its popular name, which also notes its location at the Lateran.  From that time, until the Popes took up their temporary residence in Avignon during the 14th century, the Lateran Palace adjacent to the Basilica was the residence of the Pope.  Indeed, five Ecumenical Councils of the Church have also been held at the Lateran.

By title, the head of state of France, since the time of King Henry IV, is the proto-canon of St. John Lateran.  I'd rather not say who that is now.  For the sake of trivia, I might note that the King of Spain is the proto-canon of St. Mary Major in Rome.

As the Pope's Cathedral, St. John Lateran is the mother and head Church of Rome and the World!
["Inscription Ecclesiarum Mater San Giovanni in Laterano 2006-09-07" by © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons]

Notably, buried here are Pope Innocent III of the 13th century, Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903, and housed here are the relics of the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul, an altar of St. Peter, and a piece of wood from the table of the Last Supper.

Here is a link to the official website: Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano

This goes to the Old Catholic Encyclopedia article on the great Church: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Basilica of St. John Lateran

As a final note, on this day 21 years ago, this blogger entered the Roman Catholic Church with his family.  Te Deum Laudamus!

Live well!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Feast of St. Charles Borromeo

Carlo Borromeo.jpg

Today is the great feast of St. Charles Borromeo (+1584AD), Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan.

Many were skeptical of his appointment to the see of Milan -- his uncle, Pope Pius IV, made the selection, and he was 21 when made Cardinal-Administrator of the diocese, and 25 when finally ordained a bishop (cf., Catholic Hierarchy: St. Charles Borromeo).  Surely this was yet another example of the kind of nepotism that plagued the Church in that era.

Not so.  St. Charles, who led the Archdiocese of Milan, the See of St. Ambrose, from 1561-1584, proved a saintly model bishop.  His initiatives touched every part of his administration, form the implementation of the decrees of the Council of Trent, to the care of the poor, to the visitation of his parishes, to the establishment of seminary training for men studying for the priesthood.

He was also the papal-appointed protector of the Catholic Swiss Cantons, doing a great deal to see to their reform and health.

His motto: Humilitas.

Duomo of Milan, where St. Charles reigned as Archbishop, and where he is now buried.

When he died in 1584AD, his was buried in that Cathedral of Milan, the famous Duomo (cf., Official Site), while his heart would be reserved in the Milanese parish in Rome, Sant'Ambrogio e Carlo on Via del Corso (cf., Official Site).  He was canonized by Pope Paul V in 1610AD.

The interior of the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio e Carlo in Rome -- the heart of St. Charles is reserved behind the altar. ["San Carlo al Corso September 2015-11" by Alvesgaspar - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons]

For more:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Charles Borromeo

Catholic Saints Info: St. Charles Borromeo

Let us pray that St. Charles Borromeo intercedes for our bishops!

Live well!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Purgatorio: All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day.  On 2 November, the Church observes the great day of All Souls', when our attention turns to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

It is on All Souls' that we recall, and pray for, all of those Souls enduring the torments of Purgatory.  Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Eternal Rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

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Dante next to the pit of Hell to the left, Florence to the right, and the Mountain of Purgatory behind.

The Old Catholic Encyclopedia has a good, if brief, article on the Feast of All Souls: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: All Souls' Day

The Fisheaters site, for its part, has some splendid details, especially of traditional customs: Fisheaters: All Souls' Day

Of course, the indulgence for the Poor Souls' continues today, through 8 November, for visiting a cemetery; likewise, there is a particular indulgence today, All Souls' Day, for visiting a Church or Oratory and praying for the dead, along with an Our Father and Creed.  Note the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum:
"29 Pro fidelibus defunctis 
§ 1. Plenaria indulgentia, animabus in Purgatorio detentis tantummodo applicabilis, conceditur christifideli qui 
1° singulis diebus, a primo usque ad octavum novembris, coemeterium devote visitaverit et, vel mente tantum, pro defunctis exoraverit; 
2° die Commemorationis omnium fidelium defunctorum (vel, de consensu Ordinarii, die Dominico antecedenti aut subsequenti aut die sollemnitatis Omnium Sanctorum) ecclesiam aut oratorium pie visitaverit ibique recitaverit Pater et Credo."

The details, in English, are as follows: Plenary Indulgence for Cemetery Visit.  Also, on this day, for Visiting a Church or Oratory.

Father Zuhlsdorf, on his blog, has a great discussion of these indulgences: Fr. Z's Blog: All Souls' Day Indulgences

Image of Purgatory by Carracci.

Looking, then, at Purgatory, as its existence, and recalling the souls detained therein, is the basis of this feast!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the teaching on Purgatory as follows:

III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.604 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. the tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:605

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.606

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin."607 From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.608 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.609

604 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.605 Cf.  1 Cor 3:15;  1 Pet 1:7.606 St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf.  Mt 12:31.607  2 Macc 12:46.608 Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 856.609 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 41, 5: PG 61, 361; cf.  Job 1:5.
[Original text of the Catechism can be found here: Vatican: Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Likewise, the Old Catholic Encyclopedia has a rather informative article on the subject: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Purgatory

Finally, in the Appendix of the Supplement to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, there is a discussion of purgatory, including: Question 2 on the Souls in PurgatoryAppendix II: on Purgatory. The articles that follow add a few more details.

Of course, one of the greatest literary works of the West, in this bloggers opinion, the Divine Comedy of Dante. How many other authors have a Papal Encyclical about their work? (cf. Benedict XV, In Praeclara Summorum). While not a theological manual, the Divine Comedy does embody a Catholic worldview in his presentation. So, why not go check out the final section of the work that fits with our post? Here is a copy of the Purgatorio, which is my own favorite in the Divine Comedy trilogy: Dante's Purgatorio

Finally, perhaps one of the most brilliant of all Gregorian Chants, is the Sequence for All Souls Day, the Dies Irae:

Live well, so as to avoid Purgatory, or at least minimize our time there!