This day, 26 July, marks the Feast on which we recall, celebrate, and invoke the intercession of the parents of the Blessed Mother, Sts. Anne and Joachim. Traditionally, this day focuses most especially on St. Anne, grandmother of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. I shall revisit St. Joachim on his traditional observance.
The Education of the Virgin by Rubens, ca. 1626AD. St. Anne & St. Joachim are with a young St. Mary.
This site presents a short summary of information on St. Anne, the patron saint of Grandparents; note particularly the interesting notes regarding Canada! Patron Saints Index: St. Anne
Here is a beautiful text of St. John Damascene (+749AD) from that Patron Saint site:
"Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him. Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: “By their fruits you will know them.” The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body. Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is."
Also, for more on St. Anne:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Anne
Finally, this link goes the Golden Legend of Blessed Jacobus de Voragine (+1298), Dominican Archbishop of Genoa, and compiler of hagiography, with an account of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, which certain involved St. Anne, along with St. Joachim:
Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
On this feast of St. Anne, the mother of Our Lady, and grandmother of Our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, let us recall on of the great churches in honor of this great saint-- the Basilica of St. Anne-de-Beaupré in the Canadian province of Quebec. This Basilica just celebrated the 350th anniversary of the location being a center of devotion to St. Anne in 2008. Here is a link to the official site of the Basilica:
The magnificent statue of St. Anne with her daughter, the Blessed Virgin, at the Basilica.
The Old Catholic Encyclopedia gives an account of the founding of the Basilica:
"Devotion to Saint Anne, in Canada, goes back to the beginning of New France, and was brought thither by the first settlers and early missionaries. The hardy pioneers soon began to till the fertile soil of the Beaupré hillside; in the region which now forms the parish of Sainte Anne de Beaupré the first houses date from the year 1650. Nor was it long before the settlers built themselves a chapel where they might meet for Divine worship. One of their number, the Sieur Etienne Lessard, offered to give the land required at the spot which the church authorities should find suitable. On 13 March, 1658, therefore, the missionary, Father Vignal, came to choose the site and to bless the foundation of the proposed chapel which, by general consent, was to be dedicated to St. Anne. The very day the Saint showed how favourably she viewed the undertaking by healing Louis Guimont, an inhabitant of Beaupré, who suffered terribly from rheumatism of the loins. Full of confidence in St. Anne, he came forward and placed three stones in the foundations of the new building, whereupon he found himself suddenly and completely cured of his ailment.
This first authentic miracle was the precursor of countless other graces and favours of all kinds. For two centuries and a half the great wonder-worker has ceaselessly and lavishly shown her kindness to all the sufferers who from all parts of North America flock every year to Beaupré to implore her help. The old church was begun in 1676, and used for worship until 1876, when it was replaced by the present one, opened in October of that year. This last was built of cut stone, by means of contributions from all the Catholics of Canada. The offerings made by pilgrims have defrayed the cost of fittings and decoration. It is two hundred feet long, and one hundred wide, including the side chapels. Leo XIII raised it to the rank of a minor basilica 5 May, 1887; on 19 May, 1889, it was solemnly consecrated by Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec. It has been served by the Redemptorists since 1878. On either side of the main doorway are huge pyramids of crutches, walking-sticks, bandages, and other appliances left behind by the cripples, lame, and sick, who, having prayed to St. Anne at her shrine, have gone home healed." [cf., http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01539b.htm]
The current Basilica, built in 1926 after the original was destroyed by fire, boasts several significant relics of St. Anne, and remains a popular place of pilgrimage [this blogger went on his honeymoon there].
Here is a link to the local municipality: http://www.sainteannedebeaupre.com/
Friday, July 25, 2014
Image of St. James the Greater from the Cathedral of Segovia, Spain.
Today is the great feast day of the Apostle, St. James the Greater, and also the feast of the famous patron of travelers, St. Christopher. On such an occasion, we should say something, at least briefly, on each.
St. James the Greater was one of the twelve Apostles chosen by our Divine Lord, a son of Zebedee and Salome (cf. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). He was, further, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, the Beloved Apostle.
The following account from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia sums up St. James and his ministry rather well:
"The Galilean origin of St. James in some degree explains the energy of temper and the vehemence of character which earned for him and St. John the name of Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17); the Galilean race was religious, hardy, industrious, brave, and the strongest defender of the Jewish nation.
When John the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom of the Messias, St. John became a disciple (John 1:35); he was directed to "the Lamb of God" and afterwards brought his brother James to the Messias; the obvious meaning of John 1:41, is that St. Andrew finds his brother (St. Peter) first and that afterwards St. John (who does not name himself, according to his habitual and characteristic reserve and silence about himself) finds his brother (St. James). The call of St. James to the discipleship of the Messias is reported in a parallel or identical narration by Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:19 sq.; and Luke 5:1-11. The two sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew with whom they were in partnership (Luke 5:10), were called by the Lord upon the Sea of Galilee, where all four with Zebedee and his hired servants were engaged in their ordinary occupation of fishing. The sons of Zebedee "forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him" (Matthew 4:22), and became "fishers of men".
St. James was afterwards with the other eleven called to the Apostleship (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13). In all four lists the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John form the first group, a prominent and chosen group (cf. Mark 13:3); especially Peter, James, and John. These three Apostles alone were admitted to be present at the miracle of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28), and the Agony in Gethsemani (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). The fact that the name of James occurs always (except in Luke 8:51; 9:28; Acts 1:13 — Greek Text) before that of his brother seems to imply that James was the elder of the two. It is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned in the Gospel of St. John; this author observes a humble reserve not only with regard to himself, but also about the members of his family.
Several incidents scattered through the Synoptics suggest that James and John had that particular character indicated by the name "Boanerges," sons of thunder, given to them by the Lord (Mark 3:17); they were burning and impetuous in their evangelical zeal and severe in temper. The two brothers showed their fiery temperament against "a certain man casting out devils" in the name of the Christ; John, answering, said: "We [James is probably meant] forbade him, because he followeth not with us" (Luke 9:49). When the Samaritans refused to receive Christ, James and John said: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?" (Luke 9:54; cf. 9:49)." [Cf., http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08279b.htm]
St. James, after the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, preached the Gospel of Christ, and was finally beheaded at the order of Herod Agrippa in 42 or 44AD. This webpage gives a good overview of the saint: http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-james-the-greater/
Image of St. James under the title of "Matamoros" -- a great patron of the Reconquista of Spain from the Muslims.
The site most associated with St. James the Greater now is, of course, the site of relics in Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The great Shrine of Santiago de Compostella is one of the great pilgrimage sites in all Christendom. Indeed, the great Camino, or pilgrimage, is still a popular way to arrive at the holy site. The authenticity of the relics of Compostella is attested to by Pope Leo XIII in his Bull, "Omnipotens Deus," of 1 November, 1884. Here is a link to the site of the great Cathedral at Compostella: http://www.catedraldesantiago.es/
Image of St. Christopher, circa 1588, by Simon Pereyns, from the Cathedral of Mexico City.
Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Christopher, about whom we know a great deal less. He was a martyr of Lycia in Asia Minor who suffered for the Christian Faith in 250AD, during the savage persecution of Decius. The Old Catholic Encyclopedia gives an account of his legend: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03728a.htm. Likewise, this site provides some information: http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-christopher/
St. James the Greater and St. Christopher, pray for us!
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
|Magdalene by Carlo Dolci (+1670)|
Today is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene -- the "apostle to the Apostles" as she is know, for it was she that brought word of the Resurrection to the Apostles.
This Old Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied Christ and ministered to Him (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection."
Pope St. Gregory the Great said of her: "When Mary Magdalen came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so informed the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: “The disciples went back home,” and it adds: “but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.” We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ; for though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and while she sought she wept; burning with the fire of love, she longed for him who she thought had been taken away. And so it happened that the woman who stayed behind to seek Christ was the only one to see him. For perseverance is essential to any good deed, as the voice of truth tell us: 'Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.'" (From the Patron Saints Page, linked below).
Her relics are associated with the Abbey of Vezelay, in France, pictured above.
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Mary Magdalene
Patron Saints Index: St. Mary Magdalene
This site, in particular, has information on customs associated with this feast:
Fisheaters: Feast of St. Mary Magdalene
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Today is the feast of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne, France, who were put to death during the French Revolution on this day in the year 1794AD at the tail end of the Reign of Terror.
These blessed Carmelite martyrs were executed for their faithfulness to the Catholic Faith and their religious vows in the face of the demonic and militantly secularist French Revolutionary government of the Reign of Terror.
God chooses the weak, and makes them strong. These little sisters were not broken by the fury and malice of that Revolution.
There were also three lay sisters:
- Angélique Roussel (Sister Mary of the Holy Ghost), lay sister
- Julie or Juliette Vérolot (Sister Saint Francis Xavier), lay sister
- Marie Dufour (Sister Saint Martha), lay sister
They were beatified in 1906 by Pope St. Pius X.
Patron Saints Index: Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne
The Martyrs of Compiegne by Newkirk
Their story was made into a novella, in 1931, by Gertrude von le Fort, entitle The Song at the Scaffold; a liberetto by Georges Bernanos; and based on the Bernanos text, an Opera by Francis Poulenc, Dialogues of the Carmelites in 1957.
The closing scene of the Opera by Poulenc -- the execution of the sisters -- is moving, indeed. They sing a haunting version of the Salve Regina as, one by one, they are guillotined. Give a listen (the singing actually begins, after an instrumental prelude, at 2:50, and the guillotine falls for the first time just after 4:00):
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and seems a good moment to recall the history of this feast and the particular place the mountain, Mount Carmel, had in the Scriptures.
The following is the account of the Old Catholic Encyclopedia on today's feast:
"This feast was instituted by the Carmelites between 1376 and 1386 under the title "Commemoratio B. Marif Virg. duplex" to celebrate the victory of their order over its enemies on obtaining the approbation of its name and constitution from Honorius III on 30 Jan., 1226 (see Colvenerius, "Kal. Mar.", 30 Jan. "Summa Aurea", III, 737). The feast was assigned to 16 July, because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite traditions, the scapular was given by the Blessed Virgin to St. Simon Stock; it was first approved by Sixtus V in 1587. After Cardinal Bellarmine had examined the Carmelite traditions in 1609, it was declared the patronal feast of the order, and is now celebrated in the Carmelite calendar as a major double of the first class with a vigil and a privileged octave (like the octave of Epiphany, admitting only a double of the first class) under the title "Commemoratio solemnis B.V.M. de Monte Carmelo". By a privilege given by Clement X in 1672, some Carmelite monasteries keep the feast on the Sunday after 16 July, or on some other Sunday in July. In the seventeenth century the feast was adopted by several dioceses in the south of Italy, although its celebration, outside of Carmelite churches, was prohibited in 1628 by a decree contra abusus. On 21 Nov., 1674, however, it was first granted by Clement X to Spain and its colonies, in 1675 to Austria, in 1679 to Portugal and its colonies, and in 1725 to the Papal States of the Church, on 24 Sept., 1726, it was extended to the entire Latin Church by Benedict XIII. The lessons contain the legend of the scapular; the promise of the Sabbatine privilege was inserted into the lessons by Paul V about 1614. The Greeks of southern Italy and the Catholic Chaldeans have adopted this feast of the "Vestment of the Blessed Virgin Mary". The object of the feast is the special predilection of Mary for those who profess themselves her servants by wearing her scapular (see CARMELITES)."
Mount Carmel, in modern Israel.
Mount Carmel itself was the site of Elijah challenging the pagans, as we read in 1 Kings 18:
"After many days, the word of the Lord came to Elias, in the third year, saying: Go, and show yourself to Achab, that I may give rain upon the face of the earth. 2 And Elias went to show himself to Achab, and there was a grievous famine in Samaria. 3 And Achab called Abdias the governor of his house: now Abdias feared the Lord very much. 4 For when Jezabel killed the prophets of the Lord, he took a hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty and fifty in caves, and fed them with bread and water. 5 And Achab said to Abdias: Go into the land unto all fountains of waters, and into all valleys, to see if we can find grass, and save the horses and mules, that the beasts may not utterly perish. 6 And they divided the countries between them, that they might go round about them: Achab went one way, and Abdias another way by himself. 7 And as Abdias was in the way, Elias met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said: Are you my lord Elias? 8 And he answered: I am. Go, and tell your master: Elias is here. 9 And he said: What have I sinned, that you would deliver me, your servant, into the hand of Achab, that he should kill me? 10 As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord has not sent to seek you: and when all answered: He is not here: he took an oath of every kingdom and nation, because you were not found. 11 And now you say to me: Go and tell your master: Elias is here. 12 And when I have gone from you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you into a place that I know not: and I shall go in and tell Achab; and he, not finding you, will kill me: but your servant fears the Lord from his infancy. 13 Has it not been told you, my lord, what I did when Jezabel killed the prophets of the Lord; how I hid a hundred men of the prophets of the Lord, by fifty and fifty in caves, and fed them with bread and water? 14 And now you say: Go and tell your master: Elias is here: that he may kill me. 15 And Elias said: As the Lord of hosts lives, before whose face I stand, this day I will show myself unto him. 16 Abdias therefore went to meet Achab, and told him: and Achab came to meet Elias. 17 And when he had seen him, he said: Are you he that troubles Israel? 18 And he said: I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house, who have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim. 19 Nevertheless send now, and gather unto me all Israel, unto Mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, who eat at Jezabel's table. 20 Achab sent to all the children of Israel, and gathered together the prophets unto mount Carmel. 21 And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word. 22 And Elias said again to the people: I only remain a prophet of the Lord: but the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men. 23 Let two bullocks be given us, and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it upon wood, but put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under it. 24 Call on the names of your gods, and I will call on the name of my Lord: and the God that shall answer by fire, let him be God. And all the people answering, said: A very good proposal. 25 Then Elias said to the prophets of Baal: Choose you one bullock and dress it first, because you are many: and call on the names of your gods; but put no fire under. 26 And they took the bullock, which he gave them, and dressed it: and they called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying: O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered: and they leaped over the altar that they had made. 27 And when it was now noon, Elias jested at them, saying: Cry with a louder voice: for he is a god; and perhaps he is talking, or is in an inn, or on a journey; or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awaked. 28 So they cried with a loud voice, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till they were all covered with blood. 29 And after midday was past, and while they were prophesying, the time had come of offering sacrifice, and there was no voice heard, nor did any one answer, nor regard them as they prayed. 30 Elias said to all the people: Come unto me. And the people coming near unto him, he repaired the altar of the Lord, that was broken down: 31 And he took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob to whom the word of the Lord came, saying: Israel shall be your name. 32 And he built with the stones an altar to the name of the Lord: and he made a trench for water, of the breadth of two furrows, round about the altar. 33 And he laid the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it upon the wood. 34 And he said: Fill four buckets with water, and pour it upon the burnt offering, and upon the wood. And again he said: Do the same the second time. And when they had done it the second time, he said: Do the same also the third time. And they did so the third time. 35 And the water run round about the altar, and the trench was filled with water. 36 And when it was now time to offer the holocaust, Elias, the prophet, came near and said: O Lord God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Israel, show this day that you are the God of Israel, and I your servant, and that according to your commandment I have done all these things. 37 Dear me, O Lord, hear me: that this people may learn that you are the Lord God, and that you have turned their heart again. 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw this, they fell on their faces, and they said: The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God. 40 And Elias said to them: Take the prophets of Baal, and let not one of them escape. And when they had taken them, Elias brought them down to the torrent Cison, and killed them there."
Later, of course, the first members of the Carmelite order lived on this mountain in the 12th century. There patroness is Our Lady, Mother of God, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Today is a feast day of a recent martyr for the virtue of holy purity, St. Maria Goretti (+1902), of Nettuno, Lazio, Italy. She is such a splendid example of purity in our profoundly impure and immodest age -- she was willing even to die rather than consent to grave sin. She not only showed the fortitude of her chastity in the face of an attack, but she also forgave her attacker on her very deathbed. Here we have purity and charity in heroic form, and all of this in a girl of a tender 12 years of age. God, indeed, chooses the weak and makes them strong.
This provides a link with a bit of information about St. Maria Goretti:
Here is the website of the site of his relics in Nettuno, Italy: http://www.santuarionettuno.it/index2.html
From that site, we have a splendid excerpt from the 1950AD homily of Pope Pius XII delivered on the occasion of her canonization -- this in the presence of her mother and repentant murderer:
"It is well known how this young girl had to face a bitter struggle with no way to defend herself. Without warning a vicious stranger burst upon her, bent on raping her and destroying her childlike purity. In that moment of crisis she could have spoken to her Redeemer in the words of that classic, The Imitation of Christ: “Though tested and plagued by a host of misfortunes, I have no fear so long as your grace is with me. It is my strength, stronger than any adversary; it helps me and give me guidance.” With splendid courage she surrendered herself to God and his grace and so gave her life to protect her virginity. The life of a simple girl – I shall concern myself only with highlights – we can see as worthy of heaven. Even today people can look upon it with admiration and respect. Parents can learn from her story how to raise their God-given children in virtue, courage, and holiness; they can learn to train them in the Catholic faith so that, when put to the test, God’s grace will support them and they will come through undefeated, unscathed, and untarnished. From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures which are not only ephemeral and empty but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer. Not all of us are expected to die a martyr‘s death, but we are all called to the pursuit of Christian virtue. So let us all, with God’s grace, strive to reach the goal that the example of the virgin martyr, Saint Maria Goretti, sets before us. Through her prayers to the Redeemer may all of us, each in his own way, joyfully try to follow the inspiring example of Maria Goretti who now enjoys eternal happiness in heaven"
This blogger's family has a particular devotion to St. Maria Goretti, having both a first class relic, and a daughter bearing the name of Marie in her honor.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Sts. Peter & Paul by El Greco.
Happy Feast of the Apostles, Peter and Paul! St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, was not only the leader of the Apostles, but the first Patriarch of Antioch and first Pope of Rome. St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, is a remarkable example of conversion, and was the author of so many of the Epistles of the New Testament. These two men figure rather significantly as the foundation of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
On this great feast of the patron saints of Rome, this following is a link to the great Basilicas dedicated to those two saints, and containing their tombs:
Left: Statue of St. Peter in front of the Vatican Basilica; Right: Statue of St. Paul in front of his Basilica on the Via Ostia.
For more on the lives of these saints themselves, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Peter
Patron Saints Index: St. Peter
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Paul
Patron Saints Index: St. Paul
This seems a good occasion to recall the origins of the tradition and role of St. Peter, and his successors, the Supreme Roman Pontiffs, or popes. In other words, the Scriptural and historical basis for the Papacy.
First, we turn to the pages of Sacred Scripture:
From the Gospel of St. Matthew (16:15-19):
"Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."
Of course, in most languages, the word for Peter and for Rock is one and the same.
Next, we might note the charge given to St. Peter in the Gospel of St. John (21:17):
"He said to him a third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep."
As to the matter of succession, recall from the Acts of the Apostles, the expectation that someone would take the seat of Judas the Betrayer (Acts 1:15-20):
"1:15 In those days Peter rising up in the midst of the brethren, said (now the number of persons together was about an hundred and twenty): 16 Men, brethren, the scripture must needs be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who was the leader of them that apprehended Jesus: 17 Who was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.18 And he indeed has possessed a field of the reward of iniquity, and being hanged, burst asunder in the midst: and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: so that the same field was called in their tongue, Haceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms: Let their habitation become desolate, and let there be none to dwell therein. And his bishopric let another take."
Finally, St. Peter certainly acts with authority in the accounts of the New Testament as the Vicar of Christ who holds the keys of his master, as when he determined that new converts would not be held to the Jewish dietary restrictions.
In the writings of Christians, even from the early centuries, there is a clear understanding of the role of the successors of St. Peter who carry on in his chair. Even the Orthodox, who deny the full understanding of the office, recognize that the successor of St. Peter, who is the Bishop of Rome, has a primacy of honor.
Turning then to the writings of the Church Fathers, we begin with Pope St. Clement I, who, around 80AD, wrote to settle a dispute in the Greek city of Corinth, even while the Apostle St. John was still alive in Asia Minor:
" Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop.
For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned, and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry...If anyone disobeys the things which have been said by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger."
Next, the great St. Ignatius of Antioch, successor of Peter as bishop of Antioch, writing around 110AD, first in his letter to the Smyrnaeans and then in his letter to the Romans -- noting what he says about the city of Rome:
"You must follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
"to the Church also which holds the presidency in the place of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and, because you hold the presidency of love, named after Christ and named after the Father: her therefore do I salute."
We move along to St. Irenaeus, second bishop of Lyon in France, student of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. These quotations come from his work Against Heresies, written between 180 and 199AD:
"It is possible, then, for everyone in every Church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times...
But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all of the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner…assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition....The blessed Apostles [Peter and Paul], having founded and built up the Church [of Rome], they handed over the office of the episcopate to Linus…To him succeeded Anencletus; and after him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was chosen for the episcopate. He had seen the blessed Apostles and was acquainted with them. It might be said that he still heard the echoes of the preaching of the Apostles, and had their traditions before his eyes. And not only he, for there were many still remaining who had been instructed by the Apostles.
In the time of Clement, no small dissension having arisen among the brethren in Corinth, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace and renewing the faith…To this Clement, Evaristus succeeded; and Alexander succeeded Evaristus. Then, sixth after the Apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him Telesphorus, who also was gloriously martyred. Then Hyginus; after him, Pius; and after him, Anicetus. Soter succeeded Anicletus, and now, in the twelfth place after the Apostles, the lot of the episcopate has fallen to Eleutherus. In this order, and by the teaching of the Apostles handed down in the Church, the preaching of the truth has come down to us...
It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles…But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assembler wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion."
Those, and many others, all date to the period before Constantine and the liberation of the Church. Notice the tone and tenor does not change much after the Edict of Milan.
Here we have St. Ephraim the Syrian, and Doctor of the Church (+373AD), from one of his homilies:
"Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense. I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that, as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures!"
Back in the Latin world, we have this from a letter of St. Jerome to the Bishop of Rome, Pope St. Damasus I, that commissioned him to translate the Sacred Scriptures in Latin. It was under this pontiff that the canon of Scripture was finally settled. St. Jerome writes thus in this letter from the 370sAD:
"I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane."
The well-known St. Augustine, in his letter to Generosus of around 400AD, writes as follows:
"If the very order of Episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said: ‘Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus…"
We see the Popes themselves wielding their authority, as this address of Philip, the legate of Pope St. Celestine I to the Council of Ephesus (which affirmed Our Lady as Mother of God), in 431AD demonstrates:
"No one doubts, in fact, it is obvious to all ages that the holy and most Blessed Peter, head and Prince of the Apostles, the pillar of faith, and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the savior and the redeemer of the human race. Nor does anyone doubt that the power of forgiving and retaining sins was also given to this same Peter who, in his successors, lives and exercises judgment even to this time and forever."
In the interest of keeping this blog post something short of a book, I have skipped and omitted a host of quotations that even I have found. Noting then just a couple more to demonstrate the continuity, I include the following, beginning with Pope St. Leo IX, pontiff during the Great Eastern Schism of 1054, in a letter written by Cardinal Humbert to the Patriarch of Constantinople, and signed by Pope Leo in 1053:
"The holy Church has been built upon a rock, that is, upon Christ, and upon Peter or Cephas, the son of John, who was first called Simon. It was so built because it never was to be conquered by the gates of hell, that is, by heretical opinions which lead the unwary to destruction…Is it not by the See of the Prince of the Apostles, namely, by this Roman Church, both by this same Peter and by his successors, that all the inventions of heretics stand condemned, exposed, and overcome?"
Finally, from the Council of Florence (1438-1445), which brought a temporary and superficial reunion between East and West, and was presided over by Pope Eugene IV:
"Likewise, we define that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have primacy over the whole world, and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, the head of the Church, the father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him, in the person of St. Peter, was given by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the whole Church."
This, for reference, is this blogger's first post as a resident of the State of Georgia. Te Deum!