Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve & Abies fraseri

The Visitation by Raphael

Today is the Eve of Christmas!  Traditionally, the vigil of such a significant feast was one of prayer and fasting.  The Catholic fasts before he feasts!

Fisheaters: Christmas Eve & Christmas

The Golden Legend of Blessed Jacobus de Voragine, OP, observes about this time of year, the end of Advent:
"As touching the coming of our Lord in our bodily flesh, we may consider three things of this coming, that is to wit, the opportunity, the necessity and the utility.

The opportunity of coming is taken by the reason of the man that first was vanquished in the law of nature of the default of the knowledge of God, by which he fell into evil errors, and therefore he was constrained to cry to God: Illumina oculos meos, that is to say, Lord, give light to mine eyes. After, came the law of God, which hath given commandment in which he hath been overcome of impuissance, as first he hath cried: There is none that fulfilleth but that commandeth. For there he is only taught, but not delivered from sin, ne holpen by grace, and therefore he was constrained to cry: There lacketh none to command, but there is none that accomplished the commandment. Then came the Son of God in time when man was vanquished of ignorance and impuissance. To that if he had so come tofore, peradventure man might say that by his own merits he might have been saved, and thus he had not been bound to yield thanks to God.

The second thing that is shown us of this coming is the necessity by reason of the time, of which the apostle Paul speaketh, ad Galatas the fourth chapter: At ubi venit plenitudo temporis, when the plentitude or full time of the grace of God was ordained, then he sent his Son that was God and Son of the virgin and wife which was made subject to the law. To that, that they be subject to the law he bought them again, and were received sons of God by grace of adoption. Now saith S. Austin that many demand why he came not rather. He answered that it was because that the plentitude of time was not come, which should come by him, that all things were ordained and made, and after when this plentitude of time came, he came that of time past hath delivered us, to that we shall bedelivered of time, we shall come to him whereas no time passeth, but is perpetuity. The third thing that is showed to us of this coming is the utility and profit that cometh for the cause of the hurt and sickness general. For sith the malady was general, the medicine must be general, whereof saith S. Austin that: Then came the great medicine, when the great malady was through all the world.

Whereof the holy Church remembereth in the seven anthems that be sung before the nativity of our Lord, where the malady is showed in divers manners, and for each demandeth remedy of his malady of prisoner out of the prison that sitteth in darkness and shadow of death. For they that have been long in prison and dark places may not see clearly, but have their eyes dim. Therefore, after we be delivered from prison, it behoveth that our eyes be made clear and our sight illumined for to see whither we should go, and therefore we cry in the fifth anthem: O Oriens splendor lucis eterne, veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis, O Orient that art the resplendour of the eternal light, come and illumine them that sit in darkness and shadow of death, and if we were taught, lighted, unbound, and bought, what should it avail to us but if we should be saved? And, therefore, we require to be saved, and therefore we say in the two last anthems, the sixth and the seventh; when we cry: O Rex gentium, veni et salva hominem quem de limo formasti, O thou King of peoples come and save the man that thou hast formed of the slime of the earth; and in the seventh: O Emmanuel rex et legifer noster veni ad saluandum nos, domine deus noster, O Emmanuel that art our King, and bearer of our law, our Lord, our God, come and save us.

The profit of his coming is assigned of many saints in many manners, for Luke saith in the fourth chapter that our Lord was sent and came to us for seven profits, where he saith: The Spirit of our Lord is on me, which he rehearseth by order; he was sent for the comfort of the poor, to heal them that were sick in sin, to deliver them that were in prison, to teach them that were uncunning. To forgive sins, to buy again all mankind. And for to give reward to them that deserve it.

And S. Austin putteth here three profits of his coming and saith: In this wretched world what aboundeth but to be born to labour and to die. These be the merchandise of our region, and to these merchandises the noble merchant Jesus descended. And because all merchants give and take, they give that they have and take that they have not; Jesu Christ in this merchandise gave and took, he took that which in this world aboundeth, that is to wit, to be born to labour and to die, he gave again to us to be born spiritually, to rise and reign perdurably. And he himself came to us to take villanies and to give to us honour, to suffer death and to give us life, to take poverty and to give us glory.

S. Gregory putteth four causes of the profit of his coming: Studebant omnes superbi de eadem stirpe progeniti, prospera vitæ præsentis appetere, adversa devitare, opprobria fugere, gloriam sequi: They of the world, in their pride descended of the same lineage, studied to desire the prosperity of this present life, to eschew the adversities, to flee the reproofs and shames and to ensue the glory of the world. And our Lord came incarnate among them, asking and seeking the adversities, despiting the prosperities, embracing villanies, fleeing all vain glory. And he himself which descended from glory, came, and he being come, taught new things, and in showing marvels suffered many evils.

S. Bernard putteth other causes, and saith that, we travail in this world for three manner of maladies or sickness, for we be lightly deceived, feeble to do well, and frail to resist against evil. If we entend to do well we fail, it we do pain to resist the evil, we be surmounted and overcome; and for this the coming of Jesu Christ was to us necessary. To that he inhabiteth in us, by faith he illumineth our eyes of the heart, and in abiding with us he helpeth us in our malady, and in being with us he defendeth our frailty against our enemies." (Golden Legend, Advent of the Lord)

St. Boniface and Donar's Oak, by Doepler

By now, most of you have also put up your Christmas trees.  The tree is a beautiful symbol of the season.  The evergreen leaves remind us of the eternal life won by our great saviour, and the shape points us to heaven.

We might recall, too, the great story of St. Boniface (+754AD), Apostle to the Germans, felling the great oak, sacred to the pagans, recalled in the Life of St. Boniface by Willibald:
"Now many of the Hessians who at that time had acknowledged the Catholic faith were confirmed by the grace of the Holy Spirit and received the laying-on of hands. But others, not yet strong in the spirit, refused to accept the pure teachings of the church in their entirety. Moreover, some continued secretly, others openly, to offer sacrifices to trees and springs, to inspect the entrails of victims; some practiced divination, legerdemain, and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries, auspices, and other sacrificial rites; while others, of a more reasonable character, forsook all the profane practices of the Gentiles [i.e., pagans] and committed none of these crimes. With the counsel and advice of the latter persons, Boniface in their presence attempted to cut down, at a place called Gaesmere, a certain oak of extraordinary size called in the old tongue of the pagans the Oak of Jupiter. Taking his courage in his hands (for a great crowd of pagans stood by watching and bitterly cursing in their hearts the enemy of the gods), he cut the first notch. But when he had made a superficial cut . Suddenly, the oak's vast bulk, shaken by a mighty blast of wind from above crashed to the ground shivering its topmost branches into fragments in its fall. As if by the express will of God (for the brethren present had done nothing to cause it) the oak burst asunder into four parts, each part having a trunk of equal length. At the sight of this extraordinary spectacle the heathens who had been cursing ceased to revile and began, on the contrary, to believe and bless the Lord. Thereupon the holy bishop took counsel with the brethren, built an oratory from the timber of the oak and dedicated it to Saint Peter the Apostle." (Willibald: Life of St. Boniface)

It is said that St. Boniface also pointed to a diminutive conifer, using its size, evergreen leaves, and triangular form, as a contrast to the oak of the pagans.  Here's hoping you don't have a Christmas oak!

Here is a little article, from L'Osservatore Romano, on the subject: The Christmas Tree: Legends, Traditions, History in L'Osservatore Romano

Abies fraseri cone.jpg
Cone and foliage of the Abies fraseri.
["Abies fraseri cone". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

This blogger's family tree is a Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri), a species of conifer that seems now to dominate the Christmas tree selections in this, the Southern, part of the United States.  It is a native fir of the southern Appalachians, named for the Scottish botanist, John Fraser (+1811AD), who discovered it and brought some specimen back to Europe.  In parts of the mountains, it is known as "she-balsam."  Interestingly, it is the only species of fir native to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It is rather similar in form and appearance to the more widely ranging Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) of the great north woods.

Abies fraseri range map 4.png
Native range of the Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

The rather restricted native range of the Fraser Fir has now been rather well supplemented by its commercial use.  It is no wonder, it is a delightful tree with excellent form, pleasant fragrance, and good needle retention qualities even after it begins to dry.

Whatever manner of tree you may or may not have, may your spiritual life be evergreen, and surely directed to the God in heaven.  My your Christmas Eve be blessed, and your heart prepared to receive the Holy Saviour!

Live well!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Electoral College & Election Day

Today, 19 December 2016, the electors, each state's members of the Electoral College, will meet to cast their ballots for President and Vice President in their respective state capitals.  That means that today is, strictly speaking, election day for the President of the United States.

On 6 January 2017 these ballots will be counted officially before a joint session of Congress under the direction of the President of the Senate, who also happens to be the Vice President of the United States.

At present, all of the states do determine their slate of electors by means of a popular vote.  In the past, some states have simply had the state legislatures choose the electors.  South Carolina, for instance, chose this method until the American Civil War.

Here is a map of the results of the popular votes by state:

2016 November election results; by popular vote.  The dark red, the larger majority for Donald Trump (GOP) and the darker blue the larger majority for Hillary Clinton (Dem).  Thus, the baby blue and light pink are the closest contests.  If every elector votes as elected to vote, it will be in favor of Trump 306-232.
[Source: By Ali Zifan - File:Electoral College 2016.svg, CC BY-SA 4.0,]

In the event of a tie, or if no candidate receives more than 50% of the ballots, the House of Representatives is charged with electing the President, with each state Congressional delegation receiving a vote; the Senate is to elect the new Vice President.

Map of the splendidly dramatic Presidential Election of 1824.  In this case, the House elected J. Q. Adams, even though Jackson has won more electoral votes.  A good reminder that you need a full 50% of the electoral votes, or it goes to the House of Representatives!

Each state is accorded as many presidential electors as it has members of Congress -- the minimum being 3 for those states with two senators and a single member of the House of Representatives.  In all but two states, the popular vote determines the slate of electors by a winner-take-all format -- if one candidate's electors win by a single vote, all the electors of that state will be of that persuasion.  In those two states, Nebraska and Maine, the statewide popular vote winner gets 2 electors, and the other electors are tied to winning the Congressional districts of that state.

Interestingly, the only three states have had the greatest number of electors over the course of American History: Virginia (1789-1808), New York (1812-1968), and California (1972-Present).  Virginia at its peak in 1804-1808 had 24 electoral votes, New York reached 47 from 1932-1948, and California sits at the all time high of 55 right now.

File:Electoral College 2012.svg
Map of the current allotment of Electors for each state, noting the change from the last census.

Of course, the origin of this system, for which there is a great deal to say in its favor, is the United States Constitution, which, in Article II, Section 1, directs:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

[The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; -- the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; -- The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.  The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.]

(N.B., the section in the [ ] amended by the XII Amendment.)

For more information on the Electoral College, you should certainly note this page run by the National Archives and Records Administration: Electoral College

It kind of reminds me of the Electoral College of the Holy Roman Empire.  Almost.

Live well!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Day & Catholics

The County Election by George Caleb Bingham (1846AD).

Elections have long been a part of the American landscape -- long before the Revolution, actually.  Drawing upon the customs of England, with her House of Commons, many of the New World English colonies boasted elected assemblies.  The oldest, that of Virginia, dated to 1619AD, only a few years after the foundation of the colony in 1607.

Today, 8 November 2016, the voters of every state will will choose the electors who will vote for President in their state capitals on 19 December 2016.  You can read more about the Electoral College here: National Archives: Electoral College

Voters will also choose members of their delegation to the United State House of Representatives, those in a third of the states, U.S. Senators of the 3rd Class, in addition to a wide variety of local offices and ballot measures. In this blogger's own home State of Georgia, voters will choose local officials, from county commissioners, to sheriffs and district attorneys, along with all 236 members of the State General Assembly; that is not to mention a number of other items (including four Constitutional Amendments) and offices also on the ballot!

For those wishing to do a little research into past, early American, elections, you should note this splendid site that has copious records of such events: Tufts University: A New Nation Votes

An interesting point of trivia on the matter of American elections -- during the 1800AD Presidential Election, when the Federalist John Adams of Massachusetts ran against Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, "Turnout in Virginia, 25 percent of the eligible electorate, was the highest yet for a presidential or congressional election and was higher than it would be for another thirty years." (From Old Dominion, New Commonwealth, pg. 156)  That was in an era where ownership of property, and being a white male, was required to vote.  So, it seems that low voter turnout among the eligible electorate is a tradition in the American Republic!

For the voter who is interested in the Art of Dying Well, however, elections are serious exercises with grave moral obligations attached.  The Catechism reminds us: "2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country"

The act of voting is, above all, a practical exercise.  The voter is given the opportunity to either choose a candidate, or accept or reject a ballot proposal.  In so doing, it is, of course, important the the voter know who are what he is voting for or against, and to prepare himself to cast his ballot by research and investigation.  Know what will be on your ballot before you arrive to vote!

That having been said, it is then incumbent upon the voter, well grounded in sound political principles and keenly aware of the ideal, to cast his vote so as to bring about the greatest good practically possible.  Choosing the lesser of evils is no way to operate -- we always vote for a candidate or a measure because of the good that we hope results, and any evil must merely be tolerated, not willed.

Hence, the voter should consider, in the case of candidates, their positions on a range of issues, but most especially those most fundamental to the common good (more on that in a minute).  In addition, it is naive to approach an election supposing that an ideal candidate will present himself for selection.  Not among fallen men, and not in a society so very confused on so many fundamental positions do we find "ideal" candidates.  All will at least advocate the toleration of some grave moral evils.  The circumstances of the vote must, as with any moral decision, be weighed, and the practical result of one's vote must be considered.  What is the greatest good that can be, practically speaking, brought about?

Among the great variety of issues facing the politician, there are some that are matters of prudential judgment, but others are simply non-negotiable matters that, as such gross violations of the natural moral law, must be opposed by the faithful Catholic.  Catholics, who wish to be worthy of that name, should take care to shun those candidates that would promote or support abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage, and violations of conscience and the freedom of the Church, in particular.

Recent popes have been quite clear on these particular issues:
In Evangelium Vitae, John Paul II reminds us:
"73. Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection. From the very beginnings of the Church, the apostolic preaching reminded Christians of their duty to obey legitimately constituted public authorities (cf. Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-14), but at the same time it firmly warned that "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). In the Old Testament, precisely in regard to threats against life, we find a significant example of resistance to the unjust command of those in authority. After Pharaoh ordered the killing of all newborn males, the Hebrew midwives refused. "They did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live" (Ex 1:17). But the ultimate reason for their action should be noted: "the midwives feared God" (ibid.). It is precisely from obedience to God-to whom alone is due that fear which is acknowledgment of his absolute sovereignty-that the strength and the courage to resist unjust human laws are born. It is the strength and the courage of those prepared even to be imprisoned or put to the sword, in the certainty that this is what makes for "the endurance and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10).
In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it.""
[cf., Pope St. John Paul II: EVANGELIUM VITAE]

Pope Benedict XVI, in a letter noting the great importance of protecting the traditional family, reinforces some of the fundamental principles that have to be remembered by the voter:
"In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons...Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike."
[cf., Pope Benedict XVI: ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI, 9 March 2012]

Do recall this statement from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's Consideration, approved by John Paul II in 2003:
"When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."


Finally, with the federal government, and some state governments seeking to coerce individuals in directly paying for intrinsically evil procedures or programs, we should recall the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the American bishops on that subject:
"In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience."


I can understand some voting for someone that might be better on particular issues, but who has practically no chance of success; I can also understand others voting for a more deeply flawed candidate who has some legitimate promise and can prevent someone profoundly wrong on key issues from taking office.  What is the greater good?  I tend toward the latter position.  Voting is a practical exercise.  At times we must tolerate lesser evils to prevent great ones; all the time willing the good.

Live, and vote, well!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Pope Leo XIII on Politics

Pope Leo XIII (+1903)

Pope Leo XIII (reigned 1878-1903) is certainly one of the most eloquent pontiffs of the modern age, and can be counted on for a clear and concise exposition of the Faith.

Considering the upcoming election, now is a splendid time to note a couple selections of Leo's writtings on subjects of a political and economic nature.  The selections that follow are from encyclical letters on the subjects of true Liberty, on the Origin of Civil Power, on the Christian Constitution of States, and on Capital and Labor.

Thus, Pope Leo XIII:

Libertas Praestantissimum (On Liberty), 1888

9. What has been said of the liberty of individuals is no less applicable to them when considered as bound together in civil society. For, what reason and the natural law do for individuals. that human law promulgated for their good, does for the citizens of States. Of the laws enacted by men, some are concerned with what is good or bad by its very nature; and they command men to follow after what is right and to shun what is wrong, adding at the same time a suitable sanction. But such laws by no means derive their origin from civil society, because, just as civil society did not create human nature, so neither can it be said to be the author of the good which befits human nature, or of the evil which is contrary to it. Laws come before men live together in society, and have their origin in the natural, and consequently in the eternal, law. The precepts, therefore, of the natural law, contained bodily in the laws of men, have not merely the force of human law, but they possess that higher and more august sanction which belongs to the law of nature and the eternal law. And within the sphere of this kind of laws the duty of the civil legislator is, mainly, to keep the community in obedience by the adoption of a common discipline and by putting restraint upon refractory and viciously inclined men, so that, deterred from evil, they may turn to what is good, or at any rate may avoid causing trouble and disturbance to the State. Now, there are other enactments of the civil authority, which do not follow directly, but somewhat remotely, from the natural law, and decide many points which the law of nature treats only in a general and indefinite way. For instance, though nature commands all to contribute to the public peace and prosperity, whatever belongs to the manner, and circumstances, and conditions under which such service is to be rendered must be determined by the wisdom of men and not by nature herself. It is in the constitution of these particular rules of life, suggested by reason and prudence, and put forth by competent authority, that human law, properly so called, consists, binding all citizens to work together for the attainment of the common end proposed to the community, and forbidding them to depart from this end, and, in so far as human law is in conformity with the dictates of nature, leading to what is good, and deterring from evil.

10. From this it is manifest that the eternal law of God is the sole standard and rule of human liberty, not only in each individual man, but also in the community and civil society which men constitute when united. Therefore, the true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, for this would simply end in turmoil and confusion, and bring on the overthrow of the State; but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law. Likewise, the liberty of those who are in authority does not consist in the power to lay unreasonable and capricious commands upon their subjects, which would equally be criminal and would lead to the ruin of the commonwealth; but the binding force of human laws is in this, that they are to be regarded as applications of the eternal law, and incapable of sanctioning anything which is not contained in the eternal law, as in the principle of all law. Thus, St. Augustine most wisely says: "I think that you can see, at the same time, that there is nothing just and lawful in that temporal law, unless what men have gathered from this eternal law." If, then, by anyone in authority, something be sanctioned out of conformity with the principles of right reason, and consequently hurtful to the commonwealth, such an enactment can have no binding force of law, as being no rule of justice, but certain to lead men away from that good which is the very end of civil society.

30. Another liberty is widely advocated, namely, liberty of conscience. If by this is meant that everyone may, as he chooses, worship God or not, it is sufficiently refuted by the arguments already adduced. But it may also be taken to mean that every man in the State may follow the will of God and, from a consciousness of duty and free from every obstacle, obey His commands. This, indeed, is true liberty, a liberty worthy of the sons of God, which nobly maintains the dignity of man and is stronger than all violence or wrong -- a liberty which the Church has always desired and held most dear. This is the kind of liberty the Apostles claimed for themselves with intrepid constancy, which the apologists of Christianity confirmed by their writings, and which the martyrs in vast numbers consecrated by their blood. And deservedly so; for this Christian liberty bears witness to the absolute and most just dominion of God over man, and to the chief and supreme duty of man toward God. It has nothing in common with a seditious and rebellious mind; and in no tittle derogates from obedience to public authority; for the right to command and to require obedience exists only so far as it is in accordance with the authority of God, and is within the measure that He has laid down. But when anything is commanded which is plainly at variance with the will of God, there is a wide departure from this divinely constituted order, and at the same time a direct conflict with divine authority; therefore, it is right not to obey.

31. By the patrons of liberalism, however, who make the State absolute and omnipotent, and proclaim that man should live altogether independently of God, the liberty of which We speak, which goes hand in hand with virtue and religion, is not admitted; and whatever is done for its preservation is accounted an injury and an offense against the State. Indeed, if what they say were really true, there would be no tyranny, no matter how monstrous, which we should not be bound to endure and submit to.                                                      Full text at:

Diuturnum (On the Origin of Civil Power), 1881

19. This great modesty, this fixed determination to obey, was so well known that it could not be obscured by the calumny and malice of enemies. On this account, those who were going to plead in public before the emperors for any persons bearing the Christian name proved by this argument especially that it was unjust to enact laws against the Christians because they were in the sight of all men exemplary in their bearing according to the laws. Athenagoras thus confidently addresses Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, his son: "You allow us, who commit no evil, yea, who demean ourselves the most piously and justly of all toward God and likewise toward your government, to be driven about, plundered and exiled." In like manner, Tertullian openly praises the Christians because they were the best and surest friends of all to the Empire: "The Christian is the enemy of no one, much less of the emperor, whom he knows to be appointed by God, and whom he must, therefore, of necessity love, reverence and honor, and wish to be preserved together with the whole Roman Empire." Nor did he hesitate to affirm that, within the limits of the Empire, the number of enemies was wont to diminish just in proportion as the number of Christians increased. There is also a remarkable testimony to the same point in the Epistle to Diognetus, which confirms the statement that the Christians at that period were not only in the habit of obeying the laws, but in every office they of their own accord did more, and more perfectly, than they were required to do by the laws. "Christians observe these things which have obtained the sanction of the law, and in the character of their lives they even go beyond the law."

20. The case, indeed, was different when they were ordered by the edicts of emperors and the threats of praetors to abandon the Christian faith or in any way fail in their duty. At these times, undoubtedly, they preferred to displease men rather than God. Yet, even under these circumstances, they were so far from doing anything seditious or despising the imperial majesty that they took it on themselves only to profess themselves Christians, and declare that they would not in any way alter their faith. But they had no thought of resistance, calmly and joyfully they went to the torture of the rack, in so much that the magnitude of the torments gave place to their magnitude of mind. During the same period the force of Christian principles was observed in like manner in the army. For it was a mark of a Christian soldier to combine the greatest fortitude with the greatest attention to military discipline, and to add to nobility of mind immovable fidelity towards his prince. But, if anything dishonorable was required of him, as, for instance, to break the laws of God, or to turn his sword against innocent disciples of Christ, then, indeed, he refused to execute the orders, yet in such wise that he would rather retire from the army and die for his religion than oppose the public authority by means of sedition and tumult.                                   Full text:




3. …Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life -- be it family, or civil -- with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But, as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world…

4. The right to rule is not necessarily, however, bound up with any special mode of government. It may take this or that form, provided only that it be of a nature of the government, rulers must ever bear in mind that God is the paramount ruler of the world, and must set Him before themselves as their exemplar and law in the administration of the State…

5. They, therefore, who rule should rule with evenhanded justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father's kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all. But, if those who are in authority rule unjustly, if they govern overbearingly or arrogantly, and if their measures prove hurtful to the people, they must remember that the Almighty will one day bring them to account, the more strictly in proportion to the sacredness of their office and preeminence of their dignity. "The mighty shall be mightily tormented." Then, truly, will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike that which children show their parents. "Let every soul be subject to higher powers." To despise legitimate authority, in whomsoever vested, is unlawful, as a rebellion against the divine will, and whoever resists that, rushes willfully to destruction. "He that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation."  To cast aside obedience, and by popular violence to incite to revolt, is therefore treason, not against man only, but against God.

6. As a consequence, the State, constituted as it is, is clearly bound to act up to the manifold and weighty duties linking it to God, by the public profession of religion. Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law. For, men living together in society are under the power of God no less than individuals are, and society, no less than individuals, owes gratitude to God who gave it being and maintains it and whose ever bounteous goodness enriches it with countless blessings. Since, then, no one is allowed to be remiss in the service due to God, and since the chief duty of all men is to cling to religion in both its teaching and practice-not such religion as they may have a preference for, but the religion which God enjoins, and which certain and most clear marks show to be the only one true religion -- it is a public crime to act as though there were no God. So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as a something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favor religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety. This is the bounden duty of rulers to the people over whom they rule. For one and all are we destined by our birth and adoption to enjoy, when this frail and fleeting life is ended, a supreme and final good in heaven, and to the attainment of this every endeavor should be directed. Since, then, upon this depends the full and perfect happiness of mankind, the securing of this end should be of all imaginable interests the most urgent. Hence, civil society, established for the common welfare, should not only safeguard the wellbeing of the community, but have also at heart the interests of its individual members, in such mode as not in any way to hinder, but in every manner to render as easy as may be, the possession of that highest and unchangeable good for which all should seek. Wherefore, for this purpose, care must especially be taken to preserve unharmed and unimpeded the religion whereof the practice is the link connecting man with God.

25. The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover. it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion…

31. The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calculated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring public safety and preserving order. Indeed, from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that may hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God.

32. So, too, the liberty of thinking, and of publishing, whatsoever each one likes, without any hindrance, is not in itself an advantage over which society can wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountain-head and origin of many evils. Liberty is a power perfecting man, and hence should have truth and goodness for its object…

36. This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share greater or less, in the government: for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obligation. Nor is there any reason why any one should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty. The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, "Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will."




4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.

41. From this follows the obligation of the cessation from work and labor on Sundays and certain holy days. The rest from labor is not to be understood as mere giving way to idleness; much less must it be an occasion for spending money and for vicious indulgence, as many would have it to be; but it should be rest from labor, hallowed by religion. Rest (combined with religious observances) disposes man to forget for a while the business of his everyday life, to turn his thoughts to things heavenly, and to the worship which he so strictly owes to the eternal Godhead. It is this, above all, which is the reason and motive of Sunday rest; a rest sanctioned by God's great law of the Ancient Covenant -- "Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day,'' and taught to the world by His own mysterious "rest" after the creation of man: "He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

45. Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice. In these and similar questions, however -- such as, for example, the hours of labor in different trades, the sanitary precautions to be observed in factories and workshops, etc. -- in order to supersede undue interference on the part of the State, especially as circumstances, times, and localities differ so widely, it is advisable that recourse be had to societies or boards such as We shall mention presently, or to some other mode of safeguarding the interests of the wage-earners; the State being appealed to, should circumstances require, for its sanction and protection.

46. If a workman's wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.


Live, and vote, well!

Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Pio, St. Linus, & Ember Friday

Today, 23 September, we observe three occasions: the new Memorial of St. Pio, the traditional feast of Pope St. Linus, and the Ember Friday of September.

St. Pio saying Holy Mass.

Today is the relatively new feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina!

St. Pio was an Italian Capuchin that died in 1968AD at San Giovanni Rotondo in the region of Puglia, Italy.  He is rather and rightly famous for his extraordinary holiness, his devotion to Holy Mass and the Confessional, his miracles, and, of course, his stigmata.  He was the first priest to miraculously bear on his body the wounds of the Passion of Christ, this starting in 1918.

Here is the Vatican News Service biography of St. Pio: VNS Biography of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

For more:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Padre Pio

Here is the Italian page dedicated to him: Saint Pio Official Site


We should certainly also note the great pontiff whose feast this is.  Here is a link to information about Pope St. Linus, the first successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome, whose feast traditionally falls on this day: Catholics Saints Info: Pope St. Linus


Today is also the Ember Friday of September.  What is that you ask?

The Ember Days were traditionally a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, occurring in Lent, the Octave of Pentecost, this week in September, and in Advent,  These "Quatuor Tempora" had as their purpose, "besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." (Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ember Days).

For more on the Ember Days, you might note: Fisheaters: Ember Days

These days, then, four in number, like the seasons, were a time of gratitude, penance, and prayer.  Indeed, in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it provides that: "In the drawing up of the Calendar of a nation, the Rogation Days and Ember Days should be indicated (cf. no. 373), as well as the forms and texts for their celebration, and other special measures should also be kept in mind." (USCCB GIRM: Chapter IX)

Why the practice and celebration of Ember Days has largely disappeared, and is now restricted to traditional communities is tragic, and seemingly contrary to the instructions of Holy Mother Church.

Perhaps if it is not a custom you have, this is the year it will be revived in your family or parish?

Live well!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ember Days of Lent

The Ember Days were traditionally a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, occurring this week in Lent, the Octave of Pentecost, a week in September, and in Advent,  These "Quatuor Tempora" had as their purpose, "besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." (Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ember Days).

For more on the Ember Days, you might note: Fisheaters: Ember Days

These days, then, four in number, like the seasons, were a time of gratitude, penance, and prayer.  Indeed, in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it provides that: "In the drawing up of the Calendar of a nation, the Rogation Days and Ember Days should be indicated (cf. no. 373), as well as the forms and texts for their celebration, and other special measures should also be kept in mind." (USCCB GIRM: Chapter IX)

Why the practice and celebration of Ember Days has largely disappeared, and is now restricted to traditional communities, is tragic, and seemingly contrary to the instructions of Holy Mother Church.

Perhaps if it is not a custom you have, this is the year it will be revived in your family or parish?

Live well!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

GA State Holiday: Lee's Birthday

File:Robert E Lee in 1863.png
Lee in 1863, while Commanding the Army of Northern Virginia

One of the greatest military leaders in the history of the United States is General Robert E. Lee (+1870AD) of Virginia.  Today, 19 January, in 1807, Lee was born at Stratford Hall, in Westmoreland County, Virginia.  Last Friday, 15 January, was celebrated in that Commonwealth of Virginia as the state holiday of "Lee-Jackson Day," honoring both Lee and General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

Today, 19 January, in the State of Georgia, is a state holiday; a state holiday that, for the first time this year is listed without specific reference to Robert E. Lee.  The governor's proclamation of state holidays for 2016 can be found here:
Georgia State Holidays: 2016

For the sake of comparison, here is the same document from 2015, which reflects how the day has been noted each year prior:
Georgia State Holidays: 2015

Oddly, even if today is listed as a state holiday in Georgia, the actual day off and government observance will come the day after Thanksgiving, in November.

Who, then, was Confederate General Robert E. Lee?

His father a leader in the American Revolution, "Light Horse" Harry Lee, and his mother a member of the distinguished Carter family of Virginia, Lee certainly had notable bloodlines.

More than this, however, was his own talent and character.  Lee's remarkable military career is well known, with his great victories in command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, such as that at Second Manassas and Chancellorsville, renowned.  He was loved by his men, feared and respected by his foes, gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

This speaks to his character.  Lee was a devout Episcopalian, who took his faith, and, in particular, his duties, very seriously.  Indeed, just as duty might be said to partly define what a gentleman is, so it defined Robert E. Lee.  There are any number of stories that attest to his great sense of duty and honor.

It was this sense of duty that caused him to remain loyal to his home state of Virginia with the coming of the war, despite the fact that he was no zealot for secession.  When offered command of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia, his speech to the Convention at Richmond on 23 April 1861 was brief, but very much in character:
"Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention: Deeply impressed with the solemnity of the occasion on which I appear before you, and profoundly grateful for the honour conferred upon me, I accept the position your partiality has assigned me, though I would greatly have preferred your choice should have fallen on one more capable.  Trusting to Almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellow citizens, I will devote myself to the defense and service of my native State, in whose behalf alone would I have ever drawn my sword."

After the war, he would serve as President of Washington College, now Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where he is buried.

Here is a short biography of Lee:
Civil War Home: Lee

Lee in 1869, while President of Washington College (now Washington & Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia.

On this anniversary of his birth, you might be interested in "virtually" visiting a few of the sites associated with General Lee.

He was born at Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia:
Stratford Hall Official Site

He lived for many years with his wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, (great-granddaughter of Martha Custis Washington by the first lady's first husband) at the Arlington House, in the county now named for it.  This home is on a magnificent bluff overlooking Washington, DC, and was, of course, seized by the federal government to be used as a cemetery, now Arlington National Cemetery.  The Lee family was later reimbursed for what was determined to be wrongful seizure.  The house itself is now designated as the Robert E. Lee Memorial:
Arlington House: Robert E. Lee Memorial

In Georgia, Fort Pulaski in Chatham County near Savannah, was actually partially designed by a young army engineer, Robert E. Lee:
Robert E. Lee at Fort Pulaski

Finally, Robert E. Lee is buried in the chapel of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia:
Lee Chapel

May each of us have the character to act with honor and devotion, even in the face of crisis and hardship.

Deo vindice!

Live well!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Pilgrimage to Roma & Assisi, 2015AD

Pilgrimage to Italia, 2015AD

This blogger recently went on pilgrimage to the Eternal City of Roma, Lazio, and Assisi, Umbria, Italia, along with Vatican City.  This post forms a sort of travel log of the visit -- with photos only taken on the trip and the date recorded.  It is ever a wonderful opportunity to travel ad limina apostolorum on pilgrimage; certainly part of living well!  

Formatting key (at least as much as this blog supports any manner of consistent formatting!)
  • Sites in BOLD are those visited or viewed by the whole group
  • Those in regular print were only visited by this blogger in smaller, optional groups.
  • Italics indicate that a site was visited
  • Non-Italics were only viewed from the exterior!
Monday, 23 November

·        Casa per ferie Santa Maria alle Fornaci:  This was the Trinitarian-run hotel where we stayed for the duration of our visit.

·        Santa Maria alle Fornaci: This was the Trinitarian church next to the Casa where we stayed.  It was never part of any tour, but it was our neighboring church!

·         Piazza San Pietro:  [St. Peter’s Square] The famous piazza in front of the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano [St. Peter’s at the Vatican] is notable for the views of the colonnade by Gianlorenzo Bernini, the façade by Carlo Maderno, and the dome designed by Michelangelo.

·         Borgo Pio:  This is one of the more concentrated areas of religious goods shops, located between the Leonine Wall and the Via della Conciliazione.

·        Santa Maria in Traspontina:  This is the Carmelite church on the Via della Conciliazione between St. Peter’s and the Tiber River.

·        Castel Sant’Angelo:  This was originally the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, later converted into the fortress-palace that it is today.

·        Ponte Sant’Angelo: [Bridge of the Angels] This historic bridge crosses the Tiber next to the imposing Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant’Angelo) and affords great views of St. Peter’s.  Of course, the sculptures of the angels with the instruments of the Passion by Bernini and his school are memorable.

·        San Giovanni dei Fiorentini: This is the Florentine church in the city of Rome.  San Giovanni is right across the Tiber from St. Peter’s.  It is also noteworthy for the statues on the façade, for the statue of St. John the Baptist over the altar, for the dome by Carlo Maderno, who is buried here along with Francesco Borromini, and the relic of the foot of St. Mary Magdalene.

·         Porto Santo Spirito: This gate in the Leonine Walls of the Vatican side of the Tiber, which date to the 9th century, was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger in the 16th century.

·        Santo Spirito in Sassia: Once the home of the Saxons in Rome, it is now the focus of the Divine Mercy devotion in the city.  The current church bears the architectural mark of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.

Tuesday, 24 November

  • Chiesa Nuova:  [New Church]:  This, officially called Santa Maria in Vallicella, is the burial place of St. Philip Neri.  It is a sumptuously decorated baroque church on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. 

  • Santa Maria della Pace: We viewed this Church’s semi-circular portico, by Pietro da Cortona, from the outside.

  • Santa Maria dell’Anima:  This is the German national church in Rome, and the burial place of Pope Adrian VI, the last non-Italian pope prior to St. John Paul II.

·        Piazza Navona:  This oval piazza was once the Circus of Domitian, and today is the site of three fountains, the largest being Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers at the center of the Piazza.

·        Sant’Agnese in Agone:   This Church on Piazza Navona was designed by Francesco Borromini, and sits on the site of the martyrdom of St. Agnes.  Her skull is kept here in a side chapel.

·        San Agostino:  This church of St. Augustine has several notable sites and pieces of art: the tomb of St. Monica and a painting of Our Lady by Caravaggio.  It has a ceiling similar to that of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, i.e., painted blue with stars.  Here is a video, taken from our visit, of the apse and then to the left, the chapel where St. Monica is buried:

·        San Luigi dei Francesi:  This baroque church is the French national church in Rome.  The Caravaggio paintings of St. Matthew are its most famous feature.

  • Santa Maria sopra Minerva:   This Dominican Gothic church, with its memorable blue, starry ceiling, is the burial place of, amongst others, St. Catherine of Siena, Beato Fra Angelico, Pope Clement VII, and Pope Leo X.  The statue of Our Lord by Michelangelo and the Bernini elephant obelisk in the piazza out front are notable.  So, too, is the Carafa Chapel, in which Pope Paul IV is buried, and which features magnificent work by Filippino Lippi.

  • Sant’Ignazio:   This Jesuit baroque church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the burial place of Saints Robert Bellarmine (author of Ars bene moriendi, tomb pictured above), Aloysius Gonzaga, and John Berchmans.  The ceilings that “open to the skies,” and the false (painted) dome make this church memorable.  The piazza out front is a wonderful example of 18th century urban space architecture.

  • Piazza della Rotonda:  This is the city square in front of the Pantheon, marked with the obligatory fountain and obelisk of a great square.

·        La Maddalena:  This Roccoco Church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene is the burial place of St. Camillus de Lellis, and a wonderful example of 18th century baroque.

·        Pantheon: [Church of Our Lady of the Martyrs]: This unusual church was once a pagan temple dedicated to “all the gods” constructed in the waning years of the Roman Republic, and completed during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian.  It is notable for its massive concrete dome, the tomb of Raphael, and the tombs of the liberal 19th and 20th century Italian kings, including King Victor Emmanuel II.

  • Area Sacra dell’Argentina:  This archeological site features Republican era temples, and the site of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44BC.
·        Campo de Fiori:  This piazza is a famous street market in Rome, known for its flowers, and for its statue of the unfortunate fellow executed in the place, the heretic Giordano Bruno.

  • Piazza Farnese: This piazza is dominated by the impressive Palazzo Farnese, constructed for Cardinal Farnese, later Pope Paul III, who opened the Council of Trent, by Antonio Sangallo the Younger and Michelangelo, is now the French Embassy in Rome.

  • Via Giulia:  This uncharacteristically straight road was laid out by Bramante for Pope Julius II, and makes for a splendid 16th century architectural walk.  Along the way, we admired the façade of the church, Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte (pictured above).

  • Santa Maria in Monserrato:  This is the Spanish national church in Rome.  It is a charming church, whose side chapels were decorated with nativity scenes from various Hispanic nations for Advent.

  • San Salvatore in Lauro: This Church off of the historic Via della Coronari sat near the Ponte Sant’Angelo where a grove of Laurels once grew.  This is the burial place of Pope Eugene IV and the site of modern devotion to Saint Pio and St. John Paul II.

Wednesday, 25 November, Assisi

  • Porta Nuova: This gate is the easternmost in the upper city, and was our entry way into Assisi.

  • Santa Chiara: This pink and white church is the location of the tomb of St. Clare.  It also houses the San Damiano cross of St. Francis of Assisi.

  • San Rufino:   This is the cathedral church of Assisi, and the place where St. Francis, St. Clare, and Emperor Frederick II were all baptized.  It has a splendid Umbrian Romanesque façade.

  • Piazza del Comune:  This is the main, central square, of Assisi, location of the medieval bell tower, city hall, a fountain, and the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

  • Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Assisi:   This church, formerly a pagan temple to Minerva, is marked by its columns and bell tower our front.  Inside, it has baroque furnishings, and a striking painting of the death of St. Joseph.

·        Chiesa Nuova in Assisi: This was the baroque church commissioned by King Philip III that marked the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi.  Here, too, is the cell in which St. Francis was detained by his family.

  • Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi:  This Romanesque church was the cathedral of Assisi until 1020, and remains the site of the bishop’s residence.

  • San Francesco:  This 13th century Italian Gothic basilica is the location of the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi.  It is notable for its rather extensive frescoes of the lives of St. Francis, St. Martin and many others.  It sits at the west end of Assisi.

·        Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi:  This is the church inside the church: the basilica that houses the Porziuncola, the little chapel restored by St. Francis.  It was here in the valley below the town of Assisi, and inside the grounds of this basilica, that St. Francis died.

Thursday, 26 November
·        Vatican Scavi: the excavations under St. Peters, which include the pre-Constantinian necropolis and the actual tomb and bones of St Peters.

Above: Altar of St. Joseph at San Pietro in Vaticano

·        San Pietro in Vaticano:  We heard a public Mass at the altar of St. Joseph, burial place of Sts. Simon and Jude.  After Mass, everyone had an opportunity to look about the Basilica: the tombs of St. Gregory and St. Leo the Great, along with St. Pius X and St. John Paul II were highlights.  Certainly, too, all noted the baldachin and altar of the chair by Bernini, and the statue of St. Peter by Arnolfo da Cambio.  On other days, we heard Mass at the altar of Sts. Processus and Martinian said by our chaplain.

  • Santa Maria degli Angeli:  This massive Renaissance Church was designed by Michelangelo, who built it into the baths of Diocletian.  The exterior, clearly part of the old Roman ruins, little prepares one of the scope of the basilica inside.

·         Santa Maria della Vittoria:   This little baroque gem is a splendid example of that architectural style.  Here is housed the famous Bernini statue of St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy.  This is also the location of the tomb of St. Victoria.

·         Santa Susanna:   This, the American church in Rome, boasts a façade by Carlo Maderno.  That was as much of the church as we were able to admire on our visit.

·         San Bernardo alle Terme:   This austere Cistercian church in Rome was once the titular church of St. Pius X when he was a cardinal.  Only the dean and his wife visited this church, while the rest of the group noted it from the exterior.

  • Santa Maria Maggiore: [St. Mary Major]: This Patriarchal Basilica stands on the Esquiline hill, where, on 5 August, it once snowed to indicate the place the church was to be built.  This is another church packed with notable items: the tombs of St. Pius V, Popes Paul V, Sixtus V, Clement VIII, St. Matthias, St. Jerome, Gianlorenzo Bernini, the crib of the Nativity, and the miraculous image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.  For those interested, the Torriti apse mosaic, the Cosmatesque floor, and the gold ceiling decorated with the first gold brought back from the New World, are worth noting, as well.

·        Santa Prassede: Aside from its splendid 9th century mosaic, this church is known for housing the pillar of flagellation.

·        San Alfonso:  This more modern Redemptorist church is the location of the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

·        Arch of Gallienus:  Perhaps a few noted that we walked under this arch, formerly the site of the Esquiline Gate in the Servian Wall.

Friday, 27 November
  • Piazza del Campidoglio:  We walked through this magnificent square on the top of the Capitoline Hill, next to the city hall of Rome.

  • Roman Forum:  We walked past this massive archaeological site, the heart of Classical Rome.  We particularly noted the triumphal arches – of Septimus Severus, Titus, and, closest to the Colosseum, of Constantine.

  • Colosseum:   This, the Flavian Amphitheatre, is one of the iconic symbols of Rome.  It was constructed by the Flavian Emperors from 72-80AD.

  • Santa Francesca Romana:  This church, tucked next to the forum not far from the Colosseum, is the burial place of St. Frances of Rome, whose skeletal remains are visible to visitors.  It is marked by baroque interior decorations along with Romanesque elements, like its bell tower.

  • Santa Maria dei Monti:  This 16th century church is the burial place of St. Benoit-Joseph Labre.

  • Ss. Sergius e Bacchus:  This little church is currently run by Ukrainian Catholics.

·        San Pietro in Vincoli:  This church is the home of both the relics of the chains that bound St. Peter – displayed at the high altar – along with the statue of Moses by Michelangelo, in what was part of his funeral monument for Pope Julius II.

·        San Clemente:  This was the twelfth-century basilica that was run by Irish Dominicans.  It had a wonderful mosaic of the cross being the source of life for a vine, along with a courtyard out front, and two layers of excavations (both a 4th century church and 1st century temple of Mithras).

·        Scala Santa:  [The Holy Stairs]: These stairs were those brought back from Jerusalem by St. Helen. They originally lead to the Praetorium there, where Our Lord would have been questioned by Pontius Pilate.  Upstairs is the “Holy of Holies” where an image reputed to have been painted by St. Luke is kept.  On the side of the building is a mosaic that would have once been in the Lateran Palace, and date to the pontificate of Pope St. Leo III around 800AD.

·        Santa Croce in Gerusalemme:  This church is on the location of what was once the palace of St. Helen.  Here is housed the relics of the Passion: part of the inscription, a nail, a couple of thorns, parts of the True Cross, the cross beam of the good thief’s cross, and the finger of St. Thomas.

·        San Giovanni in Laterano: [St. John Lateran]: The pope’s cathedral, this basilica is packed with numerous items of note.  The Borromini interior and the Galilei façade can hardly compare to the spiritual riches: the relics of the heads of Peter and Paul, the table of the Last Supper, the papal altar of St. Peter, the tombs of Popes Leo XIII, Innocent III, and Martin V.  The obelisk next to the basilica, decorated in hieroglyphics, happens to be the oldest in Rome, brought to the city in 357AD by Constantine II, but originally from the Temple of Amun at Thebes, Egypt, constructed in the 14th century BC.  We heard a public Mass here in a side chapel.

Saturday, 28 November
Not a church: a car along the Tiber River abandoned to the guano of the starling

·        Tiber Island:   Walking across the island in the Tiber River, we saw a few sites of note, including San Bartolomeo all’Isola. This Church on Tiber Island is the location of the relics of St. Bartholomew the Apostle.  Sadly, it was closed to visitors when we came by.  Ponte Cestio and Ponte Fabricio: The two bridges to Tiber Island are two of the oldest across the river in Rome.  Ponte Cestio crosses from the island to Trastevere and was restored in 370AD, while Ponte Fabricio from the island to downtown Rome and the Ghetto was built in 62BC.

·        Ghetto:  This neighborhood, dominated by the Synagogue of Rome, with its squarish dome, was the center of the Jewish population of the city, and the required residence of Jews during much of the Papal rule of the city.

·        Santa Maria in Campitelli:  This church, designed by Carlo Rainaldi in the 17th century, was built to house the image of the Madonna del Portico.  Today, it is also the home of the tomb of St. John Leonardi.

·        Chiesa del Gesu:  Often referred to simply as “The Gesu.” This is the Jesuit headquarters church in Rome.  It is a splendid baroque church – the prototype of this style, in fact.  Here is buried St. Ignatius of Loyola, and is housed the arm of St. Francis Xavier.  Our group heard a public Mass here in a side chapel.

  • Theatre of Marcellus:  This Imperial Theatre turned medieval fortress was originally constructed by the Emperor Augustus.

  • San Nicola in Carcere:  This medieval church sits on the site of Republican-era Temples, turned later into the location of a prison.

·        Arch of Janus:  This Constantinian-era arch is distinctive for its four piers.

·        San Giorgio in Velabro:   This ancient Romanesque Church houses the relics of St. George, and was once the titular church of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman.

·        Santa Anastasia:  We viewed the façade of this church, formerly where the Holy Father would worship on Christmas morning.

·        Circus Maximus:  This was the largest of the many circuses or race tracks, of Rome.  This sits between the Palatine and Aventine Hills.  We had the good fortune of reviving the races here.

  • Santa Maria in Cosmedin:   This Romanesque church is now maintained by Eastern-Rite Catholics.  It houses the skull of St. Valentine, out front, is popular with tourists for the Boca della Verita: the Mouth of Truth.

  • Forum Boarium:  This collection of Republican-era temples sits next to the Tiber River.  We walked past and admired it!

  • Santa Cecilia in Trastevere: This Romanesque church sits atop the ancient home of St. Cecilia, and it is here that she is now buried.  Famous, indeed, is the Maderno statue here that portrays St. Cecilia as she was found in the catacombs.

  • San Crisogono:  This Trinitarian church in the Trastevere neighborhood was the burial site of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi.  The anticipated start of a funeral chased us out rather quickly.

  • Santa Maria in Trastevere:  This Romanesque church was the site of a splendid apse mosaic, the well of oil, and one of the more magnificent stops in the tour of the Trastevere neighborhood.

·        Ponte Sisto:  We crossed the Tiber River on this 15th century bridge, commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, the same pontiff that had the Sistine Chapel built.

·        Santa Maria in Aracoeli:  This church, wedged next to the Victor Emmanual Monument on the Capitoline Hill, is a beautiful Romanesque structure, and the site of both the tomb of St. Helen and the state of Bambino Jesu.

Sunday, 29 November

  • Gesu e Maria:  On Sunday morning we heard Mass at the parish of Gesu e Maria on the Via del Corso, said by Cardinal de Paolis.  This is an Augustinian church, designed by Carlo Rainaldi, where the Institute of Christ the King offers their Sunday Mass in Rome.

  • Piazza & Porta del Popolo:   This is the north gate of Rome, and adjoining square, striking for its open space and the double domed churches, sits at the north gate of the city of Rome, and was once the site of public executions and the entry way of most pilgrims coming into Rome.  The obelisk in the square was originally brought to Rome by the Emperor Augustus to sit in the Circus Maximus.  The church of Santa Maria del Popolo was, sadly, not open for tours when we passed by.
·        S. Maria in Montesanto:  Looking south from Piazza del Popolo, this is the left of the twin churches.  This was designed by Carlo Rainaldi and completed by Carlo Fontana.

·        S. Maria dei Miracoli:  Looking south from Piazza del Popolo, this is the right of the twin churches.

·        S. Atanasio:  This 16th century Eastern-Rite church sits on Via del Babuino, in a rather smart shopping district.  It is in the care of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

  • San Francesco a Ripa:  This 17th century Franciscan church in Trastevere is the site where St. Francis of Assisi once stayed while visiting Rome.  It houses the Bernini statue, Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in Ecstasy.  It is also the burial place of St. Charles of Sezze.

  • Santa Sabina:  This Dominican church on the Aventine Hill is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture, and is where the Holy Father traditionally says Mass on Ash Wednesday.

  • Ss. Bonifacio e Alessio:  This church on the Aventine Hill marks the site of the home of St. Alexius, the beggar saint who died after living under the stair well of his our family’s home.  This church on the Aventine Hill marks the site of the home of St. Alexius, the beggar saint who died after living under the stair well of his own family’s home.  There is a memorable side chapel featuring the stairs of St. Alexius.  This church is a dramatic mix of architectural styles and eras.

·        San Gregorio Magno:  This church sits on the site of the monastery-home of Pope St. Gregory the Great.  It was from here that St. Augustine of Canterbury was dispatched to preach the Gospel in Anglo-Saxon England.  The church today has many 17th century architectural elements and houses the chair of St. Gregory the Great.

Monday, 30 November

·        San Pietro in Vaticano:  Mass at the tomb of Pope St. Pius X with our chaplain.

·        Vatican Museums:  This world-class museum includes the master-Renaissance works of the Raphael rooms and Sistine Chapel.

·        Piazza di Spagna: The Spanish Steps, near the Spanish Embassy, with the church of S. Trinita dei Monti at the top, is simply a classic Roman scene.

·        Column of the Immaculate Conception:  This column, erected in 1857, commemorates the solemn definition of Pope Blessed Pius IX, and is marked with Old Testament prophecies related to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

·        Via Condotti:  We walked down this street, lined with overpriced, designer shops.

·        Via del Corso:  We visited this road on Sunday, as well – it is the straight road from the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill in the south to the Porta and Piazza del Popolo at the north gate of the city. It is lined with stylish shops.

·        Santi Ambrogio e Carlo: This large baroque church dedicated to Saints Ambrose and Charles Borromeo is the church of the Lombards (around Milan) in Rome.  It is here that the heart of St. Charles Borrromeo is kept.

·        San Silvestro in Capite: This, the English church in Rome, houses the head of St. John the Baptist in a side chapel.

·        San Claudio: This little church, which features perpetual adoration, houses the tomb of St. Peter Julian Eymard.

·        Santa Maria in Via: This modest church dedicated to Our Lady features a miraculous well and image at the back of the church.  Pilgrims are able to drink from the well!

·        Trevi Fountain: Commissioned by Pope Clement XII, this 18th century fountain is another classic Roman landmark.

·        Santi Vincenzio e Anastasio: This baroque church overlooks the Trevi Fountain, and is the site of the hearts of the popes from Pope Sixtus V to Leo XIII.

  • Santi XII Apostoli: This church, located at the site of the 5th century church, was decorated in the early 18th century by Carlo Fontana.  It houses the tombs of the Apostles, Sts. Philip and James the Lesser, along with Pope Clement XIV.
·        Piazza Venezia:  This grand square sits at the base of the Capitoline Hill, and is the location of the Palazzo Venezia, the former Venetian Embassy, and favorite speech site of Benito Mussolini, and the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the “wedding cake.”  Likewise, the Venetian Church in Rome, San Marco, is on this square.

·        Sant’Andrea della Valle: This is a Theatine church on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle.  It is the burial place of Popes Pius II and Pius III; also St. Joseph Mary Tomasi.  It is memorable for its large dome, and the giant paintings of St. Andrew’s martyrdom around the altar.

·        San Lorenzo in Damaso:  This church, originally constructed by the 4th century Pope, St. Damasus I, is now attached to the Palazzo della Cancelleria, the seat of the Apostolic Signatura, and formerly the site of the Papal Chancellery.

Tuesday, 1 December

·        San Paolo fuori le mura: [St. Paul’s outside the walls]: This is the Patriarchal Basilica where Saint Paul the Apostle is buried.  It is memorable for its medallions of all of the popes, and for the splendid courtyard in the front with its statue of Paul.  This church is Romanesque in style, rebuilt in the 19th century imitating the earlier design of the church.

·        Catacombs of San Callisto:  This massive underground Christian cemetery is located on the old Appian Way.  It was in these catacombs that St. Cecilia and a number of Pontiffs were buried.

·        San Sebastiano fuori le mura:  This basilica on the old Appian Way, in addition to acting as the entrance to another set of catacombs, is the burial place of St. Sebastian and home of a bust by Bernini of Jesus Christ.
·        Tomb of Cecilia Matella:  This massive mausoleum on the old Appian Way was converted into a fortress during the medieval era.  Across the street is the ruined Cistercian Gothic church, San Nicola.

On our bus trip to the sites outside the walls that day, we saw, but did not stop at:
·        Pyramid of Caius Cestius: This peculiar monument was built as a memorial to a praetor who died in 12BC, later set into the Aurelian Wall as we see today.
·        Porta di San Sebastiano:  This is the massive gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome that marks where the Via Appia Antica enters the old city.
·        Baths of Caracalla:  These massive ruins are the site of the bath complex constructed during the 3rd century AD for the Emperor Caracalla.
·        Via Appia Antica:  This is the most famous of the old Roman roads.  Along this road are the Catacombs of San Callisto, San Sebastiano, and just south of the Tomb of Cecilia Matella, a stretch still paved with the original basalt boulders.
·        Church of Domine Quo Vadis: This little chapel is built on the site where St. Peter had his vision of Christ during the persecution of Nero.

All photos courtesy of this blogger's father!

Live well!