Monday, August 29, 2016

Feast of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist

Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio.

Today is the feast of the beheading -- or decollation -- of St. John the Baptist.  Back in June we celebrated his birth, and today we mark his unjust execution by order of Herod.

The Scriptures recount his demise in this way:
"Mark 6:17 Herod himself had sent and arrested John and put him in prison, in chains, for love of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married; 18 because John had told Herod, It is wrong for thee to take thy brother’s wife. 19 Herodias was always plotting against him, and would willingly have murdered him, but could not, 20 because Herod was afraid of John, recognizing him for an upright and holy man; so that he kept him carefully, and followed his advice in many things,[3] and was glad to listen to him. 21 And now came a fitting occasion, upon which Herod gave a birthday feast to his lords and officers, and to the chief men of Galilee. 22 Herodias’ own daughter came in and danced, and gave such pleasure to Herod and his guests that the king said to the girl, Ask me for whatever thou wilt, and thou shalt have it; 23 he even bound himself by an oath, I will grant whatever request thou makest, though it were a half of my kingdom. 24 Thereupon she went out and said to her mother, What shall I ask for? And she answered, The head of John the Baptist. 25 With that, she hastened into the king’s presence and made her request; My will is, she said, that thou shouldst give me the head of John the Baptist; give it me now, on a dish. 26 And the king was full of remorse, but out of respect to his oath and to those who sat with him at table, he would not disappoint her. 27 So he sent one of his guard with orders that the head should be brought on a dish. 28 This soldier cut off his head in the prison, and brought it on a dish, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard of it, they came and carried off his body, and laid it in a tomb."

St. John the Baptist is, as it were, the last character of the Old Testament, the final prophet, who, having "made straight the paths of the Lord" stepped aside in humility before his cousin, and Saviour.  From St. John we learn not only austerity and devotion to God, but humility and obedience.  His resolve in teaching the truth is, ultimately, a contributing factor to his execution by Herod.

For more on St. John the Baptist, be sure to check out:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. John the Baptist

Catholic Saints Info: St. John the Baptist

File:St johns head.jpg
Left, San Silvestro in Capite, Roma, Italia.  Right, the Relic.
[Left: "Chiesa di San Silvestro in Capite Roma" by LPLT - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons]

The site of his head -- though not without some dispute -- is the Roman Church of San Silvestro in Capite, which happens also to be the national Church of Great Britain in Rome.  You can view their official website here [N.B., this site was not working as of last check]: San Silvestro in Capite, Roma

Live well!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, Bishop & Doctor

Saint Augustine Portrait.jpg

St. Augustine (+430): The Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 36 years, St. Augustine is probably the most famous of the Latin Doctors.  Certainly his Confessions and City of God stand out of an almost incredible number of writings.  He was received into the Church by St. Ambrose, and had some rather amusing correspondence with St. Jerome!  For the Latin Church, he is most certainly the most influential of the early Doctors, and his contribution is hard to overestimate.

St. Augustine was born at Tagaste, in Africa, in 354AD, son of St. Monica and Patricius.  He is famous for his dissolute youth (including fathering a son), for his interest in philosophy, and his eventual conversion to the Faith, thanks to the guidance of St. Ambrose, the prayers of his mother, and his honest search for truth!

Tomb of St. Augustine at St. Peter in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia, Italy.
["Pavia San Pietro Arca Sant'Agostino" by Welleschik - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

His remains are in the Italian city of Pavia, in the Church of St. Peter in Ciel d'Oro, having been evacuated from Africa during the time of the Vandal, Hunneric.  This link provides more information: Tomb of St. Augustine.  As an aside, that is the same Church in which St. Boethius, author of the Consolation of Philosophy, is buried!  For more: La tomba di sant'Agostino – Pavia

The interior of Sant'Agostino, Roma

St. Augustine's mother, St. Monica, is buried, as it happens, in the Church of Sant'Agostino, in Rome!  This Roman basilica is not far from Piazza Navona, and is certainly worth the visit; a visit that rewards not only with a beautiful church and the tomb of St. Monica, but a striking work of Caravaggio.

For more on the life of St. Augustine, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Augustine

Catholic Saints Info: St. Augustine

Perhaps today is a good day to page through some of his writings, which you can find here: New Advent: The Fathers of the Church

Live well!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Angelic Warfare Confraternity

A spiritual brotherhood certainly worthy of being better known is the Dominican-affiliated Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

The Confraternity is under the patronage of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274AD).  Indeed, it takes its name from the episode in the life of St. Thomas when, in defense of holy purity, he drove off a woman-of-ill repute that his brothers had sent to his room to tempt him away from chastity.  At that point he was gird with a cord by angels and shielded from further attacks against purity.

The Confraternity seeks to encourage holiness and purity in its members under the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  To that end, the members pray for one another, and wear the cord and/or medal of St. Thomas.

The Angelic Warfare Confraternity was approved as a Confraternity of the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) for the whole Church by Pope Benedict XII in 1727AD.

Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical letter, Studiorum Ducem, on St. Thomas Aquinas, 25, writes:
"Inasmuch, therefore, as We see the majority of young men, caught in the quicksands of passion, rapidly jettisoning holy purity and abandoning themselves to sensual pleasures, We instantly exhort you, Venerable Brethren, to propagate everywhere, and particularly among seminarians, the society of the Angelic Militia founded under the patronage of Thomas for the preservation and maintenance of holy chastity and We confirm the privileges of pontifical indulgences heaped upon it by Benedict XIII and others of Our Predecessors. And that the Faithful may be persuaded the more eagerly to enroll in this Militia, We grant members of it the privilege of wearing instead of a cord a medal round the neck impressed on the obverse with a picture of St. Thomas and the angels surrounding him with a girdle and on the reverse a picture of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary." [N.b., Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem]

Members of this brotherhood include, "St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Columba Rieti and Blessed Stephana Quinzan (who actively promoted the Confraternity among women)."

The website of the Confraternity can be found here: Angelic Warfare Confraternity

This is the site where one can purchase the necessary items for membership: New Hope Publications

Certainly a Confraternity emphasizing the Angelic Doctor, whose sublime writings do so much to increase our understanding of the Faith, and Holy Purity, so ignored and ridiculed in our world, is of great contemporary relevance.

Live well!