Monday, October 31, 2016

Inferno: the Hell there is

Today being All Hallows Eve, perhaps it is worthwhile to ponder, for a moment, Hell.  The next three feast days, I will be taking a kind of Dantesque jaunt through Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory, in that order, as it fits with the tenor of the three days.

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A Dore engraving of Dante visiting the Inferno.

While it is fashionable to deny the existence of Hell, such a denial flies in the face of constant Christian belief from time immemorial, and, in the end, the justice of God.  The words of Christ, the Sacred Scriptures, and constant tradition all bear witness to the existence of Hell.

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

IV. Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.612 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"613 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"614

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."616

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."617

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619

Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.620

610 1  Jn 3:14-15.
611 Cf.  Mt 25:31-46.612 Cf.  Mt 5:22,  29;  10:28;  13:42,  50;  Mk 9:43-48.613  Mt 13:41-42.614  Mt 25:41.615 Cf. DS 76; 409; 411; 801; 858; 1002; 1351; 1575; Paul VI, CPG # 12.616  Mt 7:13-14.617 LG 48 # 3;  Mt 22:13; cf.  Heb 9:27;  Mt 25:13,  26,  30,  31  4618 Cf. Council of Orange II (529): DS 397; Council of Trent
619  2 Pet 3:9.620 Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88.

[Original text of the Catechism can be found here:
Vatican: Catechism of the Catholic Church]

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

Finally, in the Supplement to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, there is a discussion of the infernal regions, including: Question 97 on the Punishment of the DamnedQuestion 98 on the Intellect and Will of the Damned ; Question 99 on the Mercy and Justice of God.

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

Live well, so as to avoid Hell!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Traditional Feast of Christ the King!

Image result for Christ the King

Happy Sunday!

Today is traditionally the Feast of Christ the King!  It is a glorious occasion to recall that He, alone, is the King of Kings!  In an age of republics, the Catholic remains, in a profound way, a monarchist.

This feast, despite its medieval sounding title, was actually instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI with his Papal Encyclical Quas Primas.  He reminds us, in part:

"31. When we pay honor to the princely dignity of Christ, men will doubtless be reminded that the Church, founded by Christ as a perfect society, has a natural and inalienable right to perfect freedom and immunity from the power of the state; and that in fulfilling the task committed to her by God of teaching, ruling, and guiding to eternal bliss those who belong to the kingdom of Christ, she cannot be subject to any external power. The State is bound to extend similar freedom to the orders and communities of religious of either sex, who give most valuable help to the Bishops of the Church by laboring for the extension and the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. By their sacred vows they fight against the threefold concupiscence of the world; by making profession of a more perfect life they render the holiness which her divine Founder willed should be a mark and characteristic of his Church more striking and more conspicuous in the eyes of all.

32. Nations will be reminded by the annual celebration of this feast that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for his kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and in administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education."

In honor of this great day, you might consider reading the encyclical in its entirety: Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas, 1925

You can read more here, as well, at the Fisheaters site: Fisheaters: Feast of Christ the King

The Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia, happens to have the title of Christ the King.  Their website is here: Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, GA

Let us close with the great Carolingian acclamations, Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!

Long live Christ the King!

Live well!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Feast of Sts. Simon & Jude, Apostles

Today is the feast of the Apostles Sts. Simon and Jude!  Both were, by tradition, martyred in Persia, and currently buried in St. Peter's at the Vatican.  (N.B:St. Peter's Basilica info: Left Side - St. Joseph's Atlar

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St. Simon by Peter Paul Rubens.

One of the original twelve, St. Simon is said to have preached in Egypt, before being sawed in two in Persia (modern Iran).

For more:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Simon

Catholic Saints Info: St. Simon

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Simon

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St. Jude by Anthony van Dyck.

St. Jude, famous now as the patron saint of hopeless cases, is also the author of an Epistle that bears his name.  He was the brother of St. James the Less.  Tradition has it that St. Jude preached in Mesopotamia before being martyred, like St. Simon, in Persia.

For more:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Epistle of St. Jude

Catholic Saints Info: St. Jude

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Jude

Perhaps today is a good day to listen to Gregorian Chant Kyrie IV, Cunctipotens Genitor Deus, associated with the Feasts of Apostles:

Live well!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

St. Crispin's Day, Agincourt, & Henry V

detail of the painting 'Saint Crispin and Saint Crispian', 1669 by Julien Quintin, brotherhood shoemakers; chapel of Notre-Dame de Châteaulin, Finistère, Brittany, France; swiped from Wikimedia Commons

This day is called St. Crispin's Day, the Feast of St. Crispin and Crispinian.  Of course, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415AD, made famous by the great speech of King Henry V of England in William Shakespeare's play by the same name.

For more on St. Crispin, click here: Catholic Saints Info: Saint Crispin

The martyrs St. Crispin and Crispinian are, today, buried in the Roman Church of San Lorenzo in Panisperna...

As for the battle of Agincourt, fought on this day, it is well to recall the particular context and result.  In 1415, Henry V (1413-1422), asserting his claim to the throne of France, began his invasion of France, this despite Emperor Sigismund’s attempt to make peace.  He departed in August, and by the end of September, had the city of Harfleur.  Exhausted, his army tried to march north to Calais to return to England, but was attacked by the French Royal army of King Charles VI (1380-1422) on the way – this at the field of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. 

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Map of the Battle of Agincourt, 25 October 1415AD.

The English were outnumbered four to one.  The French knew of the English longbow, dismounted, and were clubbed and arrowed to death in the muddy field.  The loss were huge: several notable officials, including the French commander, Constable Charles d’Albret, who commanded the French on the field; 90 counts, 1,500 knights, and 4,000 others.  Also several Dukes, like Bourbon, were captured.  The English lost practically nothing. [About 450 men?]

Schlacht von Azincourt.jpg

Certainly the play, Henry V, of William Shakespeare, memorably presents the English force in the moments before facing the superior French force.  This from Act IV, Scene III:

Live well!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel

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St. Raphael the Archangel, by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

Today, 24 October, is traditionally the feast of St. Raphael the Archangel; a feast extended to the universal church by Pope Benedict XV.  His commemoration was combined with that of St. Michael in the reform of the church calendar.  This feast is, however, still observed in the traditional rites of the Church, and he is an angel worth noting in his own right.

St. Raphael, whose name means "God heals" is mentioned in the book of Tobit, and is notable for being the angel that healed Tobias.  You can read the account of the Archangel Raphael here in Greek, Latin, and English: Tobit, Chapter 12

Of course, it is worth reading the entire book of Tobit, which is a charming account filled with so many splendid points of advice.

Let us pray with the collect of the feast:
"O God, who didst give blessed Raphael the Archangel to Thy servant Tobias, as a companion on his journey; grant to us, Thy servants, that we may always be guarded by his care and strengthened by his help.  Through Christ Our Lord.  Amen"

For more you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Raphael

Catholic Saints Info: St. Raphael the Archangel

Live well!

Friday, October 21, 2016

St. Ursula & the Virgin Islands

Today, 21 October, is the feast of St. Ursula and her companions.

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The Martyrdom of St. Ursula, by Hans Memling (+1494AD)

Certainly St. Ursula and her companions are worthy of recognition on their own.  By tradition she and her British companions were martyred by the Huns.  Certainly, too, much of their account has been shrouded by the confusion of the ages.

Here are my customary sources on saints that give you more information on St. Ursula:

Catholic Saints Info: St. Ursula

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ursula

The port city of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
["Charlotte Amalie" by No machine-readable author provided. Juanpdp assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons

Also worthy of note is that when first discovered by Christopher Columbus, the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean were actually named for St. Ursula and her companions.  Recall that, the next time someone mentions those American and British isles.  Indeed, the modern flag and coat of arms of the British Virgin Islands features St. Ursula, along with lighted oil lamps for her companions, as pictured below.  Notice, too, the banner "Vigilate" recalling again the story of the prudent virgins that kept watch in the parable of Christ:

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Coat of Arms of the British Virgin Islands, featuring St. Ursula, lamps for her companions, and the

wise admonition: Vigilate!

For more on how the United States came to own a portion of the Virgin Islands -- the former Danish Virgin Islands -- you might note this source: Article on Transfer Day in the USVI

St. Ursula, pray for us, pray for the Virgin Islands!

Live well!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

Today is the feast day of St. Luke the Evangelist!

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St. Luke Displaying a Painting of the Virgin by Guercino, ca. 1650AD.

We know that St. Luke was born in Antioch, was not a Jew by ethnicity, and was a physician by trade.  Indeed, St. Luke, a companion of St. Paul (Luke 16:8) was called by the Apostle to the Gentiles "the most dear physician" (Colossians 4:14).

He is rightly famous for both his Holy Gospel, represented in art with an Ox, as it begins with the Temple sacrifice of Zachary (cf. Ezekiel), and the book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Much more could be said of St. Luke's writing style, the service he rendered to the Church with his contribution to Sacred Scripture, and the wonderful details concerning the life of the Blessed Mother contained in his gospel.

Of course, St. Luke, too, is known by tradition to be an artist, and hence his patronage of artists!

Perhaps today is a good one to start a study of the Gospel of St. Luke?  Gospel of St. Luke

Maybe the Acts of the Apostles instead? Acts of the Apostles

After the death of St. Paul, he is thought to have preached in Greece, where he died.  His relics would end up in the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua, Italy, in an area formerly part of the Venetian Republic.  Here is a link to that Church: Abbey of Santa Giustina

Interestingly, a bit of scientific research has been conducted on the relics of St. Luke, of which part are now also in Prague and in Greece.  Here is an article on the research: NY Times: "Body of St. Luke Gains Credibility"

For more on this great Evangelist, you can read here:

Catholic Saints Info: St. Luke

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Luke

Live well!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila & a Calendar Change

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St. Teresa by Peter Paul Rubens.

Today is the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila (+1582AD), the Spanish Carmelite and Doctor of the Church.

St. Teresa was born in Avila, in the Kingdom of Castile and Leon, and joined the Convent of St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in her late teens.  She struggled with poor health much of her life, but it didn't stop her from being both a great reformer of the Carmelite Order, and a magnificent author of works on mystical Theology.

You can read more about her life at the sites:

Catholic Saints Info: St. Teresa of Avila

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Teresa of Avila

An interesting side note is that while she died on 4 October 1582 AD, her feast is kept on 15 October, which was the day after her death that night of the 4th.  It was the very night that St. Teresa of Avila died that the new Gregorian Calendar of Pope Gregory XIII replaced the Julian Calendar.  Not only did the Catholic world adopt this calendar with its different, more accurate, determination of leap years, but it also shift the date to offset the margin of error of the Julian Calendar, resulting in dropping 10 days from the calendar.  This meant that 4 October 1582 was followed by 15 October 1582 with the days in between simply omitted!

Of course, the non-Catholic world took some time to adopt this more accurate, but papal decreed, calendar.  Somewhat famously, Great Britain and her colonies finally adopted it in 1752, along with the 1 January start to the year.  In the English-speaking world 2 September 1752 was followed by 14 September 1752, as, by that time, 11 days were needed to correct the Julian Calendar error, instead of 10 (it would be 13 in 2012AD).  Those English dates before the changeover that were reckoned by the Julian Calendar are referred to as O.S. "old style" in some sources.  Before England adopted the Gregorian Calendar, while a person in Paris might consider it 21 March 1605, the same day in London would be considered 11 March 1604 (O.S.).

The root of the Julian Calendar error is this: it presumed that the year was 365.25 days long, meaning that a leap year every four years would account for the decimal places and keep the calendar year in sync with the actual solar year.  As it happens, the year is more precisely 365.2422 days long, meaning that the seasons would slowly drift away from their calendar dates with the Julian Calendar -- for instance, by 1582, the Vernal Equinox was occurring on 11 March, rather than 21 March as is traditionally assumed.  So, the new Gregorian Calendar restored the Equinox to its traditional date by dropping 10 days that October of 1582.  It would try to remain accurate by modifying the reckoning of leap years: it would  have a leap year every year divisible by 4, except those divisible by 100 (most years such as 1700AD are not leap years), but if divisible by 400, remaining a leap year (so 1600AD was a leap year).  This is still a hair off, and some have suggested that we waive the leap year in 4000AD to fix the problem.

So, on this feast of a Catholic Doctor of the Church, we might recall, too, that the very calendar that tells us that it is 15 October 2016, was instituted by a Pope, and took effect the year of St. Teresa's death: 1582.

Live well!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Anniversary of the arrival of Columbus

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Arrival of Christopher Columbus on 12 October 1492AD at San Salvador (Bahamas), image circa 1862.

Today, the 12th of October, marks the anniversary of Columbus and his flotilla first making landfall in the New World.

The descriptions in his ship's log of the voyage leading up to the landing on 12 October 1492 is certainly interesting, and worthy of a read.  You can find that here: Medieval Sourcebook: Extracts from the Journal of Columbus

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Map of the Voyages of Christopher Columbus.
["Viajes de colon en" by Viajes_de_colon.svg: Phirosiberiaderivative work: Phirosiberia (talk) - Viajes_de_colon.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

Christopher Columbus actually misjudged the size of the Earth – he thought Japan to be where Florida actually is!  He, an Italian, sailed for Spain, specifically the Kingdom of Castile and Leon, to bring Christianity to the East, and to, he hoped, provide funding for a Crusade.  Columbus would discover the New World in 1492 (he discovered the Bahamas, Cuba, and Hispaniola in this first voyage), and make three further journeys: his second (1493-1496) which found the Leeward Isles, Puerto Rico and Jamaica [he founded Santo Domingo on this voyage], his third (1498) which found Trinidad, the mouth of the Orinoco, and his fourth (1502-1504) which passed the Windward isles and explored the Central American coast – always believing it to be part of the Indies.

Interior of the Cathedral of Santo Domingo.

While Columbus himself was not without flaw, and his administration of the West Indies was clearly lacking in some regards, the true legacy of his voyages was the arrival of Catholic Christianity and Western Civilization to the New World.  The New World gained much, particularly from Spain, for, “instead of fearful temples…there were Christian churches; while upon the Indians themselves have been bestowed the hardly won prizes of ages of slow progress, the developed arts, the various domestic animals, the grains, vegetables, and fruits, the use of letters, and the printing press, and the forms of government.” [Quotation from Spain in America by Bourne]  Certainly abuses did remain a serious problem (though there was a triennial audit of these realms) as did the ravages of disease (particularly smallpox) – all the same, there was an earnest attempt to convert, civilize, and protect the Indians by both the crown and Church.  The crown spent its own money seeing to the introduction of missionaries, and orders such as the Franciscans, Dominicans, & Jesuits made important gains.  By the end of the 16th century there was a thriving Spanish New World culture, complete with “universities, scholars, authors, presses, scientists, and saints.” 

A taste of that New World culture, with images of the Mexican Church of Santa Prisca in Taxco, along with a setting of the Salve Regina written by Hernando Franco in Mexico -- this in a land once marked by its widespread human sacrifice:

Live well!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nestorianism, Ephesus, & Theotokos

Today was, after being instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1931, the Feast of the Divine Maternity of Our Lady.  It was established in honor of the anniversary of the great Council of Ephesus in 431AD, at which Our Lady was defined as Theotokos -- Mother of God -- and the Nestorian heresy was condemned.

In the liturgical calendar of 1970, this observance was combined with that of the Octave of Christmas, which already recalled the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Theotokos of Vladimir.

In 428 Nestorius, originally a monk from Antioch, was made Patriarch of Constantinople (428-431).  This eloquent and austere new Patriarch, his first Christmas as shepherd of the Imperial capital, preached that Mary was not the Mother of God!  Behold, the Nestorian heresy.  He, and the Nestorian heretics, claims that Christ is not actually God, but God only dwells in him as “in a temple” or “a garment.”  Thus, there are two persons in Christ – and Mary was only mother of the human person, not the divine.  Thus, she is not Mother of God, but only Mother of Christ!  This caused quite the stir in the area, as you might imagine.  A lawyer actually interrupted his homily in the Cathedral, and Nestorius would be faced down by a fellow bishop on the next feast of the Annunciation the following Spring.

Copies of these homilies reached the Patriarch of Alexandria, St. Cyril (Successor of St. Mark from 412-444AD), in 429, and St. Cyril immediately condemned the ideas and reported them to the pope, St. Celestine I (Successor of St. Peter from 423-432).  Nestorius, for his part, appealed to the Eastern Roman Emperor, Theodosius II (Reigned, 408-450).   The Pope, agreeing with St. Cyril, condemned the teaching of Nestorius, and threatened to depose him.  Nestorius, for his part, persisted, and this with the encouragement of Patriarch John of Antioch (Successor of St. Peter in Antioch from 428-442).

Ephesus today: the Library of Celsus.

The Emperor, Theodosius II, hoping to find a solution, summoned a general council – the Third – at Ephesus which met in 431.  St. Augustine was actually invited, but he had died by the time the invitation arrived.  After a delay, owing to the absence of John of Antioch, the council finally opened in the blazing heat of June 431, with Cyril of Alexandria presiding as legate of the Pope.  The Council carefully read the teachings of Nestorius, and quickly condemned them.  Nestorius himself was given three warnings to arrive and answer, but he refused, and was deposed as Patriarch of Constantinople.  The Council unanimously declared that Mary was, indeed, Theotokos!  Torch-lit processions and celebrations met the declaration in Ephesus.

A more thorough account of the Council can be found here: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Council of Ephesus

Today, then, of all days, it is a joy to affirm that Jesus Christ is one person with two natures, human and divine, and that his Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is most certainly the Mother of God!

St. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!

Live well!

Monday, October 10, 2016

St. Francis Borgia, SJ

Today is the feast day of a great man that richly deserves better recognition, especially in the United States: St. Francis Borgia, SJ (+1572AD).

St. Francis Borgia by Alonso Cano, 1624AD.

St. Francis Borgia was, as his name implies, a member of the infamous Borgia of Spain that gave the Church two Popes: Calixtus III (reigned 1455-1458AD) and the more famous Alexander VI (reigned 1492-1503).  Indeed, St. Francis, the 4th Duke of Gandia, was the great-grandson of Alexander VI.  He served in the court of Emperor Charles V, also known as King Charles I of Spain, and his participation in the transfer of the corpse of the beautiful Empress Isabella of Portugal, wife of Charles V (I), in 1539, did much to confirm his earlier pious inclinations.  Still, he was married with eight children.  From 1539-1543AD he served as Viceroy of Catalonia, despite his relative youth (born in 1510AD).

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Empress Isabella of Portugal, by Titian.  Seeing this monarch in death cemented the conversion of St. Francis.

Upon the death of his wife in 1546, St. Francis Borgia sought entry into the relatively new Society of Jesus -- the Jesuits.  Indeed, his sanctity and administrative experience helped him rise to become the third Superior General of the Order, and one of its greatest, from 1565-1572AD.

Here was a great saint from a stock that had caused the Church scandal in the past.  God, indeed, brings great good even from evil!

For more on St. Francis, you may consult:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Francis Borgia

Catholic Saints Info: St. Francis Borgia

Live well!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Consecration of a Church

The High Altar at the Parish of St. Francis de Sales, Mableton, Georgia

Today, 8 October, marks the anniversary of the dedication of the parish church of this blogger: St. Francis de Sales Parish in Mableton, Georgia; a personal parish of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia in the care of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).

The parish was erected on 27 January 1999 by decree of Archbishop John Francis Donoghue, the text of which can be read here: Decree Erecting the Parish of St. Francis de Sales

On 8 October 2000AD, the parish church was consecrated by the Archbishop.  This link provides both pictures and the text of the lengthy and beautiful ceremony: Consecration of St. Francis de Sales

From that ceremony, the parish church is, in a profound way, holy and consecrated ground.  Today, then, is a great day of celebration for the parish and the parishioners.  The parish website is here: St. Francis de Sales Parish, Mableton, GA

For more on the consecration of a church, you should note the section on churches in this article: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Consecrations

Perhaps you might take this opportunity to learn the date that your parish was formed and the Church dedicated?

I close with this memorable modern offering of the motet Locus iste -- the text of the Gradual at a Mass for the Dedication of a Church -- by Anton Bruckner:
Bruckner: Locus Iste

Live well!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Our Lady of the Rosary & the Battle of Lepanto

Our Lady of the Rosary, by Nicola Porta.

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, formerly the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, and the annivesary of the great victory over the Ottoman Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.

In 1570, the Ottoman Turks were on the advance under Sultan Selim II (reigned 1566-1574) – declaring war on the Republic of Venice and attacking the Most Serene Republic's possession of Cyprus.  In September 1570, the Turks took Nicosia in Cyprus, massacring the inhabitants.  They followed this up with the capture of the last Venetian stronghold in Cyprus at Famagusta in Aug 1571 after an 11 month siege.

Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572), to combat the Turkish threat, put together the Holy League, consisting of Spain, Venice, and the Papal States.  It was too late to save Cyprus, but on 7 October 1571, the fleet of the Holy League, under the command of the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V (+1558), and half-brother of Philip II of Spain, Don Juan of Austria (+1578), met the Turkish fleet.

Don Juan of Austria.

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The Battle of Lepanto.

They would meet the Ottomans off the coast of Greece in a grand naval battle: the Battle of Lepanto!  The battle line was five miles long (270 Ottoman vs. 220 Holy League vessels), and this was the last great battle of oared ships in history.  The Ottomans lost 15-20,000 killed to 7,500 Holy League men, with 15,000 Christian slaves freed.  The image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe was actually present at the battle, as was Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote!

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The Battle of Lepanto, as portrayed in the Vatican Museums.

St. Pius V famously had a vision in Rome of the victory having been won, and informing his advisors of the fact long before word came to the Eternal City.

Pope St. Pius V, OP.

This great victory halted the advance of the fleets of the Ottoman Empire, and inspired, in gratitude, the establishment of the Feast of Our Lady of Victory, which became the of Our Lady of the Rosary by order of Pope Gregory XIII in 1573 -- after the prayer the Catholic world had offered for victory.

For more on the Holy Rosary, that glorious prayer that is particularly commemorated today, you might note:

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Holy Rosary

Pope Leo XIII wrote a number of Papal Encyclicals -- one of which you can find here: Laetitiae Sanctae

Finally, G. K. Chesterton has a brilliant poem on the battle, which I present for you here:

LEPANTO, by G. K. Chesterton:

WHITE founts falling in the Courts of the sun,
And the Soldan of Byzantium is smiling as they run;
There is laughter like the fountains in that face of all men feared,
It stirs the forest darkness, the darkness of his beard;
It curls the blood-red crescent, the crescent of his lips;5
For the inmost sea of all the earth is shaken with his ships.
They have dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,
They have dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea,
And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross.10
The cold queen of England is looking in the glass;
The shadow of the Valois is yawning at the Mass;
From evening isles fantastical rings faint the Spanish gun,
And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.
Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,15
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half attainted stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the bird has sung,
That once went singing southward when all the world was young.20
In that enormous silence, tiny and unafraid,
Comes up along a winding road the noise of the Crusade.
Strong gongs groaning as the guns boom far,
Don John of Austria is going to the war,
Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold25
In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold,
Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums,
Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes.
Don John laughing in the brave beard curled,
Spurning of his stirrups like the thrones of all the world,30
Holding his head up for a flag of all the free.
Love-light of Spain—hurrah!
Death-light of Africa!
Don John of Austria
Is riding to the sea.35
Mahound is in his paradise above the evening star,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
He moves a mighty turban on the timeless houri's knees,
His turban that is woven of the sunsets and the seas.
He shakes the peacock gardens as he rises from his ease,40
And he strides among the tree-tops and is taller than the trees;
And his voice through all the garden is a thunder sent to bring
Black Azrael and Ariel and Ammon on the wing.
Giants and the Genii,
Multiplex of wing and eye,45
Whose strong obedience broke the sky
When Solomon was king.
They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From the temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea50
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be,
On them the sea-valves cluster and the grey sea-forests curl,
Splashed with a splendid sickness, the sickness of the pearl;
They swell in sapphire smoke out of the blue cracks of the ground,—
They gather and they wonder and give worship to Mahound.55
And he saith, "Break up the mountains where the hermit-folk can hide,
And sift the red and silver sands lest bone of saint abide,
And chase the Giaours flying night and day, not giving rest,
For that which was our trouble comes again out of the west.
We have set the seal of Solomon on all things under sun,60
Of knowledge and of sorrow and endurance of things done.
But a noise is in the mountains, in the mountains, and I know
The voice that shook our palaces—four hundred years ago:
It is he that saith not 'Kismet'; it is he that knows not Fate;
It is Richard, it is Raymond, it is Godfrey at the gate!65
It is he whose loss is laughter when he counts the wager worth,
Put down your feet upon him, that our peace be on the earth."
For he heard drums groaning and he heard guns jar,
(Don John of Austria is going to the war.)
Sudden and still—hurrah!70
Bolt from Iberia!
Don John of Austria
Is gone by Alcalar.
St. Michaels on his Mountain in the sea-roads of the north
(Don John of Austria is girt and going forth.)75
Where the grey seas glitter and the sharp tides shift
And the sea-folk labour and the red sails lift.
He shakes his lance of iron and he claps his wings of stone;
The noise is gone through Normandy; the noise is gone alone;
The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes,80
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom,
And Christian hateth Mary that God kissed in Galilee,—
But Don John of Austria is riding to the sea.85
Don John calling through the blast and the eclipse
Crying with the trumpet, with the trumpet of his lips,
Trumpet that sayeth ha!
Domino gloria!
Don John of Austria90
Is shouting to the ships.
King Philip's in his closet with the Fleece about his neck
(Don John of Austria is armed upon the deck.)
The walls are hung with velvet that is black and soft as sin,
And little dwarfs creep out of it and little dwarfs creep in.95
He holds a crystal phial that has colours like the moon,
He touches, and it tingles, and he trembles very soon,
And his face is as a fungus of a leprous white and grey
Like plants in the high houses that are shuttered from the day,
And death is in the phial and the end of noble work,100
But Don John of Austria has fired upon the Turk.
Don John's hunting, and his hounds have bayed—
Booms away past Italy the rumour of his raid.
Gun upon gun, ha! ha!
Gun upon gun, hurrah!105
Don John of Austria
Has loosed the cannonade.
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,110
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
He sees as in a mirror on the monstrous twilight sea
The crescent of his cruel ships whose name is mystery;
They fling great shadows foe-wards, making Cross and Castle dark,
They veil the plumèd lions on the galleys of St. Mark;115
And above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a labouring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
They are lost like slaves that sweat, and in the skies of morning hung120
The stair-ways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings' horses in the granite of Babylon.
And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,125
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign—
(But Don John of Austria has burst the battle-line!)
Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop,
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate's sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,130
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania!
Domino Gloria!135
Don John of Austria
Has set his people free!
Cervantes on his galley sets the sword back in the sheath
(Don John of Austria rides homeward with a wreath.)
And he sees across a weary land a straggling road in Spain,140
Up which a lean and foolish knight for ever rides in vain,
And he smiles, but not as Sultans smile, and settles back the blade....
(But Don John of Austria rides home from the Crusade.)

Live well!