Friday, June 23, 2017

Feast of St. Etheldreda

St-aethelthryth.jpg

Today is the Feast of the Anglo-Saxon Saint, St. Etheldreda (+679AD).  She is also known as St. Audrey or, in the French, Audra.

She was a member of the royal family of East Anglia, the daughter of the king, became the queen of Northumbria, and, when widowed, founded a monastery in Ely, England.  When her body was moved in the 12th century, it was still incorrupt.

Here is a bit more information on this saint, little known outside England:
Catholic Saints Info: Saint Etheldreda

This is the account in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Etheldreda

This link goes to the site of the Church of St. Etheldreda in London, England:
St. Etheldreda's Church, London

Live well!

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!  Today, the third Friday after Pentecost, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This great celebration accords us with an opportunity to ponder the infinite mercy of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Il Sacro Cuore, 1740AD by Pompeo Batoni (+1787AD)

The traditional collect of the Feast gives us a good sense for today's focus:
O God, who in the Heart of Thy Son, wounded by our sins, dost mercifully bestow on us infinite treasures of love: grant, we beseech Thee, that whilst we render It the devout homage of our affection, we may also fulfill our duty of worthy satisfactions, Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son...

These links give a wonderful overview of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Sacred Heart

Fisheaters: Devotions to the Sacred Heart

Here is a more recent reflection on the great feast by Dr. William Fahey: Falling in Love by Fahey

Certainly today, too, is a wonderful moment to read the Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, on Devotion to the Sacred Heart: Full Text: HAURIETIS AQUAS

Here are a few of the Cathedrals and Basilicas that bear the name of Sacred Heart:

First, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Atlanta, Georgia:
Sacred Heart Basilica, Atlanta, GA

The Cathedral of Richmond, Virginia:
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, VA

The Basilica-Cathedral of Newark, New Jersey:
Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ

Moving to France, and the famous Basilica du Sacre Coeur:
Basilica du Sacre Coeur

Belgium, too, has a splendid Basilica to the Sacred Heart, this in Brussels:
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels, Belgium

Finally, in Spain, in Barcelona:
Templo del Sagrado Corazon, Barcelona, Spain

Today, there is also the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence (I have a link to a site with the English translation at the end):
--

Plenaria indulgentia conceditur christifideli, qui in sollemnitate Sacr.mi Cordis Iesu, actum reparationis (Iesu dulcissime) publice recitaverit; in aliis rerum adiunctis indulgentia erit partialis:

Iesu dulcissime, cuius effusa in homines caritas, tanta oblivione, neglegentia, contemptione, ingratissime rependitur, en nos, ante conspectum tuum provoluti, tam nefariam hominum socordiam iniuriasque, quibus undique amantissimum Cor tuum afficitur, peculiari honore resarcire contendimus. 
Attamen, memores tantae nos quoque indignitatis non expertes aliquando fuisse, indeque vehementissimo dolore commoti, tuam in primis misericordiam nobis imploramus, parati, voluntaria expiatione compensare flagitia non modo quae ipsi patravimus, sed etiam illorum, qui, longe a salutis via aberrantes vel te pastorem ducemque sectari detrectant, in sua infidelitate obstinati, vel, baptismatis promissa conculcantes, suavissimum tuae legis iugum excusserunt. 
Quae deploranda crimina, cum universa expiare contendimus, tum nobis singula resarcienda proponimus: vitae cultusque immodestiam atque turpitudines, tot corruptelae pedicas innocentium animis instructas, dies festos violatos, exsecranda in te tuosque Sanctos iactata maledicta atque in tuum Vicarium ordinemque sacerdotalem convicia irrogata, ipsum denique amoris divini Sacramentum vel neglectum vel horrendis sacrilegiis profanatum, publica postremo nationum delicta, quae Ecclesiae a te institutae iuribus magisterioque reluctantur. 
Quae utinam crimina sanguine ipsi nostro eluere possemus! Interea ad violatum divinum honorem resarciendum, quam Tu olim Patri in Cruce satisfactionem obtulisti quamque cotidie in altaribus renovare pergis, hanc eamdem nos tibi praestamus, cum Virginis Matris, omnium Sanctorum, piorum quoque fidelium expiationibus coniunctam, ex animo spondentes, cum praeterita nostra aliorumque peccata ac tanti amoris incuriam firma fide, candidis vitae moribus, perfecta legis evangelicae, caritatis potissimum, observantia, quantum in nobis erit, gratia tua favente, nos esse compensaturos, tum iniurias tibi inferendas pro viribus prohibituros, et quam plurimos potuerimus ad tui sequelam convocaturos. Excipias, quaesumus, benignissime Iesu, beata Virgine Maria Reparatrice intercedente, voluntarium huius expiationis obsequium nosque in officio tuique servitio fidissimos ad mortem usque velis, magno illo perseverantiae munere, continere, ut ad illam tandem patriam perveniamus omnes, ubi Tu cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen. 
Cf., Enchiridion indulgentiarum

Sacred Heart Indulgence Details (In English)
--

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Live well!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Feast of St. Aloysius of Gonzaga

The Vocation of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.PNG
The Vocation of Saint Aloysius by Guercino


We might note that it is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the young 16th century Jesuit.  Born in 1568 into the prominent noble Italian family of Gonzaga, he spurned the excesses of the court, and joined the Society of Jesus at the tender age of 16.  St. Aloysius died during an outbreak of the plague in Rome during the year 1591AD.

Today, he is buried in the marvelous Baroque Jesuit Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome: Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio

For more on this great saint, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Catholic Saints Info: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Live well!

Illum oportet crescere... the Summer Solstice


St. John the Baptist, from the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grunewald.

"Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."

Today we reach the Summer Solstice -- which takes place a precisely at 04:24 UT, 21 June 2017.  At my own home, that translated to 12:24AM this morning (Eastern Daylight Time).  This day, then, is the day in which daylight lasts the longest and summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and is gone the fastest and winter begins in the Southern.

For some excellent charts and information on length of days, sunset, sunrise, and the like, this site is splendid:
Gaisma

This site, too, allows you to customize your location and get a host of details on astronomical objects: Heavens Above

It is well to note the sort of pious religious connection to these events that was observed by the Medievals: the Summer Solstice falls near the Feast of St. John the Baptist (24 June), while the Winter Solstice is close to Christmas (25 December).  We know from Sacred Scripture that St. John the Baptist was, indeed, born six months before Our Lord.  Thus, the amount of daylight decreases from the Feast of St. John to Christmas, and increases from Christmas to the Feast of St. John.  This brings to mind the quotation of St. John the Baptist in Scripture, John 3:30: "Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."  In our vulgar tongue: "He must increase: but I must decrease."

File:Analemma Earth.png
This chart show the analemma for Earth, showing the relative locations of the Sun at noon at the Greenwich Observatory in England.  Notice the change in both altitude and azimuth at the different points of the year.

What, exactly, is the solstice?

On this day, the Sun is directly overhead at real noon on the Tropic of Cancer.  In the days of old, the Sun would appear in front of the constellation Cancer on this day, hence the name of the line on the globe.  Thanks to the procession of the equinoxes, however, the sun is now in Gemini at the Summer Solstice.

As a side note, it is during this time of year that a Full Moon stays the lowest in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, and reaches its highest point, in the Southern, this in terms of degrees from the horizon.

Why do we have a Summer Solstice, you ask?  Well, I am glad you did!  If the Earth sat directly upright on its axis, the Sun would always be directly overhead at noon on the equator, it would appear to move through the stars along the celestial equator, days would always remain the same length, and every day would be like the two equinox days in Spring and Fall.  As it happens, the Earth is tilted at about 23.5 degrees on its axis.  Thus, the sun appears to diverge as much as 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator in its apparent path through the stars (the ecliptic), and ends up being directly overhead up to 23.5 degrees north or south of the equator (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) on the two solstice days.  This is the reason, of course, for our seasons.


File:North season.jpg
This diagram shows the positions of the Earth in relation to the sun at those four points -- the Summer solstice on the left, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the Sun, and the Winter solstice on the right, with the Southern Hemisphere facing the Sun more directly, with the two equinoxes between, with the Hemispheres equally oriented to the Sun.


So, if we start at the vernal equinox in March, the sun is directly overhead at the equator at noon, and night and day are the same length.  From then until today, the summer solstice, the Sun appears to move slowly to the north both in the sky, setting a bit further north of west each day, and in its apparent path through the constellations of the zodiac.  This continues until the Sun reaches the solstice, where it stops, being directly overhead at 23.5 degrees north latitude (the Tropic of Cancer) at noon, and sitting about 23.5 degrees north of the celestial equator.  From that point, the sun drifts back south until reaching the equator once more at the autumnal equinox in September, going all the way to 23.5 degrees south at the Winter Solstice.

The reason for all of this is that as the Earth orbits the Sun the two hemispheres of the Earth take turns being tilted toward the Sun.  The following diagrams might help to illustrate what I am trying to articulate:

File:Ecliptic path.jpg
In this diagram, the sun appears to move against the background of the stars along the red line, the ecliptic, while the white line marks the celestial equator -- the imaginary line through space that is merely the extension of the Earth's equator.  The two points where the red and white lines are at greatest divergence are the solstices, while the two points where the red and white lines cross are the two equinoxes.  The yellow line shows what the sun would appear to be in front of from the Earth, the Constellation Pisces, at the vernal equinox.

I leave you, then, with the words of St. John the Baptist:  "Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."   "He must increase: but I must decrease."

Live well!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corpus Christi: The Body of Christ



Today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is the traditional date of the great Feast of Corpus Christi.  It seems a good moment to pause and reflect upon the Doctrine of the Blessed Sacrament.  It is, of course, Catholic and Orthodox belief, as it has been since the time of Christ, that the Blessed Sacrament is not merely a symbol of Christ, but is actually, truly and substantially, Christ Himself, but with the accidents, or appearances, of bread and wine remaining.  This change of substance without the accompanying change in accidents is called transubstantiation.  Before examining some texts from the Sacred Scriptures and from Christian history on the subject, you should note the following two links, and the Gregorian Chant Sequence of the Feast:

For more on the history of this great feast:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Corpus Christi

...for some more on the customs of the day:
Fisheaters: Corpus Christi

...and the Sequence for the Feast, Lauda Sion:






File:Juan de Juanes 002.jpg
Christ with the Eucharist, by Vicente Juan Masip (+1545AD):

What basis in Scripture and in the history of Christian practice is there for this belief?  Let us take a look.

Turning first to the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark (14:22-24), we recall the Last Supper of Our Lord:
"And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye.  This is my body.  And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them.  And they all drank of it.  And he said to them:  This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many."

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, had earlier given some discourse on this matter, as we find in the 6th Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John (6:53-56, 61, 67-69):
"The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Then Jesus said to them:  Amen I say unto you: except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed…Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?…After this many disciples went back; and walked no more with him.  Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?  And Simon Peter answered him:  Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life."

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:26-29) gives further explanation into this most sublime doctrine and practice:
"For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.  Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.  But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

It should be no surprise, then, that considering the basis in Sacred Scripture, Christians from the beginning would hold to this Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion:

St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”  (ca. 110AD) writes: "They [“They” refers to “those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us.”] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again."

St. Justin Martyr, in his “First Apology” (between A.D. 148-155) writes:
            “After the president has given thanks, and all the people have shouted their assent, those whom we call deacons give to each one present to partake of the Eucharistic bread and wine and water; and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
            We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined.  For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.
            The Apostles, in the Memoirs which they produced, which are called Gospels, have thus passed on that which was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me; this is My Body.’  And in like manner, taking the cup, and having given thanks, He said, ‘This is my Blood.’  And He imparted this to them only.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage, in his “Letter of Cyprian to a certain Cecil” (ca. 250AD) writes:
Also in the priest Melchisedech we see the Sacrament of the Sacrifice of the Lord prefigured…
 The order certainly is that which comes from his sacrifice and which comes down from it; because Melchisedech was a priest of the Most High God; because he offered bread; and because he blessed Abraham.  And who is more a priest of the Most High God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He offered sacrifice to God the Father, offered the very same which Melchisedech had offered, namely bread and wine, which is in fact His Body and Blood!”
 “…nor is the Sacrifice of the Lord celebrated with a legitimate consecration unless our offering and sacrifice corresponds with the passion…I wonder, indeed, whence this practice has come, that, contrary to evangelic and apostolic tradition, in certain places water alone, which cannot signify the Blood of Christ, is offered in the cup of the Lord.”

The great St. Athanasius, Doctor and defender of the Divinity of Christ writes, before 373AD, in his “Sermon to the Newly Baptized”:
"But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And again: Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries.  This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain what they are.  But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine — and thus is His Body confected."

St. Hilary of Poitiers, writing in 356-359AD, in the work "The Trinity," clearly explains:
"As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood."

St. Cyril of Alexandria, too, bears witness writing in “Commentaries on Matthew” (after A.D. 428):
He states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure.  Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ.”

I omit a great many other documents, letters, and teachings that manifest the same belief throughout the early centuries of the Church.  Indeed, moving to the 11th century, we find a man, Berengarius, that dared deny what Christians had always held, and he was required by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1079AD to assent to the following statement of belief if he wished to be reconciled to the Church:
"I, Berengarius, believe interiorly and profess publicly that the bread and wine, which are placed on the altar, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of our Redeemer are substantially changed into the true, proper, and life-giving flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  After the consecration it is the true body of Christ…"

It is interesting to note that St. Thomas Aquinas refers to this Berengarius, who lived a thousand years after Christ as he "who had been the first deviser of this heresy," the heresy being a denial of the Real Presence of Christ.


The decrees of Ecumenical Councils of the Church, then, merely echo constant Christian belief:

From the Council of Florence (1438-1445AD), presided over by Pope Eugene IV:
"It is by the power of these words that the substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the substance of wine into his blood.  This change takes place in such a way that the whole Christ is present under the species of bread and the whole Christ is present under the species of wine."

From the 13th session of the Council of Trent (1551AD), presided over by Pope Julius III:
"To begin with, the holy council teaches and openly and straightforwardly professes that in the blessed sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the perceptible species of bread and wine"

From Trent to this very day, the constant belief in the life-giving words of Christ, in the veracity of Sacred Scripture, and the integrity of constant Christian faith, are adhered to by Catholics and Orthodox.  Hence, this day, in particular, we give thanks for this awesome gift, and the blessing of the virtue of Faith.  This sublime teaching is also bound with the Sacrament of Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession. That, however, we will leave for another day.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his magnificent Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 75, A. 1, gives an excellent summary of the Doctrine, referring to some of the very texts above:

"I answer that, The presence of Christ's true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority. Hence, on Luke 22:19: "This is My body which shall be delivered up for you," Cyril says: "Doubt not whether this be true; but take rather the Saviour's words with faith; for since He is the Truth, He lieth not."

Now this is suitable, first for the perfection of the New Law. For, the sacrifices of the Old Law contained only in figure that true sacrifice of Christ's Passion, according to Hebrews 10:1: "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things." And therefore it was necessary that the sacrifice of the New Law instituted by Christ should have something more, namely, that it should contain Christ Himself crucified, not merely in signification or figure, but also in very truth. And therefore this sacrament which contains Christ Himself, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), is perfective of all the other sacraments, in which Christ's virtue is participated.

Secondly, this belongs to Christ's love, out of which for our salvation He assumed a true body of our nature. And because it is the special feature of friendship to live together with friends, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix), He promises us His bodily presence as a reward, saying (Matthew 24:28): "Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered together." Yet meanwhile in our pilgrimage He does not deprive us of His bodily presence; but unites us with Himself in this sacrament through the truth of His body and blood. Hence (John 6:57) he says: "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him." Hence this sacrament is the sign of supreme charity, and the uplifter of our hope, from such familiar union of Christ with us.

Thirdly, it belongs to the perfection of faith, which concerns His humanity just as it does His Godhead, according to John 14:1: "You believe in God, believe also in Me." And since faith is of things unseen, as Christ shows us His Godhead invisibly, so also in this sacrament He shows us His flesh in an invisible manner.

Some men accordingly, not paying heed to these things, have contended that Christ's body and blood are not in this sacrament except as in a sign, a thing to be rejected as heretical, since it is contrary to Christ's words. Hence Berengarius, who had been the first deviser of this heresy, was afterwards forced to withdraw his error, and to acknowledge the truth of the faith." 
[cf., http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4075.htm#article1]

Live well!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trinity Sunday

Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, is the great feast of Trinity Sunday, when we pause, and in a particular way, ponder the mystery of the Holy Trinity -- one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

File:Hendrick van balen Holy trinity.jpg
Holy Trinity by Hendrick van Balen (1620sAD)

On this great feast, we might note, in the first place, the great commission of Our Lord, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20):
"28:18 And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 19 Going therefore, teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."


Second, the profound collect of the feast:
"O Almighty and everlasting God, who hast enabled Thy servants, in confessing the true Faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of Majesty to adore its Unity: we beseech Thee, that by steadfastness in the same Faith, we may ever be defended against all adversity..."


Next, from the text of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274AD), from the Prima Pars, Question 30, Article 2, a reflection on the nature of the Holy Trinity, and the necessity of three persons:
"I answer that, As was explained above, there can be only three persons in God. For it was shown above that the several persons are the several subsisting relations really distinct from each other. But a real distinction between the divine relations can come only from relative opposition. Therefore two opposite relations must needs refer to two persons: and if any relations are not opposite they must needs belong to the same person. Since then paternity and filiation are opposite relations, they belong necessarily to two persons. Therefore the subsisting paternity is the person of the Father; and the subsisting filiation is the person of the Son. The other two relations are not opposed to either of these, but are opposed to each other; therefore these two cannot belong to one person: hence either one of them must belong to both of the aforesaid persons; or one must belong to one person, and the other to the other. Now, procession cannot belong to the Father and the Son, or to either of them; for thus it would follows that the procession of the intellect, which in God is generation, wherefrom paternity and filiation are derived, would issue from the procession of love, whence spiration and procession are derived, if the person generating and the person generated proceeded from the person spirating; and this is against what was laid down above (27, 3 and 4). We must frequently admit that spiration belongs to the person of the Father, and to the person of the Son, forasmuch as it has no relative opposition either to paternity or to filiation; and consequently that procession belongs to the other person who is called the person of the Holy Ghost, who proceeds by way of love, as above explained. Therefore only three persons exist in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
New Advent: Summa I, Q. 39, A. 2


Of course, while St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, attempts to explain some aspects of the Holy Trinity, it remains a mystery beyond the created intellect of man!  There have been many analogies, of course, to try to express the mystery of the Trinity, such as St. Patrick's clover.  One of my favorite analogies for the Trinity is from arithmetic: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.


You might consult these links for more information on the doctrine and the feast:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: On the Trinity, #232-267

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Trinity

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Trinity Sunday

Fisheaters: Trinity Sunday



Finally, a selection, the Credo, from the Trinity Mass of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (+1796AD), written for this very Sunday:





Blessed be the Holy Trinity, and undivided Unity!  We will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us! (Introit of Trinity Sunday)

Live well!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why Civil War: Secession & the War of the Union


Why Civil War?

The causes and complexities of the secession crisis and War of Union of the 1860s are often a topic of discussion and dispute.  Unfortunately, nearly as often, these causes and complexities are distorted or exaggerated to justify one side or the other.  It is my hope to fairly and concisely lay out some of the key causes and motivations that turned the sectional dispute into a war, especially hoping to fill out an understanding of Southern motivations and rationale.


Usually the South is blamed for the advent of Civil War; really a War of Independence or a War of Union.  Secession and war are considered and treated as equivalent to one another.  Secession is war.  There is an important distinction, however, between the two, as history demonstrates.  Let us begin with secession.  Why did the South secede?

The Southern concerns were these: the Northern states pursued a set of economic policies (on tariffs, internal improvements, for instance) that undermined Southern economic interests.  The tariff issue was no small matter for the South, as Southern cotton exports made up more than half of American exports.  Further, Northern states had proven unwilling to recognize and enforce fugitive slave laws (as required by the Constitution), and they had railed against the South and the institution of slavery, seeking to restrict their ability to bring their "property" to the western territories; this even after the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that affirmed that as a Constitutional right.  Add to this the kind of affirming rhetoric that glorified John Brown at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and his militant anti-slavery techniques.  A host of issues divided the sections, and slavery, important in itself, became symbolic for them all.

The South may have lost control of the House of Representatives some years before, but had been able to rely on its standing in the Senate and the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court to broker compromises or defend its regional interests.  With the admission of several free states without new Southern states to balance, the South lost its equal status in the Senate.   On top of that, when the Republican Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected President, he was not even on the ballot in any of the states that would form the Confederacy except Virginia (in the Old Dominion, he received 1.1% of the vote; as an interesting side note, Lincoln carried California with 32.3% of the vote!).  That means that Lincoln did not receive a single popular vote, never mind electoral vote, in NC, SC, GA, FL, TN, AL, MS, LA, AR, and TX.

ElectoralCollege1860.svg
Presidential Election of 1860.

For the fire-eaters in places like South Carolina, they determined to get out while the getting was good. They lost Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court would soon inevitably follow. They had no expectations that the federal government would ever protect their interests, especially when they had shown that they weren’t willing to uphold their Constitutional rights.  As far as they were concerned, the Union that was the United States, no longer protected their interests, and they understood that departure from this free Union was their legal right.  States like Virginia, when they ratified the Constitution, expressed their understanding that they had the right to withdraw if the new government acted to injure or oppress the people.  (Cf., Ratification of the Constitution by the State of Virginia

John B. Gordon, a Confederate general, and later Governor of Georgia and member of the U.S. Senate, expressed the Southern understanding thus: “The South maintained with the depth of religious conviction that the Union formed under the Constitution was a Union of consent and not of force; that the original States were not the creatures but the creators of the Union; that these States had gained their independence, their freedom, and their sovereignty from the mother country, and had not surrendered these on entering the Union; that by the express terms of the Constitution all rights and powers not delegated were reserved to the States; and the South challenged the North to find one trace of authority in that Constitution for invading and coercing a sovereign State.” (cf., General Gordon's Reminiscences)

Conventions were called, delegates elected, and the secession crisis was at hand.

Hence, the Deep South (The Cotton States: SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, and TX) went ahead and seceded, from December 1860 to February 1861, before Lincoln even took office in March 1861.  These states (like MS) did express the protection of slavery as a reason for secession. (The MS ordinance can be viewed here: Mississippi Secession Ordinance)   The Vice-President of the new Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, himself a Unionist opposed to secession, but who remained loyal to Georgia, famously expressed this in his “Cornerstone Speech.” (Cf., Stephens: Cornerstone Speech)

For the upper South (The Tobacco States: VA, NC, TN, AR), secession only came after President Lincoln actually called up troops to invade the Cotton States after Fort Sumter. Virginia had actually voted against secession at the beginning of April (Cf., VIRGINIA CONVENTION VOTES AGAINST SECESSION), but reconsidered once Lincoln proposed to make it a war and invade the Deep South to compel them to remain.  For Virginia, the debate was about coercion.  Governor Letcher of Virginia responded to the call for troops to subdue the Deep South thus: "You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited towards the South." (Cf., New York Times: GOV. LETCHER REPLY TO SECRETARY CAMERON)

North Carolina, too, initially opposed secession, not even calling a convention.  The Tar Heel State changed her tune when President Lincoln called up troops:  “Congressman Zebulon Vance, a western Unionist, was gesturing to the heavens ‘for peace and the Union of our Fathers’ when someone handed him news of Lincoln’s call for troops. ‘When my hand came down,’ Vance recalled later, ‘it fell slowly and sadly by the side of a secessionist. I immediately, with altered voice and manner, called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer, not to fight against but for South Carolina.’”  (Cf., NY Times Opinionator: ‘The Death Knell of Slavery’):

This is an important point – the Southern states actually seceded at different points with different specific reasons and motivations.  All of them were content to separate from the United States without a war.  Confederate Vice-President Stephens in his “Cornerstone Speech” remarked in March 1861: “This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood.”  Nevertheless, they were also clearly willing to defend their right to secede with force of arms.


Map of U.S. showing two kinds of Union states, two phases of secession and territories.
Blue: Free Union States.
Yellow: Slave Union States (Border States)
Light Red: Upper South States (Tobacco States), which seceded after Lincoln's call for troops.
Dark Red: Deep South States (Cotton States), which seceded after Lincoln's election.
["US Secession map 1861" by Júlio Reis - The source code of this SVG is valid.This vector image was created with Inkscape, and then manually edited.A trace, retouch, and recolour of Image:Secession Map of the United States, 1861.png by User:Tomf688.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]


When the Deep South seceded, President James Buchanan of PA was in office, and would remain so until Lincoln’s inauguration in March 1861.  Buchanan viewed secession as being illegal, but also believed that a President had no legal power to make war on the states.  Hence, while he was President, there were attempts to retain federal property (several forts did remain under federal control, including Fort Sumter in SC, Fort Pickens in FL, and Fort Monroe in VA), but there was no war or invasion.  In his Fourth Annual Address in December 1860, President Buchanan observed: “The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it can not live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force.” (Cf., Fourth Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union)

President Abraham Lincoln, too, considered secession illegal, but curiously, like Buchanan, also maintained a right of the people to Revolution: “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.” First Inaugural Address, March 1861. (Cf., First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln)

Ultimately, it was Abraham Lincoln that determined that secession was illegal, the Union must be saved, and it must be saved by the use of military force.  For Lincoln, this was to be a war to save the Union – and he said it was so in a letter to newspaper editor Horace Greeley of NY in August 1862: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union, and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.” (cf., New York Times: Reply to Horace Greeley)

It is an interesting to ponder the question of using coercion to compel so many states to remain in a free union, even at the cost of over 600,000 lives and four years of war.

Without question, Abraham Lincoln was opposed to slavery, but he was also very much against racial equality, having said: "...I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- that I am not...in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, not of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people...there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality." -- Abraham Lincoln, 18 September 1858; Fourth Debate with Stephen Douglas.  Lincoln himself supported compensated emancipation and hoped to avoid racial issues in the U.S. by encouraging freedmen to emigrate. (Cf., Civil War Daily Gazette: LINCOLN ARGUES IN FAVOR OF COLONIZING THE FREED SLAVES)

Later on, as the war progressed, the decision was made to eradicate slavery.  The role of the freedmen in society, however, remained hotly debated.  Ending slavery and granting equal rights were two rather different things.  New York had overwhelmingly voted down a referendum to extend voting rights to blacks in 1860.  Indeed, at the time of the ratification of the 15th Amendment after the war, only 7 of the Northern states had extended voting franchise to African Americans.

That said, it should be highlighted that the institution of slavery, as it existed in ante bellum America, was morally problematic and certainly an injustice.  Perhaps the greatest injustice was the failure of U.S. laws to recognize slave marriages or to legally prohibit the separation of families.  Even if we seek to understand Southern motivations, we certainly ought not try to whitewash or justify the evils of slavery as it was practiced in the United States.  Of course, a study of slavery, to be complete, would also probe the unseemly role of northern ports in the slave trade, and the motivation to protect slavery in the calls for independence from Great Britain in the American Revolution.   America has had a race problem, and a problem with racism, but it is not limited to the South.  Of course, racism is hardly a uniquely American problem!

In sum, secession and war were two different matters, and the reasons that various individuals and states involved themselves in either certainly varied.

A great deal more could be said about the prosecution of the war and the era of Reconstruction that followed, but that is a subject for another day.



 Confederate Rebel Flag.svg      First National flag of the Confederate States of America
Left: The Battle Flag of the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
Right: The First National Flag of the Confederacy, the "Stars and Bars."

On a related note, then, a few thoughts about the controversial Confederate Battle Flag and its history.

The Confederate battle flag was not a civil flag of the Confederacy (though its design was incorporated into the 2nd and 3rd national flags), but a battle flag for Confederate forces.   In a square shape, it was the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, and as a rectangle, the flag of the Army of Tennessee.  During the war itself, the flag obviously symbolized the armed forces of the Confederate States.

It would become incorporated in the emblem of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in the 1890s; not unexpectedly, as it was a military flag, and the organization sought to commemorate military service.

Later, in the 20th century, the flag was used as a symbol of Southern resistance in the era of racial integration and the Civil Rights movement.

Hence, there are some racists that have used, and do use, the flag, to symbolize racism and white supremacy.  Others use it as a symbol of regional pride and autonomy.  Still others, like the Sons of Confederate Veterans, use it to honor those that sacrificed much for their home states.  Even the Anti-Defamation league, not an organization sympathetic to the memory of Confederate soldiers, notes regarding the flag: "because of the continued use of the flag by non-extremists, one should not automatically assume that display of the flag is racist or white supremacist in nature.  The symbol should only be judged in context." (Cf., ADL: Confederate Flag)

Like the era from which it came, the Confederate Battle Flag is a complex symbol.

For those interested, I earlier posted on the issue of the honor of Confederate veterans here:



In all of these issues, it is certainly important for the honest student of history to seek to understand the motivations of both sides, the complexities of the issues, and seek to learn what we can from the shortcomings of our forefathers and our Republic.


Live well!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Feast of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany

File:Saint Boniface by Cornelis Bloemaert.jpg
St. Boniface, by Cornelius Bloemaert, ca. 1630AD.

Today is the Feast of St. Boniface, Bishop, Martyr, and "Apostle of Germany."  St. Boniface was from England, but would become a great missionary to the unconverted east of the Rhine River.  After meeting with Pope Gregory II in 718, St. Boniface was given the papal mandate in 719 to preach the Gospel to the Germans.  He would find a mixture of peoples already familiar with Christianity -- St. Willibrord, Bishop of Utrecht, did much in Freisland, and St. Corbinian, Bishop of Freising, in Bavaria -- but also a number of heathens, especially in the land of the Hessians.  From that year until his martyrdom in 755AD, St. Boniface labored with a great deal of success for the souls of the German peoples.  He was, officially, the Archbishop of Mainz from 745-755AD.  St. Boniface has an entry, actually, at the Catholic Hierarchy page: Catholic Hierarchy: St. Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz

For more information, you might note these sites:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Boniface

Catholic Saints Info: St. Boniface

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Boniface

This letter of Pope Gregory II to Charles Martel of the Franks, written in 722AD, and referring to Boniface, is a splendid little read:

"To the glorious Lord, our son, Duke Charles.
Having learned, beloved son in Christ, that you are a man of deeply religious feeling, we make known to you that our brother Boniface, who now stands before you, a man of sterling faith and character, has been consecrated bishop by us, and after being instructed in the teachings of the Holy Apostolic See, over which by God’s grace we preside, is being sent to preach the faith to the peoples of Germany who dwell on the eastern bank of the Rhine, some of whom are still steeped in the efforts of paganism, while many more are plunged in the darkness of ignorance.

For this reason we commend him without more ado to your kindness and goodwill, begging you to help him in all his needs and to grant him your constant protection against any who may stand in his way. Know for certain that any favour bestowed on him is done for God, who on sending His holy Apostles to convert the Gentiles said that any man who received them received Him.

Instructed by us in the teachings of these Apostles, the bishop aforesaid is now on his way to take up the work assigned to him."



Bonifacius by Doepler, ca. 1905.

 Certainly the tale of St. Boniface and the Oak of Thor sacred to the German Druids bears recounting:
"At another level of symbolism, Saint Boniface (675-754) chopped down an oak tree sacred to pagans at Geismar in Germany. He did this to show them that nothing bad would happen, that Thor has no power. It is said that when he did this, he pointed out a small fir tree growing at its base and said "This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your comfort and your guide."
cf: Fisheaters: Customs of Christmas


Here is the fuller account of St. Boniface and Donar's Oak from the 8th century Willibald's Life of St. Boniface:
"Now at that time many of the Hessians, brought under the Catholic faith and confirmed by the grave of the sevenfold spirit, received the laying on of hands; others indeed, not yet strengthened in soul, refused to accept in their entirely the lessons of the inviolate faith. Moreover some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things. With the advice and counsel of these last, the saint attempted, in the place called Gaesmere, while the servants of God stood by his side, to fell a certain oak of extraordinary size, which is called, by an old name of the pagans, the Oak of Jupiter. And when in the strength of his steadfast heart he had cut the lower notch, there was present a great multitude of pagans, who in their souls were earnestly cursing the enemy of their gods. But when the fore side of the tree was notched only a little, suddenly the oak's vast bulk, driven by a blast from above, crashed to the ground, shivering its crown of branches as it fell; and, as if by the gracious compensation of the Most High, it was also burst into four parts, and four trunks of huge size, equal in length, were seen, unwrought by the brethren who stood by. At this sight the pagans who before had cursed now, on the contrary, believed, and blessed the Lord, and put away their former reviling. Then moreover the most holy bishop, after taking counsel with the brethren, built from the timber of the tree wooden oratory, and dedicated it in honor of Saint Peter the apostle." [Robinson, George W. (trans.) (1916). The Life of Saint Boniface by WillibaldHarvard University Press. pages 62-64]

St. Boniface, pray for us, and pray for Germany!

Live well!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Veni Sancte Spiritus: Pentecost

Today is Pentecost Sunday -- the novena from the Ascension is now complete, and we are Fifty Days from Easter Sunday!

File:Jean II Restout - Pentecôte.jpg
Pentecost (1732AD), by Jean Restout (+1768AD)

We read in Sacred Scripture, Acts Chapter 2, about this day:
 And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.

This Feast, also known as Whitsunday, is rich with meaning and custom, and some more details may be found here:
Fisheaters: Pentecost

For more information: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Pentecost

On this day, a plenary indulgence can be received for the recitation of the Veni, Creator Spiritus in either a church or oratory:



VENI, Creator Spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia
quae tu creasti pectora.
COME, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,
fons vivus, ignis, caritas,
et spiritalis unctio.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Tu, septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae,
Tu rite promissum Patris,
sermone ditans guttura.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God's hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Accende lumen sensibus:
infunde amorem cordibus:
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o'erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Hostem repellas longius,
pacemque dones protinus:
ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Per te sciamus da Patrem,
noscamus atque Filium;
Teque utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio, qui a mortuis
surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.
Amen.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven.
Amen.
Preces Latinae.org: Veni Creator

Nota bene: "§ 1. Plenaria indulgentia conceditur christifideli qui, in ecclesia vel oratorio, devote interfuerit sollemni cantui vel recitationi: 

1° hymni Veni, Creator, vel prima anni die ad divinam opem pro totius anni decursu implorandam; vel in sollemnitate Pentecostes;"

Cf., Enchiridion indulgentiarum

The original location of this event -- the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and Our Lady -- is the Cenacle on Mount Zion.  It sits just outside the walls of Jerusalem to the south, and was the same location as the Last Supper.  This is the descent of the Holy Spirit room today:


You can read more about the modern site here:
Studium Biblicum Franciscanum: Cenacle.

Today also happens to be the patronal feast of the school of this blogger:
Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Atlanta, Georgia

Finally, enjoy the chant of the Sequence of Pentecost, Veni Sancte Spiritus:



Veni Sancte Spiritus!  Come Holy Spirit!

Happy Pentecost!

Live Well!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ascension Thursday

File:AscensionofChrist2.jpg
Ascension of Christ by Garofalo (1520AD)

Today marks forty days from the great feast of Easter Sunday!

Forty days after the Resurrection of Our Divine Lord, He Ascended into Heaven, we read in the Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11:

The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up. To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence. 

They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? But he said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in his own power: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had said these things, while they looked on, he was raised up: and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were beholding him going up to heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments. Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? This Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven. Then they returned to Jerusalem...


For more details and customs associated with this great and high feast of Ascension Thursday, you can't do much better than this site:
Fisheaters: Ascension

Always worth a read, too, is the Old Catholic Encyclopedia:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ascension

Of course, the site of this event is the great Mount of Olives just across the valley from the old city of Jerusalem.  Most specifically, the Chapel of the Ascension: Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem

In most of the United States, the obligation and observation of this great feast is transferred to the following Sunday -- except those in the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston (MA, ME, NH, VT), Hartford (CT, RI), New York City (NY), Newark (NJ), Philadelphia (PA), and Omaha (NE).  Sadly, in my own Atlanta Province (GA, SC, NC), Ascension Thursday will come on Sunday.

Still, happy Feast!  Live well!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Feast of St. Peter Celestine

 
St. Celestine V (1294)

Today, 19 May, is the feast day of Pope St. Celestine V -- listed in many missals as St. Peter Celestine.  He is famous as one of the few popes prior to Pope Benedict XVI to have abdicated.


His in 1294AD was the previous resignation case before Pope Gregory XII in the 15th century, and is, perhaps, more similar to that of 2013 than Gregory XII.

The death of Nicholas IV (1288-1292), a Franciscan and patron of the arts, led to a very long conclave (the earlier strict rules of conclave had been suspended, so the cardinals could come and go).  Nicholas IV having died in 1292, the conclave to elect his successor only included 12 cardinals, of which 8 were required for the required majority.  The rival Orsini and Colonna families each controlled 3, France had 2, and there were 4 “independent” Italians, including Cardinal Gaetani, the future Boniface VIII.  The deadlocked cardinals finally selected Peter of Moroni, a hermit and certainly politically non-aligned, in 1294.  He took the name Celestine V.  Unfortunately, he would be under the domination of King Charles II (1285-1309) in Naples throughout his short pontificate and would be taken advantage of by unscrupulous types.

"The thought of abdication seems to have occurred simultaneously to the pope and to his discontented cardinals,... whom he rarely consulted. That the idea originated with Cardinal Gaetani the latter vigorously denied, and maintained that he originally opposed it. But the serious canonical doubt arose: Can a pope resign? As he has no superior on earth, who is authorized to accept his resignation? The solution of the question was reserved to the trained canonist, Cardinal Gaetani, who, basing his conclusion on common sense and the Church's right to self-preservation, decided affirmatively." Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope St. Celestine V

The man who convinced the otherworldly pontiff to resign, Boniface VIII (1294-1303), became pope, then, in 1294.  He is famous for being put in Hell by Dante (some think St. Celestine V, too, is there, as being the "one who made the great refusal."), his disputes with the kings of his day, and for his hard-hitting papal bull, Unam Sanctam of 1302: Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam

You might also check this site for information on Pope St. Celestine V and Benedict XVI's recent visit to his tomb: Benedict XVI honors St. Celestine V

As always, for a short summary of his life, you might note:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Celestine V

Live well.