Saturday, October 21, 2017

St. Ursula & the Virgin Islands

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

File:Hans Memling 074.jpg
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:

Coat of arms of British Virgin Islands
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!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist

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

File:St luke displaying a painting of the virgin guercino.jpg
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!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Feast of St. Teresa of Avila & a Calendar Change

Peter Paul Rubens 138.jpg
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 2017, was instituted by a Pope, and took effect the year of St. Teresa's death: 1582.

Live well!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

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!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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).

File:Isabella of Portugal by Titian.jpg
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!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Feast of St. Denis & Royal Necropolis

Today is the Feast of St. Denis (Dionysius in Latin), Martyr and first Bishop of Paris, France.  Pope St. Fabian dispatched Denis as a missionary to Gaul in the mid-third century.  Denis and his companions, Sts. Rusticus and Eleutherius, for their part, shed their blood for Christ during either the Decian persecution around 250AD or that of Valerian in 258 AD.  The place of their martyrdom was the hill of Montmartre.

Paris - Cathédrale Notre-Dame - Portail de la Vierge - PA00086250 - 003.jpg
Image of St. Denis (left) from the Nuremberg Chronicles, and (right) from a portal of Notre Dame.
[Image on right: By Thesupermat - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,]

Legend has it that St. Denis, after being beheaded, picked up his head and walked some distance to the site of the Basilica of St. Denis -- hence his frequent presentation in art holding his own head.

For more on the Saint you can visit:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Denis of Paris

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Denis

Saint-Denis - Façade.jpg

Facade of the Basilica of St. Denis.
[By Thomas Clouet - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,]

Built on the site of a an earlier church, the Basilica of St. Denis was first constructed by orders of the Frankish King Dagobert I (reigned 629-634AD), and would house the relics of St. Denis.  This site of pilgrimage would also end up being the burial place of the Kings of France from the 10th through 18th century.  The would be coronated at the Catherdral of Rheims (the see of St. Remy or Remigius), but they would be buried here at St. Denis, near Paris.

You can visit the website of the Basilica here: Basilique Saint-Denis

File:Saint-Denis - Basilique -2.JPG
Interior of the Basilica of St. Denis.

The great Abbot Suger (+1151AD) began a project in 1135AD to remodel the Basilica, and giving rise to a new form of architecture: Gothic.  It is an architectural masterpiece.  You can read the Abbot's account of his renovations here:

With the exception of but three, every King of France from Clovis I (+511AD) to Louis XVIII (+1824AD) is buried in this sacred place.  A couple of the monuments are pictured below:

File:Basilique Saint-Denis Louis XII Anne de Bretagne tombeau.jpg
Monument of King Louis XII (+1515AD) and his Queen, Anne of Brittany.
[By Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,]

File:Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette.jpg
Monument of King Louis XVI (+1793AD) and his Queen, Marie Antoinette.
[By Eric Pouhier - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,]

Live well!

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, we celebrate the observance of Columbus Day; the day commemorates the 12th of October, 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

File:Viajes de colon en.svg
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 in an attempt to minimize such abuses) 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!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

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!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

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.

File:Battle of Lepanto 1571.jpg
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!

File:Battaglia Lepanto in Vaticano.jpg
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!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Feast of St. Francis & his Assisi

Today is the feast day of the Seraphic St. Francis of Assisi (+1226AD)!  St. Francis of Assisi, indeed, embodies the Christian ideals of love and poverty.  Renouncing all of his worldly goods, St. Francis wedded himself to holy poverty and a humble way of life radically dedicated to the notion of love of God, and, for His sake, love of neighbor.  His radiant holiness immediately attracted associates that would be the core of a new religious order, the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), the Franciscans, and the women's community of the Poor Clares.

St. Francis in Ecstacy by Jusepe de Ribera (+1652AD)

How many wonderful stories fill the life of St. Francis, from his pilgrimage to Rome for the approval of his community, to his restoration of the Porziuncola, to his trip to Egypt to convert a Sultan, to his splendid canticle.  Of course, two years before his death, St. Francis of Assisi, while praying on Mount Alvernia, miraculously received the wounds of Christ -- the Stigmata.  The commemoration of this event, the Imprinting of the Stigmata of St. Francis, is a feast that falls on 17 September.

It is little wonder that nearly 800 years later, St. Francis remains such a beloved example of sanctity!

I would certainly recommend the work of G.K. Chesterton on St. Francis of Assisi!  Below find a few sources that can give you more details than a brief blog post!

Catholic Saints Info: St. Francis of Assisi

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Francis of Assisi

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Francis of Assisi

To put the thought and example of St. Francis into a little better focus, especially on matters liturgical, you might note this splendid passage:
"Epistola ad custodes
To all the custodians of the Friars Minor to whom this letter shall come, Brother Francis, your servant and little one in the Lord God, greetings with new signs of heaven and earth which are great and most excellent before God and are considered least of all by many religious and by other men.
I beg you more than if it were a question of myself that, when it is becoming and you will deem it convenient, you humbly beseech the clerics to venerate above all the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Name and written words which sanctify the body. They ought to hold the chalices, corporals, ornaments of the altar, and all that pertain to the Sacrifice as precious. And if the most holy Body of the Lord is left very poorly in any place, let It be moved by them to a precious place, according to the command of the Church and let It be carried with great veneration and administered to others with discretion. The Names also and written words of the Lord, In whatever unclean place they may be found, let them be collected, and then they must be put in a proper place. And in every time you preach,admonish the people about penance and that no one can be saved except he that receives the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord. And whenever It is being sacrificed by the priest on the altar and It is being carried to any place, let all the people give praise, honor, and glory to the Lord God Living and True on their bended knees. And let His praise be announced and preached to all peoples so that at every hour and when the bells are rung praise and thanks shall always be given to the Almighty God by all the people through the whole earth.
And whoever of my brothers custodians shall receive this writing, let them copy it and keep it with them and cause it to be copied for the brothers who have the office of preaching and the care of brothers, and let them preach all those things that are contained in this writing to the end: let them know they have the blessing of the Lord God and mine. And let these be for them true and holy obedience."

View of the west end of the Town of Assisi, featuring the Basilica of St. Francis.

The Town of Assisi in the Umbria region of Italy is certainly a beautiful and uplifting place to visit.  It is a delight to wander its medieval streets, and even see remnants of the Roman town in the Roman temple turned Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minvera and the oval of the old Roman amphitheater.  In Assisi, St. Francis, and his original four companions, are buried in the Basilica of St. Francis, St. Claire of Assisi is buried in the Basilica of Santa Chiara, and in the valley below the medieval city, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli houses the Porziuncola and the site of the death of St. Francis.  Finally the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi is where St. Francis, St. Clare, and Emperor Frederick II were baptized.

What follows are some images of the delightful Umbrian village of Assisi, long part of the Papal States, along with the Churches mentioned above.  All photos by the author of this blog:

Street scene in Assisi.

Looking outside of town into the Umbrian mountains.

What remains of a Roman amphitheatre in the eastern part of the town (note the curved wall).

The Basilica of St. Francis at the west end of the town.  Site of the tomb of St. Francis.

The Basilica of Santa Chiara -- here St. Clare is buried.

Looking back at Santa Chiara from the west.

The Cathedral of San Rufino.

Live well!