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pastoral work in secrecy [03 Jul 2006|06:31pm]

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July 2, 2006

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St. Oliver Plunkett
(1629-1681)


The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution.
Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners.

Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681.

Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.
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authentic human development on new-found faith [01 Jul 2006|01:12am]

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Blessed Junipero Serra
(1713-1784)

In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard.

Born in Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World.

Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there.

Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two conquistadors—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived.

Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death.

Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans.

Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns.

Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.

Comment:

The word that best describes Junipero is zeal. It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will. “Always forward, never back” was his motto. His work bore fruit for 50 years after his death as the rest of the missions were founded in a kind of Christian communal living by the Indians. When both Mexican and American greed caused the secularization of the missions, the Chumash people went back to what they had been—God again writing straight with crooked lines.

Quote:
During his homily at Serra’s beatification, Pope John Paul II said: “Relying on the divine power of the message he proclaimed, Father Serra led the native peoples to Christ. He was well aware of their heroic virtues—as exemplified in the life of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha—and he sought to further their authentic human development on the basis of their new-found faith as persons created and redeemed by God. He also had to admonish the powerful, in the spirit of our second reading from James, not to abuse and exploit the poor and the weak.”


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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The blood of martyrs: the seed of Christians [01 Jul 2006|01:00am]

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Santa Maria in Trastevere, theorized to be the first Christian church in Rome


First Martyrs of the Church of Rome
(d. 68)


There were Christians in Rome within a dozen or so years after the death of Jesus, though they were not the converts of the “Apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 15:20). Paul had not yet visited them at the time he wrote his great letter in a.d. 57-58.
There was a large Jewish population in Rome. Probably as a result of controversy between Jews and Jewish Christians, the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50 A.D. Suetonius the historian says that the expulsion was due to disturbances in the city “caused by the certain Chrestus” [Christ]. Perhaps many came back after Claudius’s death in 54 A.D. Paul’s letter was addressed to a Church with members from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.

In July of 64 A.D., more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumor blamed the tragedy on Nero, who wanted to enlarge his palace. He shifted the blame by accusing the Christians. According to the historian Tacitus, a “great multitude” of Christians was put to death because of their “hatred of the human race.” Peter and Paul were probably among the victims.

Threatened by an army revolt and condemned to death by the senate, Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D. at the age of 31.

Comment:

Wherever the Good News of Jesus was preached, it met the same opposition as Jesus did, and many of those who began to follow him shared his suffering and death. But no human force could stop the power of the Spirit unleashed upon the world. The blood of martyrs has always been, and will always be, the seed of Christians.

Quote:
From Pope Clement I, successor of St. Peter: “It was through envy and jealousy that the greatest and most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and struggled unto death.... First of all, Peter, who because of unreasonable jealousy suffered not merely once or twice but many times, and, having thus given his witness, went to the place of glory that he deserved. It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith....”

“Around these men with their holy lives there are gathered a great throng of the elect, who, though victims of jealousy, gave us the finest example of endurance in the midst of many indignities and tortures. Through jealousy women were tormented, like Dirce or the daughters of Danaus, suffering terrible and unholy acts of violence. But they courageously finished the course of faith and despite their bodily weakness won a noble prize.”


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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dying Christ was in him [29 Jun 2006|03:05pm]

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Sts. Peter and Paul
(d. 64 & 67)


Peter: St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus.
The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles.

And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the nether world shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19).

But the Gospels prove their own veracity by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus.

He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b).

Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears.

Paul: If Billy Graham suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate.

Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus.

Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise.

In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.

Comment:

We would probably go to confession to Peter sooner than to any of the other apostles. He is perhaps a more striking example of the simple fact of holiness. Jesus says to us as he said, in effect, to Peter: "It is not you who have chosen me, but I who have chosen you. Peter, it is not human wisdom that makes it possible for you to believe, but my Father's revelation. I, not you, build my Church." Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was the driving force that made him one of the most zealous, dynamic and courageous ambassadors of Christ the Church has ever had. But persecution, humiliation and weakness became his day-by-day carrying of the cross, material for further transformation. The dying Christ was in him; the living Christ was his life.


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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a system of theology of great importance [28 Jun 2006|10:37am]

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St. Irenaeus
(130?-220)

The Church is fortunate that Irenaeus was involved in many of its controversies in the second century. He was a student, well trained, no doubt, with great patience in investigating, tremendously protective of apostolic teaching, but prompted more by a desire to win over his opponents than to prove them in error.
As bishop of Lyons he was especially concerned with the Gnostics, who took their name from the Greek word for “knowledge.” Claiming access to secret knowledge imparted by Jesus to only a few disciples, their teaching was attracting and confusing many Christians. After thoroughly investigating the various Gnostic sects and their “secret,” Irenaeus showed to what logical conclusions their tenets led. These he contrasted with the teaching of the apostles and the text of Holy Scripture, giving us, in five books, a system of theology of great importance to subsequent times. Moreover, his work, widely used and translated into Latin and Armenian, gradually ended the influence of the Gnostics.

The circumstances and details about his death, like those of his birth and early life in Asia Minor, are not at all clear.

Comment:

A deep and genuine concern for other people will remind us that the discovery of truth is not to be a victory for some and a defeat for others. Unless all can claim a share in that victory, truth itself will continue to be rejected by the losers, because it will be regarded as inseparable from the yoke of defeat. And so, confrontation, controversy and the like might yield to a genuine united search for God's truth and how it can best be served.


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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Eucharist consummates kinship with the word [27 Jun 2006|07:47am]

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June 27, 2006
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St. Cyril of Alexandria
(376?-444)


Saints are not born with halos around their heads. Cyril, recognized as a great teacher of the Church, began his career as archbishop of Alexandria, Egypt, with impulsive, often violent, actions. He pillaged and closed the churches of the Novatian heretics, participated in the deposing of St. John Chrysostom and confiscated Jewish property, expelling the Jews from Alexandria in retaliation for their attacks on Christians.
Cyril’s importance for theology and Church history lies in his championing the cause of orthodoxy against the heresy of Nestorius.

The controversy centered around the two natures in Christ. Nestorius would not agree to the title “God-bearer” for Mary. He preferred “Christ-bearer,” saying there are two distinct persons in Christ (divine and human) joined only by a moral union. He said Mary was not the mother of God but only of the man Christ, whose humanity was only a temple of God. Nestorianism implied that the humanity of Christ was a mere disguise.

Presiding as the pope’s representative at the Council of Ephesus (431), Cyril condemned Nestorianism and proclaimed Mary truly the “God-bearer” (the mother of the one Person who is truly God and truly human). In the confusion that followed, Cyril was deposed and imprisoned for three months, after which he was welcomed back to Alexandria as a second Athanasius (the champion against Arianism).

Besides needing to soften some of his opposition to those who had sided with Nestorius, Cyril had difficulties with some of his own allies, who thought he had gone too far, sacrificing not only language but orthodoxy. Until his death, his policy of moderation kept his extreme partisans under control. On his deathbed, despite pressure, he refused to condemn the teacher of Nestorius.

Comment:

Lives of the saints are valuable not only for the virtue they reveal but also for the less admirable qualities that also appear. Holiness is a gift of God to us as human beings. Life is a process. We respond to God's gift, but sometimes with a lot of zigzagging. If Cyril had been more patient and diplomatic, the Nestorian Church might not have risen and maintained power so long. But even saints must grow out of immaturity, narrowness and selfishness. It is because they—and we—do grow, that we are truly saints, persons who live the life of God.

Quote:
Cyril's theme: "Only if it is one and the same Christ who is consubstantial with the Father and with men can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and man is the flesh of Christ. Only if this is God's own flesh can man come into contact with Christ's divinity through his humanity. Because of our kinship with the Word made flesh we are sons of God. The Eucharist consummates our kinship with the word, our communion with the Father, our sharing in the divine nature—there is very real contact between our body and that of the Word" (New Catholic Encyclopedia).


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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indignity strengthens a generous spirit [26 Jun 2006|04:47pm]

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June 26, 2006


Blessed Raymond Lull


(1235-1315)




Raymond worked all his life to promote the missions and died a missionary to North Africa.
Raymond was born at Palma on the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea. He earned a position in the king’s court there. One day a sermon inspired him to dedicate his life to working for the conversion of the Muslims in North Africa. He became a Secular Franciscan and founded a college where missionaries could learn the Arabic they would need in the missions. Retiring to solitude, he spent nine years as a hermit. During that time he wrote on all branches of knowledge, a work which earned him the title "Enlightened Doctor."

Raymond then made many trips through Europe to interest popes, kings and princes in establishing special colleges to prepare future missionaries. He achieved his goal in 1311 when the Council of Vienne ordered the creation of chairs of Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean at the universities of Bologna, Oxford, Paris and Salamanca. At the age of 79, Raymond went to North Africa in 1314 to be a missionary himself. An angry crowd of Muslims stoned him in the city of Bougie. Genoese merchants took him back to Mallorca where he died. Raymond was beatified in 1514.

Comment:

Raymond worked most of his life to help spread the gospel. Indifference on the part of some Christian leaders and opposition in North Africa did not turn him from his goal.

Three hundred years later Raymond’s work began to have an influence in the Americas. When the Spanish began to spread the gospel in the New World, they set up missionary colleges to aid the work. Blessed Junipero Serra belonged to such a college.

Quote:
Thomas of Celano wrote of St. Francis: "In vain does the wicked man persecute one striving after virtue, for the more he is buffeted, the more strongly will he triumph. As someone says, indignity strengthens a generous spirit" (I Celano, #11).


(This entry appears in the print edition of Day by Day With Followers of Francis and Clare.)
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He is not a figure that we can forget [24 Jun 2006|01:43pm]

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June 24, 2006


Birth of John the Baptist


 
 
 
 
Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).
John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life.

His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

Comment:

John challenges us Christians to the fundamental attitude of Christianity—total dependence on the Father, in Christ. Except for the Mother of God, no one had a higher function in the unfolding of salvation. Yet the least in the kingdom, Jesus said, is greater than he, for the pure gift that the Father gives. The attractiveness as well as the austerity of John, his fierce courage in denouncing evil—all stem from his fundamental and total placing of his life within the will of God.

Quote:
"And this is not something which was only true once, long ago in the past. It is always true, because the repentance which he preached always remains the way into the kingdom which he announced. He is not a figure that we can forget now that Jesus, the true light, has appeared. John is always relevant because he calls for a preparation which all men need to make. Hence every year there are four weeks in the life of the Church in which it listens to the voice of the Baptist. These are the weeks of Advent" (A New Catechism).
 

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
 

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incomparable for uprightness of life [23 Jun 2006|08:00am]

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June 23, 2006


St. John Fisher


(1469-1535)
 
 
 
 
John Fisher is usually associated with Erasmus, Thomas More and other Renaissance humanists. His life, therefore, did not have the external simplicity found in the lives of some saints. Rather, he was a man of learning, associated with the intellectuals and political leaders of his day. He was interested in the contemporary culture and eventually became chancellor at Cambridge. He had been made a bishop at 35, and one of his interests was raising the standard of preaching in England. Fisher himself was an accomplished preacher and writer. His sermons on the penitential psalms were reprinted seven times before his death. With the coming of Lutheranism, he was drawn into controversy. His eight books against heresy gave him a leading position among European theologians.
In 1521 he was asked to study the problem of Henry VIII’s marriage. He incurred Henry’s anger by defending the validity of the king’s marriage with Catherine and later by rejecting Henry’s claim to be the supreme head of the Church of England.

In an attempt to be rid of him, Henry first had him accused of not reporting all the “revelations” of the nun of Kent, Elizabeth Barton. John was summoned, in feeble health, to take the oath to the new Act of Succession. He and Thomas More refused because the Act presumed the legality of Henry’s divorce and his claim to be head of the English Church. They were sent to the Tower of London, where Fisher remained 14 months without trial. They were finally sentenced to life imprisonment and loss of goods.

When the two were called to further interrogations, they remained silent. Fisher was tricked, on the supposition he was speaking privately as a priest, and declared again that the king was not supreme head. The king, further angered that the pope had made John Fisher a cardinal, had him brought to trial on the charge of high treason. He was condemned and executed, his body left to lie all day on the scaffold and his head hung on London Bridge. More was executed two weeks later.

Comment:

Today many questions are raised about Christians' and priests' active involvement in social issues. John Fisher remained faithful to his calling as a bishop. He strongly upheld the teachings of the Church; the very cause of his martyrdom was his loyalty to Rome. He was involved in the cultural enrichment circles as well as in the political struggles of his time. This involvement caused him to question the moral conduct of the leadership of his country. "The Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national and international level, and to denounce instances of injustice, when the fundamental rights of man and his very salvation demand it" (Justice in the World, 1971 Synod of Bishops).

Quote:
Erasmus said of John Fisher: "He is the one man at this time who is incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul."
 

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
 

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Few saints are more relevant to the 20th century [22 Jun 2006|11:14am]

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June 22, 2006
St. Thomas More
(1478-1535) 
 
His belief that no lay ruler has jurisdiction over the Church of Christ cost Thomas More his life.
Beheaded on Tower Hill, London, July 6, 1535, he steadfastly refused to approve Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage and establishment of the Church of England.

Described as “a man for all seasons,” More was a literary scholar, eminent lawyer, gentleman, father of four children and chancellor of England. An intensely spiritual man, he would not support the king’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Nor would he acknowledge Henry as supreme head of the Church in England, breaking with Rome and denying the pope as head.

More was committed to the Tower of London to await trial for treason: not swearing to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. Upon conviction, More declared he had all the councils of Christendom and not just the council of one realm to support him in the decision of his conscience.

Comment:

Four hundred years later, in 1935, Thomas More was canonized a saint of God. Few saints are more relevant to the 20th century. The supreme diplomat and counselor, he did not compromise his own moral values in order to please the king, knowing that true allegiance to authority is not blind acceptance of everything that authority wants. King Henry himself realized this and tried desperately to win his chancellor to his side because he knew More was a man whose approval counted, a man whose personal integrity no one questioned. But when Thomas resigned as chancellor, unable to approve the two matters that meant most to Henry, the king had to get rid of Thomas More.
 

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
 

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Can an overweight and air-conditioned society deprive itself of anything? [22 Jun 2006|11:12am]

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June 21, 2006
St. Aloysius Gonzaga
(1568-1591)

 
The Lord can make saints anywhere, even amid the brutality and license of Renaissance life. Florence was the “mother of piety” for Aloysius Gonzaga despite his exposure to a “society of fraud, dagger, poison and lust.” As a son of a princely family, he grew up in royal courts and army camps. His father wanted Aloysius to be a military hero.
At age seven he experienced a profound spiritual quickening. His prayers included the Office of Mary, the psalms and other devotions. At age nine he came from his hometown of Castiglione to Florence to be educated; by age 11 he was teaching catechism to poor children, fasting three days a week and practicing great austerities. When he was 13 years old he traveled with his parents and the Empress of Austria to Spain and acted as a page in the court of Philip II. The more Aloysius saw of court life, the more disillusioned he became, seeking relief in learning about the lives of saints.

A book about the experience of Jesuit missionaries in India suggested to him the idea of entering the Society of Jesus, and in Spain his decision became final. Now began a four-year contest with his father. Eminent churchmen and laypeople were pressed into service to persuade him to remain in his “normal” vocation. Finally he prevailed, was allowed to renounce his right to succession and was received into the Jesuit novitiate.

Like other seminarians, Aloysius was faced with a new kind of penance—that of accepting different ideas about the exact nature of penance. He was obliged to eat more, to take recreation with the other students. He was forbidden to pray except at stated times. He spent four years in the study of philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine as his spiritual adviser.

In 1591, a plague struck Rome. The Jesuits opened a hospital of their own. The general himself and many other Jesuits rendered personal service. Because he nursed patients, washing them and making their beds, Aloysius caught the disease himself. A fever persisted after his recovery and he was so weak he could scarcely rise from bed. Yet, he maintained his great discipline of prayer, knowing that he would die within the octave of Corpus Christi, three months later. He was 23.

Comment:

As a saint who fasted, scourged himself, sought solitude and prayer and did not look on the faces of women, Aloysius seems an unlikely patron of youth in a society where asceticism is confined to training camps of football teams and boxers, and sexual permissiveness has little left to permit. Can an overweight and air-conditioned society deprive itself of anything? It will when it discovers a reason, as Aloysius did. The motivation for letting God purify us is the experience of God loving us, in prayer.

Quote:
"When we stand praying, beloved brethren, we ought to be watchful and earnest with our whole heart, intent on our prayers. Let all carnal and worldly thoughts pass away, nor let the soul at that time think on anything except the object of its prayer" (St. Cyprian, On the Lord's Prayer, 31).
 

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)

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Supporting a host of debtors, tramps and other needy people [20 Jun 2006|11:30am]

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June 20, 2006

St. Paulinus of Nola

(354?-431)

Anyone who is praised in the letters of six or seven saints undoubtedly must be of extraordinary character. Such a person was Paulinus of Nola, correspondent and friend of Augustine, Jerome, Melania, Martin, Gregory and Ambrose.
Born near Bordeaux, he was the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul, who had extensive property in both Gaul and Italy. Paulinus became a distinguished lawyer, holding several public offices in the Empire. With his Spanish wife, Therasia, he retired at an early age to a life of cultured leisure.

The two were baptized by the saintly bishop of Bordeaux and moved to Therasia?s estate in Spain. After many childless years, they had a son who died a week after birth. This occasioned their beginning a life of great austerity and charity, giving away most of their Spanish property. Possibly as a result of this great example, Paulinus was rather unexpectedly ordained a priest at Christmas by the bishop of Barcelona.

He and his wife then moved to Nola, near Naples. He had a great love for St. Felix of Nola, and spent much effort in promoting devotion to this saint. Paulinus gave away most of his remaining property (to the consternation of his relatives) and continued his work for the poor. Supporting a host of debtors, tramps and other needy people, he lived a monastic life in another part of his home. By popular demand he was made bishop of Nola and guided that diocese for 21 years.

His last years were saddened by the invasion of the Huns. Among his few writings is the earliest extant Christian wedding song.

Comment:

Many of us are tempted to "retire" early in life, after an initial burst of energy. Devotion to Christ and his work is waiting to be done all around us. Paulinus's life had scarcely begun when he thought it was over, as he took his ease on that estate in Spain. "Man proposes, but God disposes."


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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suffered great spiritual dryness [19 Jun 2006|12:13am]

elaterite
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June 19, 2006
St. Romuald
(950?-1027)

After a wasted youth, Romuald saw his father kill a relative in a duel over property. In horror he fled to a monastery near Ravenna in Italy. After three years some of the monks found him to be uncomfortably holy and eased him out.

He spent the next 30 years going about Italy, founding monasteries and hermitages. He longed to give his life to Christ in martyrdom, and got the pope?s permission to preach the gospel in Hungary. But he was struck with illness as soon as he arrived, and the illness recurred as often as he tried to proceed.

During another period of his life, he suffered great spiritual dryness. One day as he was praying Psalm 31 (I will give you understanding and I will instruct you), he was given an extraordinary light and spirit which never left him.

At the next monastery where he stayed, he was accused of a scandalous crime by a young nobleman he had rebuked for a dissolute life. Amazingly, his fellow monks believed the accusation. He was given a severe penance, forbidden to offer Mass and excommunicated, an unjust sentence he endured in silence for six months.

The most famous of the monasteries he founded was that of the Camaldoli (Campus Maldoli, name of the owner) in Tuscany. Here he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, uniting a monastic and hermit life.

His father later became a monk, wavered and was kept faithful by the encouragement of his son.

Comment:

Christ is a gentle leader, but he calls us to total holiness. Now and then men and women are raised up to challenge us by the absoluteness of their dedication, the vigor of their spirit, the depth of their conversion. The fact that we cannot duplicate their lives does not change the call to us to be totally open to God in our own particular circumstances.

(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)
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[18 Jun 2006|05:55am]

elaterite

 

saintm8j.jpg

June 18, 2006 Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925) Matt can be considered the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism.

Matt was born in Dublin, where his father worked on the docks and had a difficult time supporting his family. After a few years of schooling, Matt obtained work as a messenger for some liquor merchants; there he began to drink excessively. For 15 years—until he was 30—Matt was an active alcoholic.

 

One day he decided to take "the pledge" for three months, make a general confession and begin to attend daily Mass. There is evidence that Matt’s first seven years after taking the pledge were especially difficult. Avoiding his former drinking places was hard. He began to pray as intensely as he used to drink. He also tried to pay back people from whom he had borrowed or stolen money while he was drinking.

Most of his life Matt worked as a builder’s laborer. He joined the Secular Franciscan Order and began a life of strict penance; he abstained from meat nine months a year. Matt spent hours every night avidly reading Scripture and the lives of the saints. He prayed the rosary conscientiously. Though his job did not make him rich, Matt contributed generously to the missions.

After 1923 his health failed and Matt was forced to quit work. He died on his way to church on Trinity Sunday. Fifty years later Pope Paul VI gave him the title venerable.

Comment:

In looking at the life of Matt Talbot, we may easily focus on the later years when he had stopped drinking for some time and was leading a penitential life. Only alcoholic men and women who have stopped drinking can fully appreciate how difficult the earliest years of sobriety were for Matt.

He had to take one day at a time. So do the rest of us.

Quote: On an otherwise blank page in one of Matt’s books, the following is written: "God console thee and make thee a saint. To arrive at the perfection of humility four things are necessary: to despise the world, to despise no one, to despise self, to despise being despised by others."

(This entry appears in the print edition of Day byDay With Followers of Francis and Clare.)

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return [18 Jun 2006|05:54am]

elaterite
I returned Thursday night from a two-week pilgriamage to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovnia(former Yugoslavia), Rome (mostly the Vatican) and Assisi.
I have so much to say about my experiences. I am still suffering from some wicked, weird jet-lag. I have not slept more than four hours in the past five days. My body and mind are still on Megjugorje time, so although it is 5:30 am and the Californian in me should be sound asleep, the Croat in me is expecting to bask in early afternoon sun.
I can't seem to coherently express myself.
I realize I established this community as a sole devotion to American Catholic's Saint of the Day. I realize it seems unfair that as moderator I can abandon such a well-received forum and then boisterously come back and recount all of my PERSONAL experience.
I never forgot you.

The reasons I abandoned this community were numerous, but all selfish. Last summer I suffered my first real heartbreak(yeah, boohoo) and, in my typical spirit of terminal uniqueness, believed I was dying and that no one else had ever experienced such pain. I became very, very unhealthy - fatally so, and this seems to be a recurring pattern with me. I am an extremist in all senses of the word, and have taken exacting measures to destroy myself.
In such a state it seemed pretensious to feign holiness in the form of livejournal evangelism. I felt more guilty each time I posted a biography laden with evidence of virtue and righteousness. I wanted to ignore my dwindling dignity - I felt powerless to stop the process and any acknowledgement of it was just demoralizing.

MUCH has happened to me - things I never would've anticipated. But, like before, my faith is stronger as a result and I am experiencing an entirely foreign, overwhelming call and NEED to abandon the futility that governs my life, to remedy my persistent and dangerous selfishness and to solidify my faith so that I might share it. It was hard and incredibly arrogant to implore others to find truth when I was so blatantly ignoring it.
PART of this return to sanity and the pursuit of devotion is the direct result of this trip. I changed immeasurably in just two weeks.
But it has been a gradual process, first my self-worth slowly returing to where I could at least allow my mind to consider the divine without knowing I had no right.

The point is this: I am so proud of this community and so happy with its readership in the past. I put a lot of work into it, and I felt good about that. I want to commit to reviving this forum.

Also, I am going to cheat the SAINT BANTER ONLY rule and tell you all about my trip, because I think it'd be a disservice to you not to share, even if only through secondhand and poor communication, my experience with the undeniably divine.
I will give you a phototour and make you hear about my plan to move to Medjugorje within a year - not for work or for school but essentially because I believe the Blessed mother LIVES there.

Now, then, lets resume....
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so why should it be? [31 May 2006|03:43am]

elaterite
OH MY I can't calm down. I find myself so dead, too dead, to even care about those things for which I used to SCREAM and GET RILED. I am a passive, more gentile person, but also a bit of a bland oaf.
THIS is what I care about. This matters to me.

It occurs to me I should give a brief personal opinion - an explanation, if you will, of what makes me, a skeptic and a cynic, a) a believer in any God at all and b) so interested in Catholic Dogma and such seemingly far-fetched Catholic stories/traditions/beliefs as Medjugorje.

a) "PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE"
An admittedly simple concept, this is one I could never grasp as a child and teenager raised strictly in (and often in fear of) the Catholic Church. Like most Irish Catholic families, mine never really read the Bible. Jesus and his story were forcible, required folklore, and other Biblical stories, even the most "crucial," were vaguely outlined but requisite TRUTHS.
I never bothered to question - I was terrified of my Father and this looming notion of "DAMNATION."
I was Catholic. But only incidentally.

When I was seventeen I moved to San Francisco, a ginormous (sic, shut up), intimidating city, and I felt really alone. I developed neuroses that made me beyond miserable and the only thing I knew to make such things go away (my mother!) was obviously not only an obsolete option but also a recognizably ineffectual one.
Church - the ritualism I always detested, the formality that seemed SO feigned, the archaic ceremony of it all - it unconsciously slipped into my mind. After a few months of refusing to go simply because my father wanted me to, I wanted to go. At the time, the desire seemed so out-of-place, so arbitrary, and so distanced from what I "needed" or "should do" that I was actually willing to do it.
And I fell in love.

My childhood churchCollapse )

St. Cecilia, the neighborhood Cathedral I miss SO THOROUGHLY these days, reminded me of the ULTRA-MEGA-CREEPY, ancient Catholic missions my father rather abusively insisted we attend whenever possible. I was SCARED of kneeling, of chest-thumping, of LATIN. But without the implicit terror imposed by my familial insistence, I sort of loved it all - the almost cult-like ceremonialism, the poignant beauty of the unification in prayer, the endearing modern cling to old customs, the simple but profoundly TRUE repetitions.
Of course, no small part in the equation was the permeating beauty of a REAL church, something I'd barely known as a child.
All of this was nice for me at the time. It was a tremendous comfort. But I still doubted God beyond belief, and though I loved the images and the folklore of Catholicism, I didn't really believe in much of anything.

By (almost) chance, I ended up transferring as a student to St. Mary's college. It was complete happenstance; I didn't even really want to go there. Circumstantially, it was perfect. Religiously, I worried about the legitimacy of a Politics degree from a religious campus.
I could not have been more fortunate. St. Mary's was not only exactly what I needed academically; it renewed, or perhaps established for the first time EVER, a true faith in God.

I took an introductory Biblical Literature class during my second semester at SMC. The instructor, she clearly announced, was NOT Catholic. Her objective was primarily historical: she wanted us to understand each chapter of the Bible in its proper CONTEXT. Her secular approach to this subject could not have been more spiritually enlightening for me.

ANCIENT ISRAEL, I learned, awestruck by the simplest of concepts, was responsible for the material contained within the Old Testament. Though quite arguably DIVINELY INSPIRED, the BIBLE in its entirety is composed by hundreds of authors, each with a distinct HISTORICAL, SOCIAL and PERSONAL perspective.
OH MY. I had never stopped to consider this.
REALLY, think about this if you haven't, like I hadn't :
Ancient Israel had ANCIENT ISRAELI laws. This, a seemingly tiny revelation, had DIVINE implications for me. Ancient Israel's authors wrote their divine experiences, including LAWS as they applied to THEM and their culture. Just because ANCIENT ISRAEL believed, for example, that wearing blended fabrics was a damnable sin does not mean that in our time the same applies (meaning polyester pants are not damnable, even if they should be). I realized that cultural relevance HAD to apply to even the HOLIEST of texts, because
PEOPLE ARE NOT GOD AND CANNOT SPEAK FOR GOD.
These revelations continued in various parts of my life, boiling down to an obsession with language and this eventual conclusion:
IF GOD EXISTS (and I believe "He" does), HE IS BEYOND ACCURATE, FINITE HUMAN DESCRIPTION. How can something divine be quantified by some contrived series of sounds and vocal vibrations? Or the haphazard formations of characters we call "letters"?
PRIESTS who behave badly are, in MY opinion, entirely damnable. But THEY ARE NOT GOD.
The authors of the Bible, though perhaps/likely divinely inspired, DO NOT SPEAK FOR GOD DIRECTLY.
I can go on, on, on about this (and if, for whatever masochistic reason, you want to hear more, comment and I will email you).

It comes to this, a conclusion you might chose to see as a copout, but one I see as my most significant and life-altering realization:
I UNDERSTAND THAT I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND "GOD."
This gets me past the old man on the cloud, the ominous image of a sinister Satan upon a cloud of smoke waving every time I tell a lie.
This stops me from abandoning this concept of "God" as even feasible just because I can't intellectually accept that Jonah was literally eaten by a whale.
This allowed me to realize, for the first time EVER, that people were INTELLIGENT before the approach of the 21st century; that writers even 983247893289324 years ago understood the significance of METAPHOR and LINGUISTICS.

b) CATHOLIC FAITH accepts and pronounces the aforementioned concepts like no other Christian faith does.
Additionally, Catholicism is the most ancient, archaic and traditional Christian faith.

The first point is incredibly important to me. Catholics are seemingly under constant scrutiny, accused of "worshipping" Mary, of "idolizing" Saints. Though both conceptions of the faith are off-base, I find even the overly simplified perceptions vaguely endearing.
First, Catholics do not worship Mary. Please read this, as it explains things far better than I ever could.
The same, or SIMILAR, goes for the veneration and adoration of Saints. (these links mean the world to me.)
I LOVE learning about and understanding the Saints. I do not pray to them SAINTS are PEOPLE, but PEOPLE to be held in high esteem - each has accomplished many admirable deeds. I do not pray to them, but occasionally ask their intercession - as I might a podiatrist in the matter of a foot ailment. Most Saints devoted their lives to something in service of that which is DIVINE. I have not achieved this. While I do not consider Saints GODS, I consider them experts (for lack of a better word) on their particular divine service. I am NO divine servant and can respect deeds in fellow humans - in fact, these are easier to comprehend than elusive divine concepts).

As for Medjugorje, my opinion will be brief: I am no visionary but believe so strongly in the Divine Motherly influence in my OWN life that I have to keep my mind open, at least for curiosity's sake, to the possibility of a feminine Divine Intervention.
Mary comforts me - I DO feel Her presence, but even on a mere superficial level: In the intensive care unit, literally on my death bed, the thought of an ever-present mother (and all of the comfort and care that word implies) helped me VISIBLY improve.
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"This sign will be given for the atheists" [31 May 2006|03:42am]

elaterite
I am leaving Saturday morning for a seven-day trip to the holy appariton site, the tiny Boanian village of Medjugorje. I will then be going to the Vatican.
I am hoping a spiritual renewal will rid me of the baggage that prevents me from updating this, my beloved community.

It would make ironic sense that NOW I feel like writing, NOW while I'm in some sleep-derprived delirium. This seems to indicate that only DELIRIUM renders me capable of those "tasks" I used to love(read: accept as an integral part of my very worth as a person or even a specimen of the human species).
I can't sleep because I am packing for Medjugorje. I cannot, despite traveller's awareness tips and my Mother's always-expert advice, EVEN FATHOM being a world away in a warn-torn Bosnian village, finding hostel with a VISIONARY(Vicka Ivankovic-Mijatovic ).
I leave Saturday morning. My provisions are no where NEAR in order and I am completely vain - concerned about my hair-dryer and which outlets it requires.
This is not my first realization of my current (progressive) spiritual bankruptcy - I HATE anything involving introspection because I hate where my mind goes - I KNOW I am not a good person these days and, as with all possible trials or conflicts, I can't bear to address it.

I really wish you'd read this. I swear to you, it isn't boring, and you'll understand why a religious skeptic like me is so absolutely ENTRANCED by this place and its story.
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[06 Aug 2005|07:05pm]

jjostm
I forget if I mentioned this here, but I started a podcast dedicated to daily readings and the lives of the saints. The programme is called The Anglican Catholic PODcast. You can listen to it at that link, or you can set up a programme to automatically download it daily. (iTunes has this capability.)

As a bonus "incentive" (or not), here is a link of yours truly singing Solemn Benediction...although no Eucharist nearby.
\
I'm really looking forward to Mass tomorrow so that I may receive Jesus in the Eucharist. These songs bubbled up in the middle of me while washing dishes...probably from that inward desire to unite with Jesus in His Most Blessed Sacrament. *manly squee*

Anyhow, there it is. Feel free to pick up this podcast if it would interest you!

Pax...

-j
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An Anglican Catholic P.O.D.cast [20 Jul 2005|11:22pm]

jjostm
For those of you who may not know, Apple's lovely MP3 player "iTunes" now has podcast capability. This is very exciting—there are many wonderful programmes available through this new neat-O method of information distribution.

Because I'm an insane Anglo-Catholic nutter, I've decided I want to provide the world with a podcast. In particular, I'm offering a podcast with readings taken from the Anglican Breviary. Every day, a reading based upon the life of a saint or the backround of a feast will be read, along with the requisite scriptual readings taken from the Office of Mattins.

If you're looking for a neat little addition to your daily scriptual discipline, this may assist. At the very least, you'll get to hear yours truly at wit's end, trying to put together a first show.

Point your podcast-enabled copy of iTunes here:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/Anglocatholicpodcast

Thank you.

-j
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Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul *X-post* [29 Jun 2005|09:34pm]

jjostm


Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified thee by their martyrdom: Grant that thy Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by thy Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
1979 Book of Common Prayer

+++

Let us pray to be true to the faith which has come to us through the apostles Peter and Paul.

Father in heaven, the light of your revelation brought Peter and Paul the gift of faith in Jesus your Son. Through their prayers may we always give thanks for your life given us in Christ Jesus, and for having been enriched by him in all knowledge and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Roman Missal

+++

O Peter the Apostle, the most sweet mouth of Christ God proclaimed thee as the
blessed and secure treasury of the Kingdom. Therefore we sing thy praises.

Jesus the Lord has established upon the rock of thy divine teaching the unshakable
Church in which we glorify thee, O Peter.

Peter is in body higher than the angels, for Christ said he would sit with him as a
judge when openly He would come again.

Thou didst disdain all delightful things, for thou wast smitten by love of the Master
and the desire for the salvation of all, and thou didst choose to bear witness to Him, O
blessed Paul. Now intercede for the whole world.

As a noble emulator of the Master, thou wast sincerely clothed in Him, O Paul, and
thou wast all things to all men so that thou mightest gain all things and save the peoples;
and thou didst truly save the ends of the earth, netting them for Christ.

Christ gave thee citizenship in heaven, O worthy and blessed Apostle Paul, for thou
wast a faithful servant and administrator of His mysteries, and here thou didst not desire
a lasting city.

The Lord has looked down upon thee and renewed my being, and He Who is mighty
has done great things, as thou didst say, O all-blameless Mother of God. And through
thee my God has saved me from corruption, for He is compassionate.

-Orthodox Beatitude Verses, Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul

The history of the feast:
As early as the fourth century a feast was celebrated in memory of Sts. Peter and Paul on the same day, although the day was not the same in the East as in Rome. The Syrian Martyrology of the end of the fourth century, which is an excerpt from a Greek catalogue of saints from Asia Minor, gives the following feasts in connexion with Christmas (25 Dec.): 26 Dec., St. Stephen; 27 Dec., Sts. James and John; 28 Dec., Sts. Peter and Paul. In St. Gregory of Nyssa's panegyric on St. Basil we are also informed that these feasts of the Apostles and St. Stephen follow immediately after Christmas. The Armenians celebrated the feast also on 27 Dec.; the Nestorians on the second Friday after the Epiphany. It is evident that 28 (27) Dec. was (like 26 Dec. for St. Stephen) arbitrarily selected, no tradition concerning the date of the saints' death being forthcoming. The chief feast of Sts. Peter and Paul was kept in Rome on 29 June as early as the third or fourth century. The list of feasts of the martyrs in the Chronograph of Philocalus appends this notice to the date- "III. Kal. Jul. Petri in Catacumbas et Pauli Ostiense Tusco et Basso Cose." (=the year 258) . The "Martyrologium Hieronyminanum" has, in the Berne MS., the following notice for 29 June: "Romae via Aurelia natale sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli, Petri in Vaticano, Pauli in via Ostiensi, utrumque in catacumbas, passi sub Nerone, Basso et Tusco consulibus" (ed. de Rossi--Duchesne, 84).

The date 258 in the notices shows that from this year the memory of the two Apostles was celebrated on 29 June in the Via Appia ad Catacumbas (near San Sebastiano fuori le mura), because on this date the remains of the Apostles were translated thither (see above). Later, perhaps on the building of the church over the graves on the Vatican and in the Via Ostiensis, the remains were restored to their former resting-place: Peter's to the Vatican Basilica and Paul's to the church on the Via Ostiensis. In the place Ad Catacumbas a church was also built as early as the fourth century in honour of the two Apostles. From 258 their principal feast was kept on 29 June, on which date solemn Divine Service was held in the above-mentioned three churches from ancient times (Duchesne, "Origines du culte chretien", 5th ed., Paris, 1909, 271 sqq., 283 sqq.; Urbain, "Ein Martyrologium der christl. Gemeinde zu Rom an Anfang des 5. Jahrh.", Leipzig, 1901, 169 sqq.; Kellner, "Heortologie", 3rd ed., Freiburg, 1911, 210 sqq.). Legend sought to explain the temporary occupation by the Apostles of the grave Ad Catacumbas by supposing that, shortly after their death, the Oriental Christians wished to steal their bodies and bring them to the East. This whole story is evidently a product of popular legend. (Concerning the Feast of the Chair of Peter, see CHAIR OF PETER.)
-The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia


In the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the Church Militant gets Her orders, through the general leadership of Peter, and the edifying preaching of Paul. May we always be ready to hear the voices of our forerunners, whose commander destroyed death upon the hard wood of the Cross, even Jesus Christ our Lord.

-j
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