Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Saint Polycarp's dialogue with the Roman Proconsul Statius Quadratus

Saint Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor in the second century AD. A disciple of Saint John the Evangelist, Polycarp died martyr in AD 167 for refusing to renounce Christianity. His martyrdom was marked by various miraculous prodigies, but foremost among them, perhaps, is the incredible fortitude of the man--who was at least 86 at the time of his trial--and his willingness to speak the truth to power even with the threat of immediate death hanging over his head.

Here is an excerpt from the account of his martyrdom, recorded by Saint Irenaeus, in which Polycarp debates with the Roman proconsul, Statius Quadratus:
Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, "Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!" No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice.
And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken. And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On his confessing that he was, [the proconsul] sought to persuade him to deny [Christ], saying, "Have respect to your old age," and other similar things, according to their custom, [such as], "Swear by the fortune of Cæsar; repent, and say, 'Away with the Atheists.'" 
But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, "Away with the Atheists." 
Then, the proconsul urging him, and saying, "Swear, and I will set you at liberty, reproach Christ." 
Polycarp declared, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"
And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, "Swear by the fortune of Cæsar."
He answered, "Since you are vainly urgent that, as you say, I should swear by the fortune of Cæsar, and pretend not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them.
The proconsul replied, "Persuade the people." 
But Polycarp said, "To you I have thought it right to offer an account [of my faith]; for we are taught to give all due honor (which entails no injury upon ourselves) to the powers and authorities which are ordained of God. [Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1] But as for these, I do not deem them worthy of receiving any account from me. 
The proconsul then said to him, "I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast you, unless you repent." 
But he answered, "Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil; and it is well for me to be changed from what is evil to what is righteous." 
But again the proconsul said to him, "I will cause you to be consumed by fire, seeing you despise the wild beasts, if you will not repent." 
But Polycarp said, "You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why do you tarry? Bring forth what you will."
Read the entirety of the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp here:

Saturday, November 26, 2016

History of the Sacrament of Confession / Penance

The Christian practice of confession of sins goes back to the very beginnings of the Church. Here is an excerpt from the Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, a late Roman historical source dating from about AD 440, which offers a retrospective look at how the sacrament was practiced in the Church of Rome. It is interesting to observe the similarities and differences between what is described below and how the sacrament is practiced today.
As the custom of doing penance never gained ground among the Novatians, regulations of this nature were, of course, unnecessary among them, but the custom prevailed among all other religious sects, and exists even to the present day. It is observed with great rigor by the Western churches, particularly at Rome, where there is a place appropriated to the reception of penitents, where they stand and mourn until the completion of the solemn services, from which they are excluded, then they cast themselves, with groans and lamentations, prostrate on the ground. The bishop conducts the ceremony, sheds tears, and prostrates himself in like manner, and all the people burst into tears, and groan aloud. Afterwards, the bishop rises from the ground, and raises up the others. He offers up prayer on behalf of the penitents, and then dismisses them. Each of the penitents subjects himself in private to voluntary suffering, either by fastings, by abstaining from the bath or from divers kinds of meats, or by other prescribed means, until a certain period appointed by the bishop. When this time arrives, he is made free from the consequences of his sin, and is permitted to resume his place in the assemblies of the church. The Roman priests have carefully observed this custom from the beginning to the present time.
Take from The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Book VII: Chapter 16.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation - October 3, 1798

President Washington's words speak for themselves.

Wishing you all a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. We have much to thank God for this year.


By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Patristics, Liturgy and Church History group on Facebook

If you enjoy the content on my blog, you'll probably like this new Facebook group which posts similar stuff:

Patristics, Liturgy and Church History.

Here is the description:
This is a group for the discussion of early Church history, literature, art, music, architecture, and Christian civilization, generally before the year AD 1000. Comments and conversation are encouraged. Polite disagreement is also appreciated. However, off-topic posts which aim to stir up controversy over modern religious or political issues may be deleted at the discretion of the moderators. Posts which contain insulting, vulgar or blasphemous language will be deleted without warning, and posters who use such language may be blocked.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Situation Ethics - Condemned by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1952

Venerable Pope Pius XII condemned so-called “situation ethics” in 1952.

The quote featured in this meme is taken from 44 Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Holy See) 417 (1952), in which the Holy Father warns that few dangers are so great or so heavy in foreboding as those which this “new morality” creates for faith. Here is the complete quote in context in which Pius XII refutes situation ethics and upholds the Church’s authentic teaching on moral absolutes:
“From the essential relationships between man and God, between man and man, between husband and wife, between parents and children; from the essential community. relationships found in the family, in the Church and in the State, it follows (among other things) that hatred of God, blasphemy, idolatry, abandoning the true faith, denial of the faith, perjury, murder, bearing false witness, calumny, adultery and fornication, the abuse of marriage, the solitary sin, stealing and robbery, taking away the necessities of life, depriving workers of their just wages, monopolizing vital foodstuffs and unjustifiably increasing prices, fraudulent bankruptcy, unjust maneuvering in speculation - all these are gravely forbidden by the divine Lawmaker. No examination is necessary. No matter what the situation of the individual may be, there is no other course open to him but to obey.”
The English translation of this passage is taken from an excellent article by Aidan M. Carr from 1959 entitled, The Morality of Situation Ethics.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Father Rutler on the infantilization of modern youth

Courtesy of the always brilliant Fr. George Rutler, this meme was generated from an article he wrote in Crisis Magazine entitled A Populist Election and its Aftermath. Here is the full quote in context:
“The average age of a Continental soldier in the American Revolution was one year less than that of a college freshman today. Alexander Hamilton was a fighting lieutenant-general when 21, not to mention Joan of Arc who led an army into battle and saved France when she was about as old as an American college sophomore. In our Civil War, eight Union generals and seven Confederate generals were under the age of 25. The age of most U.S. and RAF fighter pilots in World War II was about that of those on college junior varsity teams. Catholics who hoped in this election for another Lepanto miracle will remember that back in 1571, Don Juan of Austria saved Western civilization as commanding admiral when he was 24. None of these figures, in the various struggles against the world and the flesh and devil, retreated to safe spaces weeping in the arms of grief therapists. Yet pollsters ritually cite the attitudes of “college educated voters” as though colleges still educate and those who have not spent time in college lack an equivalent or even superior kind of learning shaped by experience.”
We are blessed that in this era there are still a few voices that retain some of the ancient vigor, and sparkle with a dynamism that bespeaks a charism of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Rutler is one of those voices. May Almighty God bless and protect him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16 - Feast Day of Saint Hugh of Lincoln

To celebrate the feast of Saint Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, here is an excerpt from the Vita which was written shortly after his death by Gerald of Wales. It details St. Hugh's unique friendship with one of God's creatures.
"About the day or the day after Bishop Hugh was welcomed and enthroned at Lincoln, a [new] swan not seen there before flew in at the bishop’s manor near Stow, some eight miles from Lincoln, a place delightfully covered with woods and ponds.... 
"When the bishop first visited there, this royal bird, remarkable in feature as in size, was brought to him in his chamber to marvel at. It had been tamed without difficulty, as if by its own will. Immediately, the bird took and ate bread from his hand and stayed with him so like a pet that for the time being it seemed to have shed all its wildness. It did not shrink from the bishop’s touch nor the approach or the commotion of the crowd standing all around and gaping.... 
"Also wonderful is that only with the bishop was it friendly or at all tractable. Indeed, it would stand beside its lord to defend him against the approach of others, as I have often seen with amazement. It would cry out, threatening with its wings and beak and trumpeting loudly with a high voice in its natural song, as if declaring that it belonged to the bishop and was entrusted to him alone, as a sign."
From the Life of Saint Hugh of Avalon: Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200
By Gerald of Wales
Translated by Richard Loomis
For more information about this book, or to order a copy, visit The Fontes Mediaevalium Series website.