Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Saint Polycarp's dialogue with the Roman Proconsul Statius Quadratus

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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 155 or 156 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."
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Read the entirety of the ancient account of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp in I Am a Christian: Authentic Accounts of Christian Martyrdom and Persecution from the Ancient Sources. This book features a chronological collection of some of the best ancient sources on the Roman reaction to Christianity and the persecution of the early Church, beginning with the martyrdom of Saint Stephen and ending with the reign of the last pagan emperor, Julian the Apostate.

Several of the accounts contained in this book may be found excerpted in a much more haphazard format here, so if you enjoy reading this blog, you will appreciate this book.

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

Saint Hugh of Lincoln ~ One of the great forgotten saints of Britain

Model of Lincoln Cathedral as it existed in the Middle Ages.
It's central spire reached over 500 feet in the air.
Once considered one of the most famous saints of Britain, Saint Hugh of Lincoln is largely forgotten by Catholics today. His crowning achievement, the rebuilding and expansion of the great Lincoln Cathedral, may be seen to this day, though lamentably in the hands of the separated church of England. At one time, Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world, with its central spire (now gone) reaching up to 525 feet in to the air.

Saint Hugh was known for his outstanding sanctity and mercy thanks to his concern for the poor, his love for children, his hospitality, and his defense of the Jews. His kindness, wit and cheerful disposition won him a wide circle of friends, including a wild swan which guarded him while he slept and subsequently became his chief iconographic emblem. Saint Hugh was also famous for delivering a stinging public rebuke to Richard I (the Lionheart), which the king received with grave humility.

To celebrate the feast of Saint Hugh, here are some excerpts from the Vita which was written shortly after his death by Gerald of Wales. The first excerpt details St. Hugh's unique friendship with one of God's creatures.
St. Hugh and his swan.
"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."
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The above excerpt is taken from The Life of Saint Hugh of Avalon: Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200, by Gerald of Wales, as translated by Richard Loomis. This is the earliest biography of Saint Hugh. Gerald of Wales was a contemporary of his, as well as an admirer, and a first-hand witness to much of what he records.

After his death, Saint Hugh's tomb became a destination for pilgrims, and Gerald records numerous miracles that occurred at the site of the tomb. Another excerpt from the above source may be found at the following video on YouTube entitled: St. Hugh of Lincoln - A medieval account of the miraculous healing of a knight at St. Hugh's tomb. This video relates the tale of a knight, John Burdet of Lindsey, who was cured of paralysis in his arm through the intercession of Saint Hugh of Lincoln. Click here to watch:

An entertaining short story about this miracle may also be found here: The Knight and the Flaming Arrow.

Saint Hugh's tomb was of such renown that it was eventually upgraded with all manner of beautiful decoration. A 17th century source said that at its height, Hugh's shrine was “of beaten gold, and was in length 8ft., and 4ft. broad.” Sadly, the beautiful shrine attracted the avarice of King Henry VIII and it was removed "to our Jewyll House" by the king's order on June 6th, 1540. [Taken from: Notes on Mediaeval Services in England, p. 159]. Other sources maintain that the shrine was subsequently melted down for coinage.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

I voted for Donald Trump out of hate

Not even 24 hours after the event, those of us who voted for Trump are being accused of doing so out of hatred. Well, to a certain extent, that is true. I voted for Donald Trump out of hate.
  • I hate the disastrous “Affordable Care Act” which has caused healthcare premiums to skyrocket for steadily degrading coverage, pushing many middle class people to the financial brink. 
  • I hate the fact that taxes, fees and tolls are constantly being raised on the poor and middle class by a party that is supposed to be for "the little guy."
  • I hate the hypocrisy of the anti-war left who barely batted an eyelash when Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama expanded wars and created new ones. 
  • I hate it that our media and elites have baited us into thinking that “all lives matter” is somehow a racist statement. 
  • I hate the depravity and corruption of our so-called leaders in DC of both parties. 
  • I hate it that organizations have been specifically targeted by the IRS for audit based on their political, religious and moral beliefs.
  • I hate it that powerful elites in government get off scot-free after breaking laws that would send the rest of us straight to jail. 
  • I hate the fact that the Supreme Court has been allowed to become a super-Constitutional, politicized, unaccountable legislative body with the power to make and unmake our civilizational mores by the fiat majority of five individuals.
  • I hate it that the elites in DC are seriously considering making my daughters liable to conscription into the armed forces at age 18.
  • I hate the fact that I can no longer let my young daughters use a public restroom without the lurking concern that a man might be in it.
  • I hate the fact that my church is being taken to court by the government because we won't fund or endorse things that violate our consciences. 
  • I hate the fact that good educators, professionals, business people and government workers are losing their livelihoods for speaking unpopular opinions or following their consciences. 
  • I hate the fact that the unborn are not protected by law and may be slain at will.
So yes, I voted out of hate--for the toxic principles that infect our government, media, academic and financial elites.

I voted out of hate--for an utterly corrupt and immoral political system that protects the guilty and punishes the innocent.

It should go without saying that I did not vote out of hate for any particular person.

But I also voted out of hope--that a political neophyte outsider with an unstoppable work ethic might be able to break up the culture of corruption and somehow get this country back on track. Considering Mr. Trump's character, it may well end up being a vain hope. But a vain hope is better than a destructive and hypocritical status quo.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Top 3 Reasons for Catholics to cast a vote for Trump

Tomorrow, I am voting to ensure the defeat of Hillary Clinton.

For the record, I have not supported Donald Trump throughout the primary process and much of the general election. But as the campaign season has wrapped up, I have decided to vote for him for the three simple reasons that follow:

First, is the status of The Supreme Court.

Mrs. Clinton has been in the vanguard of the Culture of Death for my entire adult life. If she is elected president, she could realistically appoint up to three Supreme Court justices. This would be a catastrophe and would enshrine the atrocity known as human abortion as an unassailable facet of US law for another generation or more. As US Catholics, we can not sit meekly by while this happens. If it takes a vote for Donald Trump to avoid this catastrophic situation, then it is well worth it.

My second reason is because Trump has attacked the political left on the national stage in a way that none of the cowardly/duplicitous GOP leadership has ever dared to. 

Until the second debate, it was my suspicion that Donald Trump was a Democrat shill whose only purpose in the race was to ensure the election of Mrs. Clinton. However, when Mr. Trump began dropping rhetorical truth bombs on Mrs. Clinton in a way that no Republican has ever dared -- even threatening her with jail time for her perceived violations of federal law -- I realized that he was no shill. He did real political damage to the left in a way that I had not seen on the national stage since Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Trump is a blowhard and a buffoon. Everyone knows this. But to take on the Washington and global elites so fearlessly -- he won my admiration because this was an extraordinarily brave thing to do. He will not soon be forgiven.

My third and most important reason is this: Mrs. Clinton and her political machine hate the Catholic Church.

Read Fr. Marciano's complete homily here.

This was made abundantly clear when the emails from John Podesta, chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, were released in October. In these emails, Podesta admits that they had created “Catholic” front groups for the purpose of infiltrating the Church and changing Church teaching on issues that are inconvenient to Democrats. In one particular correspondence, Podesta encouraged the creation of new groups which would “plant the seeds of revolution" in the Church.

It had long been theorized that nominally Catholic front groups (eg. Catholics for Free Choice) had been created by political forces and that their crass goals had nothing whatsoever to do with serving God or our brothers and sisters, but were founded only to deliver political power to the left. Now, we have the proof. No Catholic in good conscience can vote for this attempted usurpation of Mother Church for the sake of political power.

The best way to defend and protect the Catholic Church in the US and to ensure that Mrs. Clinton and her corrupt cronies do not gain the White House is to cast a vote for Donald Trump tomorrow. As distasteful as I may find it, that is the best way forward I see at this point.

That said, we should all follow Padre Pio's advice to "Pray, hope and don't worry" for our gracious Lord is our true ruler and has the power to bring unexpected good out of even the most evil people's designs.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Protestant Rebellion: 500 Years of Sinning Boldly

"Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin... No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day."
This quote is taken from a letter that Martin Luther wrote in 1521. Now in its 500th year, the protestant rebellion, which Luther initiated, destroyed Christendom and continues to divide the Body of Christ to this day. To commemorate this tragic event, we should reflect upon the prayer of Our Lord in the Gospel according to Saint John (17:11-23)
“Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are….Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. [19] And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me;
“That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.”
Here are a few more quotes from the heresiarch known as Martin Luther. May the errors of Luther be extirpated from among mankind. May his remaining followers find the truth, repent and accept again communion with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
“To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog!” – “If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs.”
“What harm could it do if a man told a good lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches?”
“If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words I baptize thee in the name of Abraham.”
"Burn their synagogues. Forbid them all that I have mentioned above. Force them to work and treat them with every kind of severity, as Moses did in the desert and slew three thousand... If that is no use, we must drive them away like mad dogs, in order that we may not be partakers of their abominable blasphemy and of all their vices, and in order that we may not deserve the anger of God and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Let everyone see how he does his. I am excused."
These quotes (plus many more) and their sources may be found here.