Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28 ~ Execution of Blessed Margaret Pole, martyr of Henry VIII's revolution

A contemporary drawing of
Lady Margaret Pole.
Today marks the feast day of Blessed Margaret Pole, who was executed on May 27, 1541 by order of Henry VIII's rogue parliament. Mother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, the last Catholic archbishop of Canterbury, and governess to Henry's daughter, the princess Mary (later Queen Mary).

Margaret's crime was ostensibly treason, based on the discovery of an old tunic in her possession which displayed the five wounds of Christ. According to her persecutors, this garment was a clear connection to the so-called "Pilgrimage of Grace" — a popular uprising against Henry VIII in 1536. In reality, it was a symbol of her Plantagenet heritage, Margaret being one of the few remaining descendants of that fallen house. It is speculated that Henry demanded Margaret's death as a way of striking at her son, Reginald, who had been made a Cardinal by the Pope in 1537. Hearing of his mother's condemnation, Reginald wrote:
"You have heard, I believe, of my mother being condemned by public Council to death, or rather to eternal life. Not only has he who condemned her, condemned to death a woman of seventy — than whom he has no nearer relative, except his daughter, and of whom he used to say there was no holier woman in his kingdom — but at the same time her grandson, son of my brother, a child, the remaining hope of our race. See how far this tyranny has gone, which began with priests, in whose order it only consumed the best, then [went on] to nobles, and there, too, destroyed the best." [as recorded in Butler's Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints.]
Lady Margaret's execution was not an ordinary affair. A contemporary description from a French observer is recorded in Martin Haile's Life of Reginald Pole (1910):
Without any process, solely on the King's warrant under the Act of Attainder passed two years previously, the venerable lady, sixty-nine years of age, was put to death at an hour's notice. Well might the French ambassador Marillac, writing to Francis I the following day, call it, "a case more worthy of compassion than of long letters." She was beheaded "yesterday morning before 7 o'clock, in a corner of the Tower, in presence of so few people that till evening the truth was still doubted." He continues —
"It was the more difficult to believe as she had been long a prisoner, was of noble lineage . . . and had been punished by the loss of one son, and the banishment of the others, and the total ruin of her house. . . . The manner of proceeding in her case, and that of a lord who was executed at the same time, seems to argue that those here are afraid to put to death publicly those whom they execrate in secret."
There is some disagreement in the historical record of the actual events of the execution. The English version, recorded long after, represents Blessed Margaret refusing to put her head on the block. After being struck once by the executioner, she is described as rising up and sprinting away, with the executioner running after her, striking her multiple times. A contemporary account by French ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, seems much more reliable. Haile explains:
A woodcut of Margaret's execution,
based on the ludicrous account of
Herbert of Cherbury,
[Eustace] Chapuys had returned to England as ambassador from the Queen Regent of Flanders in the previous July and from his accurate pen we have a more trustworthy account than that of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, written at a later period and which represents the saintly and dignified woman vainly refusing to lay her head on the block and being chased round the scaffold by the executioner sword in hand. In the first place there was no scaffold: Henry VIII's orders were peremptory and there was no time for its erection; nor was it a likely thing that the venerable Margaret Pole would depart from the attitude of humble resignation which distinguished the last moments of all those who laid down their lives for their faith. 
Chapuys, after recording the hanging of the Abbot of Croxton and two gentlemen [Lee and Thorne] in the North, says—
"About the same time took place the lamentable execution of the Countess of Salisbury at the Tower, in the presence of the Lord Mayor and about 150 persons. When informed of her sentence she found it very strange, not knowing her crime, but she walked to the place in front of the Tower where there was no scaffold but only a small block. She there commended her soul to God and desired those present to pray for the King Queen Prince and Princess. The ordinary executioner being absent a blundering youth, garfonneau, was chosen, who hacked her head and shoulders almost to pieces."
Chapuys calls her, "A most virtuous lady."
Margaret Pole was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. For a good account of her life, visit this site: Margaret Plantagenet Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Footage of the Bismarck firing upon the Hood, and Bismarck under fire from the British fleet

HMS Hood in 1941.
Seventy-six years ago between May 23 and 27 played out one of the great dramas of World War II -- the breakout of the Nazi super-battleship, Bismarck, the sinking of the battlecruiser HMS Hood at the Battle of Denmark Strait, and the subsequent frantic pursuit and destruction of the Bismarck by the British navy under almost miraculous circumstances.

I recall reading the accounts of the battle when I was a kid, accompanied by black-and-white photos of the ships involved, including the British battleship HMS Prince of Wales and the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. Now, in the age of YouTube, I was amazed to discover recently that footage of the Battle of Denmark Strait exists to this day, taken originally by a camera crew on board Prinz Eugen.



This silent film gives the viewer a front-row seat to the battle, which took place May 24, 1941. Beginning at about the 2:30 mark, one can see the tremendous flash as Bismarck fires her main guns, followed by the smaller bursts of her secondary batteries opening up. Also visible are the huge columns of water thrown up by the British shells from Hood and Prince of Wales missing nearby. It's easy to get a sense of the heaving of the seas and the anxiety of the camera crew who must have considered that their lives could be snuffed out in an instant should any of those 1,000 pound armor-piercing shells hit their ship.

Bismarck fires a salvo during the
Battle of Denmark Strait.
At the 3:32 mark of the film, the focus shifts from Bismarck to an ominous cloud of smoke on the horizon where the HMS Hood was but seconds before. Impact from one of Bismarck's 15-inch shells had ignited her aft magazines, destroying the great ship in mere moments and sending over 1,400 souls to a frigid grave in depths of the north Atlantic. Only three men survived. Flashes may be seen erupting from the cloud and it's hard to say if they are secondary explosions from the sinking battlecruiser or muzzle-flashes from Prince of Wales which was steaming about 1/2 mile astern of Hood when she exploded.

As amazing as this film is, I was equally surprised to find out that additional footage exists of Bismarck's demise a few days later. Though nearly within range of air cover from the friendly ports of occupied France, Bismarck was crippled during a desperate air attack by Swordfish torpedo-bombers from HMS Ark Royal on the evening of May 26. A fortunate hit in the stern smashed Bismarck's rudder, rendering the huge ship unmaneuverable and able to make only 10 knots. British battleships HMS Rodney and King George V were able to close the range and pummel the crippled giant into a flaming hulk.


Taken from a British newsreel released soon after the action, the footage above shows about 30 seconds of the battle, as shells fall astern of Bismarck beginning at about the 0:50 mark. The gunners soon find the range, however, and a little later, direct hits may be seen smashing into the ship. Of Bismarck's 2,200-man crew, a mere 110 survived the ship's destruction.

As we approach Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S., it is not inappropriate to remember those who died bravely for other nations as well, for they are no less men with immortal souls. May Almighty God have mercy on them and grant them eternal rest. Let perpetual light shine upon their souls forever. Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, AD 337 ~ Death of Constantine the Great, as recorded by Eusebius Pamphilus

Detail from The Death of Constantine ~ A tapestry by Peter Paul Reubens (1623)
now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
On this date, 1,680 years ago, ended one of the most impactful lives in all of human history. The Roman emperor Constantine the Great passed from human existence to eternal life on May 22, AD 337. (Click here if you need a refresher on Constantine's many and long-standing accomplishments.

A primary account of Constantine's final days and death may be found in the Vita Constantini of the historian Eusebius Pamphilus--a Christian bishop who knew Constantine personally. The entire Vita is well worth reading, but here are a few snippets detailing the final sickness and death of the emperor after 31 years of rule--the longest reign since the founder of the Roman Empire, Augustus.

When reading the following passage, it is well to remember that Constantine, though a promoter of Christianity, had not yet been officially initiated into the Christian Church until right before his death:
At first [Constantine] experienced some slight bodily indisposition, which was soon followed by positive disease. In consequence of this he visited the hot baths of his own city; and thence proceeded to that which bore the name of his mother [that is, Helenopolis after Saint Helena, Constantine's mother]. Here he passed some time in the church of the martyrs, and offered up supplications and prayers to God. Being at length convinced that his life was drawing to a close, he felt the time had come at which he should seek purification from sins of his past career, firmly believing that whatever errors he had committed as a mortal man, his soul would be purified from them through the efficacy of the mystical words and the salutary waters of baptism. Impressed with these thoughts, he poured forth his supplications and confessions to God, kneeling on the pavement in the church itself, in which he also now for the first time received the imposition of hands with prayer. After this he proceeded as far as the suburbs of Nicomedia, and there, having summoned the bishops to meet him, addressed them in the following words.

"The time is arrived which I have long hoped for, with an earnest desire and prayer that I might obtain the salvation of God. The hour has come in which I too may have the blessing of that seal which confers immortality; the hour in which I may receive the seal of salvation. I had thought to do this in the waters of the river Jordan, wherein our Saviour, for our example, is recorded to have been baptized: but God, who knows what is expedient for us, is pleased that I should receive this blessing here. Be it so, then, without delay: for should it be his will who is Lord of life and death, that my existence here should be prolonged, and should I be destined henceforth to associate with the people of God, and unite with them in prayer as a member of his Church, I will prescribe to myself from this time such a course of life as befits his service."

After he had thus spoken, the prelates performed the sacred ceremonies in the usual manner, and, having given him the necessary instructions, made him a partaker of the mystic ordinance. Thus was Constantine the first of all sovereigns who was regenerated and perfected in a church dedicated to the martyrs of Christ....At the conclusion of the ceremony he arrayed himself in shining imperial vestments, brilliant as the light, and reclined on a couch of the purest white, refusing to clothe himself with the purple any more.


He then lifted his voice and poured forth a strain of thanksgiving to God, after which he added these words: "Now I know that I am truly blessed: now I feel assured that I am accounted worthy of immortality, and am made a partaker of Divine light." He further expressed his compassion for the unhappy condition of those who were strangers to such blessings as he enjoyed: and when the tribunes and generals of his army appeared in his presence with lamentations and tears at the prospect of their bereavement, and with prayers that his days might yet be prolonged, he assured them in reply that he was now in possession of true life; that none but himself could know the value of the blessings he had received; so that he was anxious rather to hasten than to defer his departure to God. He then proceeded to complete the needful arrangement of his affairs, bequeathing an annual donation to the Roman inhabitants of his imperial city; apportioning the inheritance of the empire, like a patrimonial estate, among his own children; in short, making every disposition according to his own pleasure.

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All these events occurred during a most important festival, I mean the august and holy solemnity of Pentecost....He was removed about mid-day to the presence of his God, leaving his mortal remains to his fellow mortals, and carrying into fellowship with God that part of his being which was capable of understanding and loving him. Such was the close of Constantine's mortal life.
For more about the incredibly eventful life of Constantine the Great, see these posts:

October 28, AD 312 ~ Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge

September 18, AD 324 -- Constantine defeats Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What's new is old again ~ The USS Olympia in black and white

Last Friday, I took the family on a tour of the cruiser USS Olympia, Dewey's famous flagship from Manila Bay, which is now a museum ship at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. While there, I assigned my 11 year-old son the duties of official trip photographer. Well, the kid's got a bit of an artistic bone, so I was surprised (but at the same time, not surprised) to find out that he took nearly all of the photos in black and white. Here are the results:

(Click any of the photos to enlarge.)

Inside Olympia's wheel house on the bridge deck. Beautifully restored.

A view of one of Olympia's vertical triple expansion coal-fired steam engines.
State-of-the-art for 1893 and authentic steam-punk.

Olympia's bell, behind the forward funnel. 

One of Olympia's Hotchkiss 6-pounders. With the casemates open, you get
a nice view of the battleship USS New Jersey across the Delaware River.


View over the bow from Olympia's bridge deck. This is approximately the view
Dewey would have had while commanding the US Asiatic fleet at Manila Bay
on May 1, 1898. Ahead may be seen the Moshulu, a floating restaurant. Directly
below is the armored conning tower, and forward of that are the mocked-up
8-inch main guns. The original guns were removed in 1916 and replaced
with open gun platforms. The mock-ups were put into place when Olympia
was made into a museum.

An older photo from my collection showing the Olympia as she looked in 2011,
turned black and white to match the rest. The bow of the submarine USS Becuna
is also visible at left.

If you've never visited Olympia, I highly recommend it. The tour is a bit like visiting a floating Victorian mansion with heavy guns. For the price of admission, you also get access to the submarine USS Becuna, and the rest of the Independence Seaport Museum as well. This is an amazing lesson in US maritime history and is well worth the trip and the price of admission. My kids have gone multiple times and find something new every time. Come on down and check it out!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Pope Saint John I ~ A political martyr of the 6th century AD

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May 18 is the feast of Pope Saint John I, martyr.

Pope St. John I was the first pontiff to visit the eastern imperial capital of Constantinople and he did so at the behest of Theodoric, the Arian Gothic king of Italy. Theodoric enjoined Pope John to act as an advocate for the Arians at the court of the Roman emperor, Justin I, threatening to begin a persecution of orthodox Catholics in Italy should the Holy Father refuse to accept this mission. Of course, Pope John could not defend Arianism, save to ask Justin to act with more leniency toward the Arians within the Eastern Roman Empire.

On his way to Constantinople, two extraordinary things happened, according to Pope Saint Gregory the Great who recorded them in his famous Dialogues:
Click for more info.
In the time of the Goths, when the most blessed man John, Bishop of this church of Rome, traveled to the Emperor Justinian the elder, he came into the country of Corinth, where he lacked an horse to ride upon: which a certain noble man understanding, lent him that horse which, because he was gentle, his wife used for her own saddle, with order that when he came where he could provide himself of another, his wife's horse should be sent back again. And so the Bishop rode upon him, until he came to a certain place where he got another, and then he returned that which he had borrowed. But afterward, when his wife came to take his back, as before she used, by no means could she do it, because the horse, having carried so great a Bishop, would not suffer a woman to come any more upon his back, and therefore he began with monstrous snorting, neighing, and continual stirring, as it were in scorn, to shew that he could not bear any woman, upon whom the Pope himself had ridden: which thing her husband wisely considering, straightways sent him again to the holy man, beseeching him to accept of that horse, which by riding he had dedicated to his own service. Of the same man, another miracle is also reported by our ancestors: to wit, that in Constantinople, when he came to the gate called Aurea, where he was met with great numbers of people, in the presence of them all, he restored sight to a blind man that did instantly crave it: for laying his hand upon him, he banished away that darkness which possessed his eyes. [Taken from The Dialogues of Gregory the Great]
While he was in Constantinople, Pope John was exalted and honored by Justin I, as well his nephew, Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus, who would later become the Emperor Justinian. For his part, the Pope placed the imperial diadem on Justin's head and praised the emperor for his role in ending the Acacian Schism which had separated the eastern and western Church for 35 years. He also officiated at Easter in Hagia Sophia (the second one--not the present building) in Constantinople in the Latin Rite.

When Theodoric heard how the Holy Father had been honored in Constantinople and how he had, in turn, honored the emperor, he was greatly displeased. He endeavored to seize Pope John and his retinue on their return trip. According to the Liber Pontificalis:
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At that time the venerable pope John and the senators returned with glory, having obtained all their requests of Justin Augustus, but King Theodoric, the heretic, received them, that is Pope John and the senators, with craft and hatred and would even have slain them with the sword but he feared the indignation of Justin Augustus. However, he confined them all cruelly in prison, so that the blessed pope John, worn by illness, gave up the ghost and died in prison. He died at Ravenna gloriously. May 18, in the prison of King Theodoric. On the 98th day after Bishop John had died in prison, by the will of omnipotent God, King Theodoric suddenly was struck down by divine power and perished. [Taken from The Book of the Popes (Liber Pontificalis)]
Having died unjustly at the hands of a heretic king, Pope John is considered a martyr. His story is especially poignant for our times when the Papacy is equally beset by political forces (and some would say by powerful heretics as well) who attempt to use the Holy Father as a pawn to further their own ends.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

More on Venerable Pope Pius XII's condemnation of situation ethics

"The accusation of oppressive rigidity made against the Church
by the ‘new morality,’ in reality, attacks, in the first place,
the adorable Person of Christ Himself."
—Venerable Pope Pius XII in a radio address on March 23, 1952
Kudos to Rorate Cæli for their recent outstanding post: Pius XII's Condemnation of Situation Ethics: "Accusations of rigidity first attack the adorable person of Christ"

If you haven't read it already, go and do so. In short, it provides additional background on Venerable Pope Pius XII's all-but-forgotten condemnation of so-called "situation ethics" -- the non-Catholic moral system that has sadly wormed its way into the Church over the past 50 years.

Pius XII's warnings about the danger of this alien system of morality are unmistakable, and Rorate's post makes the clear condemnation easily accessible for the first time in English. Previously, I had only been able to find one other reference in English as exemplified below:

Situation Ethics - Condemned by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1952
For the record, Situation Ethics is the morality that most of us Catholics under the age of 60 were taught in Catholic schools. Based on relativism, Situation Ethics is the primary reason why traditional Catholic moral principles are considered unrealistic by many today, even though they were certainly realistic for our ancestors. Considering how few of my peers today may be considered devout Catholics or pay anything other than lip-service to the proper Catholic modes of moral behavior, the rise of Situation Ethics within the Church has been every bit as damaging as Pius XII predicted.

If you ask me, he is a prophet who deserves sainthood.

The Great Siege of Malta Begins, May 18 ,1565

 A portrait of Grand Master Jean de la Valette by Antoine Favray.
Given the current tribulations of the Knights of Malta in our own time, it is well to remember that there were magnificent heroes among them in past days--men who did not shrink from combat even in their old age.

When the Turks attacked Malta with an armada of nearly 200 ships and 40,000 soldiers in May of 1565, about 1,000 knights of St. John (later the Knights of Malta) from all over Christendom had already assembled to repel them. These men arrived at Malta with the full knowledge that many of them would never leave the island alive.

The following is taken from the excellent historical novel, Angels in Iron, and describes the happenings on May 18, 1565 when the Turkish fleet appeared off Malta:
18 May

Suleiman’s armada was spotted shortly after dawn. The galleys materialized on the hazy horizon fifteen miles east of Malta. A Knight in St. Elmo roused the garrison to action, crying: “There they are!” Within moments men crowded the east walls and squinted toward the ships.

Di Corso stared at the gigantic fleet, eyes wide. Heavenly Father! It’s a wonder the sea can hold them!

Captain De Guaras and Governor Broglia scrambled up the steps and gazed toward the armada, their faces grim.

“God help us,” Broglia sighed, then told De Guaras: “Fire a shot to warn Birgu.”

“A volley!” De Guaras cried to the batteries on the cavalier. “Three shots!”

Cannon roared and iron whistled over water. White foam pillared skyward as shot plowed the lazy sea. Birgu’s guns echoed the alarm. 
Another volley thundered toward the distant Turks.

“Hold!” De Guaras shouted.

He and Broglia went back down the steps and disappeared into the governor’s chamber, flanked by three Knights Commanders.

“How far off?” Di Corso asked a scarred Spanish gunner.

“A few hours, sir.”

“Time enough for the chapel, then.” 
Oliver Starkey burst into La Valette’s quarters to find the Grand Master at his desk. 
“Master, they’re here!” he cried.

La Valette signed a document, blotted it. “Oliver?”

“My lord?”

La Valette rolled and sealed the scroll, pressed the wax with his signet ring and offered the letter. “Take this.”

Starkey accepted the parchment.

“This is my quint,” La Valette said, referring to the twenty percent of his belongings a Knight could bequeath outside the Order.

“I see, my lord,” Starkey said, studying the sealed will.

“Keep it safe.”

La Valette rose from the chair and placed a white-plumed helmet on his head, saying, “Let us go to St. Angelo.”

As they left the room they heard warning shots from inland Mdina, and Gozo to the north, where the respective garrisons had guessed Mustapha’s arrival.

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“They certainly didn’t catch us napping,” La Valette said.

In the dockyard between Birgu and Senglea, Mathurin d’Aux Lescout-Romegas, General of the Galleys and the greatest Christian seaman of the age, readied four small ships. Romegas had no intention of engaging the huge Turkish force; rather, he would reconnoiter Suleiman’s navy.

La Valette saluted Romegas and proceeded toward St. Angelo.

Drums, trumpets and shouts rose from Birgu and St. Angelo as men sprang hastily to arms. La Valette strode confidently into the chaotic fort. A group of knights surrounded him.

“The time is at hand,” he told them. “Let us acquit ourselves as knights of Christ.”
Thus begins the story of the epic battle, one of the most harrowing and bloody sieges in all of recorded history. To read the tale in the epic prose of Nicholas C. Prata, go ye and purchase a copy of Angels in Iron here or here.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Brutalist Cathedral

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I walked by this building with a colleague — a smart young guy with a cultural background that is Catholic, though he himself qualifies as a "none", I think.

As we strolled by, I asked him what he thought this building might be.


He gave it a good look up and down. "I have no idea," he remarked.

"Give me a general category of building, then," I said.


"Maybe condominiums?" he said.

"Nope, wrong," I replied.


When he spoted this statue, he said, "Oh, maybe a religious building of some sort."


Walking a little farther on, he said, "With the wires, I'm thinking Scientology."

"Wrong again," I said.

Then, a few steps farther along, he spotted a small sign that said: "Our Lady of the Angels Roman Catholic Cathedral." "This is a Catholic church?!?!?" he asked, incredulous.

As our conversation went on, he volunteered that the design probably qualified as brutalist architecture. He pointed out that it fits in well with the other examples of the style nearby, including the bizarre Disney Concert Hall which is two blocks away.

I could only agree with him.

Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.

With all the exterior warmth of a sewage treatment plant, I was hoping that the cathedral's courtyard and grounds might radiate a greater sense of the sacred. Well, no such luck. The entire area around the cathedral was cordoned off and no access was afforded to the exterior spaces by the time we got there at about 6:30 PM. I assume this is to keep out the countless homeless and strung-out vagrants who may be seen in and around the immediate vicinity of the cathedral.

All are welcome?
We are constantly told that the Church needs to be more welcoming. Well, here at the Olympus Mons of modern American Catholicism, the shoulder could not have been more cold. I got a similar feeling when visiting the wreckovated Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago several years ago.

Every time I see something like this, my mind immediately hearkens back to the list read into the Congressional Record in 1963 under the title Current Communist Goals. Here are goals 22 and 23: 

22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms."

23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. "Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."

I remain astounded that this hideous pile is the mother church of the largest archdiocese in the United States. It replaced the lovely earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana Cathedral which was abandoned initially because it would cost too much to repair and renovate. In the end, they spent $189.7 million building the new monstrosity.

Meanwhile, Saint Vibiana was sold to a developer, repaired for about $7 million. It is now used as a venue for wedding receptions, including same-sex "marriages."
"And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen; and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird..." [Apocalypse 18:2]

Monday, May 01, 2017

"Open with all guns." The Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898

USS Olympia leading the way at Manila Bay.
Almost completely forgotten by average Americans today, Commodore Dewey's smashing victory at the Battle of Manila Bay was, for a short time, a sensation which commanded the attention of the entire nation. It transformed Dewey from an unknown naval officer into one of the all-time American heroes, elevating to legendary status his famous command, "You may fire when ready, Gridley."

On the anniversary of this first battle of the Spanish-American War, I offer the following account from an unnamed eye-witness which was cabled to America about a week after the action. Though modern historians are quick to dismiss the Battle of Manila Bay as a very one-sided, almost pre-determined affair, it is well to remember that Dewey could very easily have lost the day if his handling of the fleet had been less than expert or if luck had not been with him...
Not one Spanish flag flies in Manila Bay to-day. Not one Spanish war-ship floats as our prize.
More than two hundred Spanish dead and five hundred to seven hundred wounded attest to the accuracy of the American fire. 
Commodore Dewey attacked the Spanish position at Cavite this morning. He swept five times along the line and scored one of the most brilliant successes in modern warfare.
That our loss is trifling adds to the pleasure of victory without detracting from its value. The number of hits our vessels received proved how brave and stubborn was the defense made by the Spanish forces. 
Miraculous as it may appear, not one of our men was killed, and only eight were wounded. Those who were wounded suffered only slight injuries.
Commodore Dewey arrived off Manila Bay last night and decided to enter the bay at once. With all its lights out the squadron steamed into Boca Grande, with crews at the guns. This was the order of the squadron, which was kept during the whole time of the first battle: — The flagship Olympia, Baltimore, Raleigh, Petrel, Concord, Boston
The flagship passed Corregidor Island without a sign being given that the Spaniards were aware of its approach. Not until the flagship was a mile beyond the Corregidor was a gun tired. Then one heavy shot went screaming over the Raleigh and the Olympia, followed by a second, which fell further astern. The Raleigh, the Concord, and the Boston replied, the Concord's shells exploding apparently exactly inside the shore battery, which fired no more. 
Our squadron slowed down to barely steerage way and the men were allowed to sleep alongside their guns. Commodore Dewey had timed our arrival so that we were within five miles of the city of Manila at daybreak. 
We then sighted the Spanish squadron, Rear-Admiral Montojo commanding, off Cavite. Here the Spaniards had a well-equipped navy yard called Cavite Arsenal. Admiral Montojo's flag was flying on the 3,500-ton protected cruiser Reina Christina. The protected Castilia, of 3,200 tons, was moored ahead, and astern to the port battery, and to seaward were the cruisers Don Juan de Austria, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Isla de Cuba, Isla de Luzon, El Correo, Marques del Duero, and General Lezo. These ships and the flagship remained under way during most of the action.
With the United States flag flying at all their mastheads, our ships moved to the attack in line ahead, with the speed of eight knots, first passing in front of Manila, where the action was begun by three batteries mounting guns powerful enough to send a shell over us at a distance of five miles. The Concord's guns boomed out a reply to these batteries with two shots. No more were fired, because Commodore Dewey could not engage with these batteries without sending death and destruction into the crowded city. 
As we neared Cavite two very powerful submarine mines were exploded ahead of the flagship. This was at six minutes past five o'clock. The Spaniards evidently had misjudged our position. Immense volumes of water were thrown high in the air by these destroyers, but no harm was done to our ships. Commodore Dewey had fought with Farragut at New Orleans and Mobile Bay, where he had his first experience with torpedoes. Not knowing how many more mines there might be ahead, he still kept on without faltering. No other mines exploded, however, and it is believed that the Spaniards had only these two in place.
Only a few minutes later the shore battery at Cavite Point sent over the flagship a shot that nearly hit the battery in Manila, but soon the guns got a better range, and the shells began to strike near us or burst close aboard from both the batteries and the Spanish vessels. The heat was intense. Men stripped off all clothing except their trousers. 
As the Olympia drew nearer all was silent on board as if the ship had been empty, except for the whirr of blowers and the throb of engines. Suddenly a shell burst directly over us. From the boatswain's mate at the after 5-inch gun came a hoarse cry. "Remember The Maine!" arose from the throats of five hundred men at the guns. This watchword, was caught up in turrets and firerooms, wherever seaman or fireman stood at his post. "Remember the Maine!" had rung out for defiance and revenge. Its utterance seemed unpremeditated, but was evidently in every man's mind, and now that the moment had come to make adequate reply to the murder of the Maine's crew, every man shouted what was in his heart.
Olympia cleared for action at Manila Bay.
From the Independence Seaport Museum's archives
The Olympia was now ready to begin the fight. Commodore Dewey, his chief of staff, Commander Lamberton, an aid and myself, with Executive Officer Lieutenant Rees and Navigator Lieutenant Calkins, who conned ship most admirably, were on the forward bridge. Captain Gridley was in the conning tower, as it was thought unsafe to risk losing all the senior oflicers by one shell.
"You may fire when ready. Gridley," said the Commodore, and at nineteen minutes of six o'clock, at a distance of 5,500 yards, the starboard 8-inch gun in the forward turret roared forth a compliment to the Spanish forts. 
Presently similar guns from the Baltimore and the Boston sent 250-pound shells hurtling toward the Castilla, and the Reina Christina
The Spaniards seemed encouraged to fire faster, knowing exactly our distance, while we had to guess theirs. Their ships and shore guns were making things hot for us. The piercing scream of shot was varied often by the bursting of time fuse shells, fragments of which would lash the water like shrapnel or cut our hull and rigging. One large shell that was coming straight at the Olympia's forward bridge fortunately fell within less than one hundred feet away. One fragment cut the rigging exactly over the heads of Lamberton, Rees, and myself. Another struck the bridge gratings in line with it. A third passed just under Commodore Dewey and gouged a hole in the deck. Incidents like these were plentiful. 
Our men naturally chafed at being exposed without returning fire from all our guns, but laughed at danger and chatted good-humoredly. A few nervous fellows could not help dodging mechanically when shells would burst right over them or close board, or would strike the water and pass overhead, with the peculiar spluttering roar made by a tumbling rifled projectile. Still the flagship steered for the center of the Spanish line, and, as our other ships were astern, the Olympia received most of the Spaniards' attention. 
"Open with all guns," said Dewey, and the ship brought her port broadside bearing. The roar of all the flagship's 5-inch rapid firers was followed by the deep diapason of her after-turret 8-inchers. Soon other vessels were equally hard at work, and we could see that our shells were making Cavite harbor hotter for the Spaniards than they had made the approach for us. 
Protected by their shore batteries and made safe from close attack by shallow water, the Spaniards were in a strong position. They put up a gallant fight. The Spanish ships were sailing back and forth behind the Castilla, and their fire, too, was hot. One shot struck the Baltimore and passed clean through her, fortunately hitting no one. Another ripped up her main deck, disabled a 6-inch gun, and exploded a box of 3-pounder ammunition, wounding eight men.
The Olympia was struck abreast the gun in the wardroom by a shell which burst outside, doing little damage. The signal halyards were cut from Lieutenant Brumby's hand on the after bridge. 
A shell entered the Boston's port quarter and burst in Ensign Dodridge's stateroom, starting a hot fire, and fire was also caused by a shell which burst in the port hammock netting. Both these fires were quickly put out. Another shell passed through the Boston's foremast just in front of Captain Wildes, on the bridge.
After having made four runs along the Spanish line, finding the chart incorrect, Lieutenant Calkins, the Olympia's navigator, told the Commodore he believed he could take the ship nearer the enemy, with lead going to watch the depth of water. The flagship started over the course for the fifth time, running within two thousand yards of the Spanish vessels. At this range even 6-pounders were effective, and the storm of shells poured upon the unfortunate Spanish began to show marked results. 
Three of the enemy's vessels were seen burning and their fire slackened. On finishing this run Commodore Dewey decided to give the men breakfast, as they had been at the guns two hours with only one cup of coffee to sustain them. Action ceased temporarily at twenty-five minutes of eight o'clock, the other ships passing the flagship and the men cheering lustily. 
Our ships remained beyond range of the enemy's guns until ten minutes of eleven o'clock, when the signal for close action again went up. The Baltimore had the place of honor in the lead, with the flagship following and the other ships as before. The Baltimore began firing at the Spanish ships and batteries at sixteen minutes past eleven o'clock, making a series of hits as if at target practice. 
The Spaniards replied very slowly, and the Commodore signaled the Raleigh, the Boston, the Concord, and the Petrel to go into the inner harbor and destroy all the enemy's ships. By her light draught the little Petrel was enabled to move within one thousand yards. Here, firing swiftly, but accurately, she commanded everything still flying the Spanish flag. Other ships were also doing their whole duty, and soon not one red and yellow ensign remained aloft, except on a battery up the coast. 
The Spanish flagship and the Castilla had long been burning fiercely, and the last vessel to be abandoned was the Don Antonio de Ulloa, which lurched over and sank. Then the Spanish flag on the arsenal staff was hauled down, and at half-past twelve o'clock a white flag was hoisted there. 
Signal was made to the Petrel to destroy all the vessels in the inner harbor, and Lieutenant Hughes, with an armed boat's crew, set fire to the Don Juan de Austria, Marques del Duero, the Isla de Cuba, and the El Correo. The large transport Manila and many tug boats and small craft fell into our hands.
"Capture or destroy Spanish squadron," were Dewey's orders. Never were instructions more effectually carried out. Within seven hours after arriving on the scene of action nothing remained to be done. 
Taken from The Life and Letters of Admiral Dewey, 1899.

Following the battle and the triumphant end of the war a mere three months later, the country was in the mood to celebrate its newfound status as a world power. On September 29, 1899, Dewey and his flagship, Olympia, were fêted in New York along with other heavy units of the fleet. Here is some amazing very early motion picture footage of the event, showing Olympia sailing up the Hudson River, firing salutes as she goes.


We are fortunate that Dewey's flagship Olympia is still around and available for tours at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. If you've never visited, it's well worth the trip and will be a learning experience to boot. She's a beautiful old ship and he only survivor of America's first steel navy.

USS Olympia as she appears today in Philadelphia.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pope Saint Pius V and the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I

"All the evils of the world are due to lukewarm Catholics."
~Attributed to Pope St. Pius V, source unknown
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Today is the feast day of one of the great popes, Pius V, now recognized as a saint. Though perhaps best known as the Pope whose call for prayer to all of Christendom helped the Holy League destroy the Turkish fleet at Lepanto, Pius V's short but eventful pontificate (1566-1572) also featured the standardization of the Mass following the Council of Trent (see Quo Primum) and the excommunication of the English queen, Elizabeth I.

The short document setting out the rationale for the excommunication, Regnans in Excelsis, is worth reading. Most Catholics in the US, with our deficient, protestantized Catholic education, have absorbed a positive view of Elizabeth I, not realizing that "Good Queen Bess" was an inveterate persecutor of Catholics, directly responsible for deaths of many martyrs, including saints Edmund Campion and Margaret Clitherow. In Regnans in Excelsis, Pius unleashes some tough language at the so-called "virgin queen" of England:
"...The number of the ungodly has so much grown in power that there is no place left in the world which they have not tried to corrupt with their most wicked doctrines; and among others, Elizabeth, the pretended queen of England and the servant of crime, has assisted in this, with whom as in a sanctuary the most pernicious of all have found refuge. This very woman, having seized the crown and monstrously usurped the place of supreme head of the Church in all England to gather with the chief authority and jurisdiction belonging to it, has once again reduced this same kingdom—which had already been restored to the Catholic faith and to good fruits—to a miserable ruin."
Pius then proceeds to ennumerate her various crimes which compel him, as pastor and guardian of the deposit of faith and of all Christians, to take drastic action:
"Prohibiting with a strong hand the use of the true religion, which after its earlier overthrow by Henry VIII (a deserter therefrom) Mary, the lawful queen of famous memory, had with the help of this See restored, she has:
  • followed and embraced the errors of the heretics;
  • removed the royal Council, composed of the nobility of England, and has filled it with obscure men, being heretics;
  • oppressed the followers of the Catholic faith;
  • instituted false preachers and ministers of impiety; 
  • abolished the sacrifice of the mass, prayers, fasts, choice of meats, celibacy, and Catholic ceremonies;
  • ordered that books of manifestly heretical content be propounded to the whole realm and that impious rites and institutions after the rule of Calvin, entertained and observed by herself, be also observed by her subjects.
  • dared to eject bishops, rectors of churches and other Catholic priests from their churches and benefices, to bestow these and other things ecclesiastical upon heretics, and to determine spiritual causes;
  • has forbidden the prelates, clergy and people to acknowledge the Church of Rome or obey its precepts and canonical sanctions;
  • has forced most of them to come to terms with her wicked laws, to abjure the authority and obedience of the pope of Rome, and to accept her, on oath, as their only lady in matters temporal and spiritual;
  • has imposed penalties and punishments on those who would not agree to this and has exacted then of those who persevered in the unity of the faith and the aforesaid obedience;
  • has thrown the Catholic prelates and parsons into prison where many, worn out by long languishing and sorrow, have miserably ended their lives.
All these matter and manifest and notorious among all the nations; they are so well proven by the weighty witness of many men that there remains no place for excuse, defense or evasion."
Having exhausted the usual means of correction, Pius imposed the penalty of excommunication on Elizabeth I, and not only on her but on any of her courtiers and countrymen who remained bound to her by choice and obeyed her commands. He also absolved her subjects from any obligations to her that they owed due to sworn oaths, and stripped her of her "pretended title to the crown."

Read all of Regnans in Excelsis here.

In our current age, when statements from the Vatican are normally pronounced in obscure language varnished over with layer after layer of incomprehensible nuance, it's refreshing to read a document couched in such clear and emphatic terms.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Late Medieval and Renaissance Art at the Gardner Museum in Boston

During a recent trip to Boston, I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I had been there once over 20 years, and had a vague recollection of the place--enough to remind me that a return trip was necessary.

Though unassuming from the outside, once you enter the Gardner Museum, you are basically stepping into an Italian villa from the 17th century, complete with central courtyard and cloisters. Beyond the gorgeous architecture, the museum houses a first-class collection of artworks from around the world. Frankly, I had forgotten how stunning the collections are, particularly the impressive holdings of Catholic religious works from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

Here are a few photos I took, representing a tiny fraction of the museum's works on display. Please forgive the quality--I went in the evening, so the lighting wasn't great. While these photos don't convey the full experience of visiting this utterly gorgeous edifice, tucked neatly in among some fairly ordinary-looking buildings less than half a mile from Fenway Park, they should be tantalizing enough to entice a visit, no?

Click to enlarge any of these.

Effigy of a knight, tomb sculpture from Salamanca, Spain, ca. 1500.

French altarpiece showing scenes from the Passion of Jesus, ca. 1425.

German statue of St. George
slaying the dragon, ca. 1500.

Risen Christ. Date unknown
(to me, anyway).

The Virgin and Child by Bernardino Pinturicchio, Italian, 1494.

Flemish tapestry from the story of Abraham,
late 16th century.

Saint Engracia, Bartolomé Bermejo, Cordova,
Spain, 1474.

The Resurrection, German or Austrian, 16th century.

Though not Medieval or Renaissance,
here is Ms. Gardner as portrayed by
John Singer Sargent in 1888. She was
48 years old at the time.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The courage of St. Theodore of Sykeon ~ AD 608

"You must first pray that your inward man may be reformed and grow healthy;
for when that is healed, the outward man, too, will be restored to health."
 ~St. Theodore of Sykeon to the east Roman consul Bonosus, ca. AD 608

April 22 is the feast of St. Theodore of Sykeon, a bishop from central Asia Minor who lived during the reign of the murderous Roman emperor, Phocas.

An extensive biography of St. Theodore written by one of his disciples has come down to us from antiquity which makes for exceptionally good reading for historians and devout Christians alike. St. Theodore had the God-given courage to speak the truth fearlessly to those in power, having humbled the cruel Bonosus and rebuked Phocas himself to his face on another occasion.

Here is the above quote in context, taken from The Life of St. Theodore of Sykeon:
About that time the inhuman consul Bonosus was traveling to the eastern parts of the Empire and as he passed near the monastery he heard tell of the inspired man's holiness and felt a reverence for it, violent and cruel though he was. So he sent a messenger in advance to him beseeching him, if he could endure the fatigue, to come down to the oratory of the holy martyr Gemellus near the posting­station in order that he might do reverence to him there and be deemed worthy of his prayers, saying that he himself was unable to go up to the monastery owing to the pressure of urgent affairs. So the Saint went down and received him and whilst he was praying for him the consul stood but did not bend his neck, so the Saint took hold of the hair of his forehead and pulled it and in this way bent his head down (virtue is wont to act thus with courage and not fear human authority 'For the righteous', it is said, 'is bold as a lion.' [ Prov 28:1]) 
We who were present were thunder­struck and terrified at the just man's daring and imagined that the consul would turn insolent and furious, for we knew well by report that his savagery was like that of a wild beast. But he readily accepted the prayer and the rebuke and showed honor to the Saint by kissing his hands, and then putting his hand on his own chest because of a pain which oppressed him he begged the Saint to pray that he might be freed from it. But the Saint gently tapped with his fingers on the consul's chest and said to him, "You must first pray that your inward man may be reformed and grow healthy; for when that is healed, the outward man, too, will be restored to health. Therefore I will pray for you and do you devote yourself to the good and fear God in order that my prayers may be effective. But if I pray and you neglect to amend your ways, my prayers will be unavailing. Be merciful then and pitiful to all Christian people and do not use harshly the authority entrusted to you, but while examining your own consciousness of sins, sympathize with those that go astray and never shed innocent blood. For if there is to be punishment for the mere insult of a spoken word-for calling another a 'fool'—how much more will blood, shed unjustly, be avenged by God?"  
These counsels the Saint gave him like a man sowing seed in unfruitful ground, and the consul fetched out a few coins and offered them to him in token of gratitude. But as the Saint did not deign to accept them, he drew back his hand and took out some 'trimisia' begging the Saint at least to accept those and to give one to every brother in the monastery. But before looking at them Theodore said, "There are only fifty and not sufficient for giving one to each, however, they can be changed into smaller money and then distributed equally."  
But the consul marveled at his discerning words, as being God­-inspired and answered, "Yes, reverend father, by thy holy prayers, there are only fifty as your holy mouth has said; however, I will send as many more at once as are needed to make up the number." This he did, for after being dismissed by the Saint he went to his baggage and sent what he had promised.
Thus the virtue of the righteous knows how to correct the violent and the savage, and by persuasion makes them yield to those who practice it.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

"Quid est veritas?" What is the truth about Pontius Pilate?

Christ before Pilate by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Sienna, 14th century AD.
The weak, vacillating and ultimately cruel and cowardly figure of Pontius Pilate is one of the most enigmatic figures in Sacred Scripture. From the Gospel accounts, he seems to be a man who almost wants to be a hero, to defend the innocent victim, Jesus, against the murderous lynch mob besetting Him. Indeed, Pilate is urged by his wife to "have nothing to do with that just man." In the end, however, he lacks the courage to act virtuously. He condemns Christ to a horrible death, despite knowing with certainty that He is innocent.

But who was Pontius Pilate? Did he even exist? Or is he a figment of the evangelists' imagination, as some modern anti-Christian polemicists claim with anything associated with the historicity of Sacred Scripture?

Interestingly, two of the earliest sources who mention Pontius Pilate are both Jews. Philo of Alexandria, writing in the first half of the first century AD—that is, roughly contemporary with the time of Jesus—offers the following account which is instructive regarding the character of Pilate:
Pilate was one of the emperor's lieutenants, having been appointed governor of Judaea. He...dedicated some gilt shields in the palace of Herod, in the holy city; which had no form nor any other forbidden thing represented on them except some necessary inscription, which mentioned these two facts, the name of the person who had placed them there, and the person in whose honor they were so placed there.
But when the multitude heard what had been done, and when the circumstance became notorious, then the people...entreated him to alter and to rectify the innovation which he had committed in respect of the shields...
But when he steadfastly refused this petition (for he was a man of a very inflexible disposition, and very merciless as well as very obstinate), they cried out: "Do not cause a sedition; do not make war upon us; do not destroy the peace which exists. The honor of the emperor is not identical with dishonor to the ancient laws; let it not be to you a pretence for heaping insult on our nation. Tiberius is not desirous that any of our laws or customs shall be destroyed. And if you yourself say that he is, show us either some command from him, or some letter, or something of the kind, that we, who have been sent to you as ambassadors, may cease to trouble you, and may address our supplications to your master."
But this last sentence exasperated him in the greatest possible degree, as he feared least they might in reality go on an embassy to the emperor, and might impeach him with respect to other particulars of his government, in respect of his corruption, and his acts of insolence, and his rapine, and his habit of insulting people, and his cruelty, and his continual murders of people untried and uncondemned, and his never ending, and gratuitous, and most grievous inhumanity. Therefore, being exceedingly angry, and being at all times a man of most ferocious passions, he was in great perplexity, neither venturing to take down what he had once set up, nor wishing to do any thing which could be acceptable to his subjects, and at the same time being sufficiently acquainted with the firmness of Tiberius on these points.
And those who were in power in our nation, seeing this, and perceiving that he was inclined to change his mind as to what he had done, but that he was not willing to be thought to do so, wrote a most supplicatory letter to Tiberius. And he, when he had read it, what did he say of Pilate, and what threats did he utter against him!...Immediately, without putting any thing off till the next day, he wrote a letter, reproaching and reviling him in the most bitter manner for his act of unprecedented audacity and wickedness, and commanding him immediately to take down the shields and to convey them away from the metropolis of Judaea to Caesarea... [Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius, XXXVIII, 299]
This anecdote is fascinating because the description of Pilate's character corresponds well with the Pilate who appears in the Gospels: a man of violent passions and stubborn, but only up to the point when his personal power and comfort is threatened. At that point, he becomes craven and fickle.

The Pilate Stone discovered in Caesarea in 1961, containing a 1st century AD
inscription referencing Pontius Pilate. Now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
The great Jewish historian, Josephus, writing in the late first century AD, mentions Pontius Pilate several times. One of his passages which references Pilate is the famous and controversial Testimonium Flavianum as follows:
Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 3] 
In another interesting passage, Josephus details how Pilate's ten-year term of office in Judea came to an end. An unnamed rabble-rouser had convinced the Samaritans that he knew the location of the mountain where Moses had secreted certain sacred vessels. When they gathered to collect the vessels, Pilate intervened with violence:
So they came thither armed, and thought the discourse of the man probable, and as they abode at a certain village, which was called Tirathaba, they got the rest together to them, and desired to go up the mountain in a great multitude together; but Pilate prevented their going up, by seizing upon file roads with a great band of horsemen and foot-men, who fell upon those that were gotten together in the village; and when it came to an action, some of them they slew, and others of them they put to flight, and took a great many alive, the principal of which, and also the most potent of those that fled away, Pilate ordered to be slain. 
But when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate sent an embassy to Vitellius, a man that had been consul, and who was now president of Syria [later emperor for a short time], and accused Pilate of the murder of those that were killed; for that they did not go to Tirathaba in order to revolt from the Romans, but to escape the violence of Pilate. So Vitellius sent Marcellus, a friend of his, to take care of the affairs of Judea, and ordered Pilate to go to Rome, to answer before the emperor to the accusations of the Jews. So Pilate, when he had tarried ten years in Judea, made haste to Rome, and this in obedience to the orders of Vitellius, which he durst not contradict; but before he could get to Rome Tiberius was dead. [Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 4] 
Why Pilate decided to attack the Samaritans here is left unsaid. Josephus also doesn't offer any additional information on the fate of Pilate after he returned to Rome. For this, the most reliable surviving record is that of Eusebius Pamphilus from the early 4th century. Drawing on more ancient sources, he records:
The so-called "Tomb of Pilate" in Vienne.
It is worthy of note that Pilate himself, who was governor in the time of our Savior, is reported to have fallen into such misfortunes under Caius [Caligula], whose times we are recording, that he was forced to become his own murderer and executioner; and thus divine vengeance, as it seems, was not long in overtaking him. This is stated by those Greek historians who have recorded the Olympiads, together with the respective events which have taken place in each period. [Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book II, Chapter 7]
Interestingly, the Roman pyramid at Vienne in southeastern France was traditionally called the tomb of Pilate. There is, however, very little actual history that supports this identification and the association of Pontius Pilate with this structure is probably a later legendary interpolation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Judas Iscariot and Spy Wednesday


Today is Spy Wednesday, when the Church traditionally remembers the initiation of the betrayal of Jesus by his apostle, Judas Iscariot. It is interesting in the Gospel of Matthew that Judas approaches the chief priests with his proposal of conspiracy immediately after Our Lord rebukes the disciples for false compassion:
And when Jesus was in Bethania, in the house of Simon the leper, There came to him a woman having an alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it on his head as he was at table. And the disciples seeing it, had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? For this might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. And Jesus knowing it, said to them: "Why do you trouble this woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For the poor you have always with you: but me you have not always. For she in pouring this ointment upon my body, hath done it for my burial. Amen I say to you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which she hath done, shall be told for a memory of her." [Matthew 26:8-13]
In the Gospel of St. John, the evangelist names names, identifying the principle agitator in the scene above:
Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, he that was about to betray him, said: "Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and having the purse, carried the things that were put therein."John 12:3-6.
Returning to Matthew's account, Judas then immediately goes and seeks out the enemies of Our Lord:
Then went one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, to the chief priests, And said to them: "What will you give me, and I will deliver him unto you?" But they appointed him thirty pieces of silver. And from thenceforth he sought opportunity to betray him. [Matthew 26:14-16]
Thus, Judas becomes a spy for those seeking to destroy Jesus--hence, Spy Wednesday. Though the term has fallen out of parlance today, Spy Wednesday was used with regularity in English-speaking countries through the 19th century. The Irish Ecclesiastical Record says, in some places, that Spy Wednesday was a day of strict abstinence. It is also one of three days on which the Tenebrae ceremony is celebrated in traditional Catholic practice.

Satan chewing on Judas
by Gustav Doré
For his crime, Judas is considered one of the worst sinners in history. In the Divine Comedy, Dante puts the soul of Judas in the deepest, darkest, most horrifying place in Hell--one of the three mouths of Satan:
In each mouth he mashed up a separate sinner
With his sharp teeth, as if they were a grinder,
And in this way he put the three through torture.

For the one in front, the biting was as nothing
Compared to the clawing, for at times his back
Remained completely stripped bare of its skin.

"That soul up there who suffers the worst pain,"
My master said, "is Judas Iscariot —
His head within, he kicks his legs outside."
For the record, Satan's other two mouths, according to Dante, are occupied by two other famous betrayers, Brutus and Cassius.

Let us pray along with the Tenebrae service for Spy Wednesday, that God may not forsake the Church in our distress and may not allow us to be sent down into darkness:

Save me from the mire; do not let me sink;
let me be rescued from those who hate me
   and out of the deep waters.
Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,
   neither let the deep swallow me up;
do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.