Monday, August 09, 2021

Catholic Homeschool Grad Authors New Book in the Vision Series by Ignatius Press ~ "Louis and Zélie: The Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse"


Several years ago, I attended one of the wonderful IHM Catholic Homeschooling conferences in northern New Jersey. At that event, I was privileged to hear a presentation about the newly canonized saints, Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux—the Little Flower. This was my first introduction to this amazing married couple who not only raised one canonized saint, but sent all four of their other daughters into the religious life. It's not far-fetched to imagine that all of these women will also be canonized in the years to come. That conference talk has always stuck with me.

At other IHM conferences—which are at present on hiatus which I pray is not permanent—I met numerous highly intelligent, motivated and inspired young people at our vendor table. One of these creative prodigies is GinaMarie Tennant. Far from being the poorly-socialized homeschooler of popular cliche, GinaMarie always made it a point to come over to our table not just to peruse the books (she did that too, thank God!), but also to chat about her various artistic endeavors. I was not shocked, therefore, when GinaMarie let me know that she had inked a contract with Ignatius Press for a book on Saints Louis and Zélie Martin as part of the Vision Series. That means that she now joins such noteworthy Catholic authors as Milton Lomask, Mary Fabyan Windeatt, and Louis de Wohl, all of whom have contributed books to this venerable series of historical novels for young Catholics over its long history.

Click for more info or to order a copy
from The Young Catholic's Bookshelf.
I am pleased to report that Ms. Tennant's book, Louis and Zélie: The Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse has now published. Of course, I ordered several copies and placed one in the common area of the house for easy access. Since then, there have been a few minor debates about who gets to read it first. My mother got first dibs by virtue of age and she finished it quickly. My wife is in the middle of the book now. Even though it's meant for them, the kids will have to wait their turn.

As for me, I read it on the beach during our family vacation and it was exactly what I expected. Though slightly longer than most books in the Vision Series, it is so engagingly written that the short chapters fly by. The author did a superb job drawing out the personalities of the main characters without getting bogged down in the details of day-to-day life. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the early lives of Louis and Zélie—the desire of each to enter the religious life and the chance meeting which led to their marriage. The chapters covering the Franco-Prussian War were also beautifully drawn and poignant, bringing the harsh reality of that forgotten conflict sharply into focus in very personal ways. Knowing the author as I do, I was not at all surprised that the book contained a wealth of historical detail that made the story particularly authentic.

Have I piqued your curiosity about this book? If so, here's a brief interview I did with the author which offers a behind-the-scenes look into how GinaMarie Tennant parlayed her home education, writing talent and strong Catholic faith into a literary work which will be read by young people for generations to come.

What inspired you to write about Saints Louis and Zélie Martin? How did you become interested in their story?

GinaMarie: Saint Thérèse has been one of my favorite saints for as long as I can remember. I was interested in her parents and purchased a few books on them. Although I had plans to write about saints, Louis and Zélie were not on my long list. My first project was a short, illustrated biography about another one of my favorite saints, Saint Notburga of Tyrol, Austria. When an editor at Ignatius Press saw it, she suggested that I write a biography on Saints Louis and Zélie Martin for the Vision Series. I was delighted with the idea, and three years later Louis and Zélie:  the Holy Parents of Saint Thérèse was published.

     As I reflect on the journey behind the book, I recall one day apologizing to Saint Thérèse that I was spending time writing about Saint Notburga instead of writing about her. I explained, “There is nothing you need; so many people have written books on you already.” Little did I realize then that there was a book Saint Thérèse wanted me to write for her—a book about her parents.

Can you think of a particular anecdote from the lives of the Martins that appeared in the book that speaks particularly well to young Catholics today?

GinaMarie: There are many examples in Saints Louis’s and Zélie’s lives to which young (and not so young) Catholics can relate. In one brief episode, I mention how Louis was frequently having to tell his customers that his shop would not be open on Sundays. What I did not explain was that in his town, Sundays had become “market day” for the farmers. Friends, and even Louis’s confessor, had said it was acceptable to be open on Sundays for at least a few hours, since that was the best time for the farmers to shop. Louis refused to budge, even dismissing the suggestion that customers come in a side entrance so that his store would not be “really open.” Instead, the Martins reserved Sundays for prayer, family, and relaxation. They also avoided traveling on Sundays so as not to make others work. Of course, if they encountered someone in need it did not matter what day it was: they were there to help. What a lesson this is for us who live in a similar world where Sundays are just another day for shopping and work.

     The most important lesson their lives teach us is that we can live for God through our daily lives. Louis’ and Zélie’s sanctity was not separated from their everyday lives; in fact it was precisely through their daily lives that they encountered and glorified God. It is the same for us.  We do not have to leave the world to find God. He wants to meet us where we are. Zélie, in a letter to her sister-in-law, wrote that if she only did everything for God, she would be a canonized saint. Little did she realize that someday she would be a canonized saint. 

Writing a book is no small task. How did homeschooling prepare you for it? Or, what aspects of your home education helped you not only create the book, but see the task through to the end?

GinaMarie: Being homeschooled prepared me in many ways for writing this book, as well as for my profession as an organist and music teacher. My parents always encouraged my siblings and me to pursue our passions, and they tailored our curriculums accordingly. I spent a lot more time on creative writing and art than most students do since I always knew that I wanted to be an author and illustrator. I saw how much my parents gave of themselves in raising us and learned that some things worth doing in life are not easy. Writing a book for publication and then illustrating it is not easy or quick. A lot of effort, time, and faith is required in the process. I was blessed to work with a great team, but without my family’s patience and encouragement, I would not have succeeded.

Did any surprising or unexpected things happen during the writing of the book?

GinaMarie: Life is full of surprises, and when we try to do God’s will, God is able to write the story of our lives in incomprehensible and stunning ways. I marvel at how I used to read the Vision Series, clueless that someday I would write for the series. As a child, I had wanted to write biographies of saints and historical fiction. Little did I realize then how I would combine those two dreams. Since the book’s publication, I have been very surprised by how many adults are inspired by Louis and Zélie. I am sure God has many more surprises in store for the future. 

While writing the book, how did you incorporate the task into your prayer life? In other words, did you change how you pray while writing this book?

GinaMarie: I reflected on everything I read about the Martins. I had already been influenced by Saint Thérèse and her writings. By reading about her family, I gained new insights on her “Little Way.” I also found that I thought about life differently. I would pray to the Martins and ask them to help me write what they wanted in the book. I told them they could delete anything they did not want in it via the editors and my sample readers. That certainly happened. Through the process the Martin family became my good friends. I hope the readers of Louis and Zélie will be inspired by them, just as I have been.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"The Blood of the Martyr as Fresh as if It Had Been Shed on That Very Day" ~ The discovery of the relics of Saints Nazarius and Celsus by Ambrose of Milan

The martyrdom of Saints Nazarius and Celsus from the early 11th century
Menologion of Basil II.

July 28 is the feast day of two fairly obscure martyrs of Milan, Saints Nazarius and Celsus. According to the Golden Legend compiled much later, Nazarius was a missionary and possibly a presbyter, baptized by the hand of St. Linus in Rome. During his travels in Gaul, Nazarius met the mother of Celsus, a young boy of perhaps ten years of age. The mother asked Nazarius to baptize the boy and take him with him on his journeys of conversion. Both Nazarius and Celsus were martyred, the legend says, during the reign of Nero, having been beheaded in Milan. 

Generally, not much historical credence is afforded to the accounts contained in the Golden Legend. However, in this one, we find a reference to Saint Ambrose who is mentioned as having discovered the grave sites of Nazarius and Celsus in Milan three centuries after their deaths. When we consult the Vita Sancti Ambrosii—a work written in the early 5th century soon after the death of St. Ambrose by his very secretary, Deacon Paulinus of Milan—we find Sts. Nazarius and Celsus mentioned explicitly. In fact, it appears that Paulinus was an eye-witness to the discovery of their relics by St. Ambrose. In passage following, Paulinus describes the incorrupt state of the bodies and the odor of sanctity accompanying them:

Click for more info.
At this time he raised and transferred the body of Saint Nazarius, the martyr, which had been buried in a garden outside the city to the Basilica of the Apostles which is near the Roman Gate. We saw, moreover, in the grave in which the body of the martyr lay—although when he suffered, we cannot learn even to this day—the blood of the martyr as fresh as if it had been shed on that very day. His head also, which had been severed by the wicked, was so whole and uncorrupted with hair and beard that it seemed to us that it had been washed and placed in the grave at the very moment at which it was dug up. And why should this be strange, since the Lord indeed has already promised this in the Gospel, that a hair from their heads shall not perish? We were also suffused with such a wondrous odor that it surpassed the sweetness of all perfumes. 

When this body of the martyr was dug up and laid on a litter, we immediately proceeded with the holy bishop to the martyr Saint Celsus, who was buried in the same garden, to pray. We have learned, however, that never before had he prayed in that very place, and this was the sign of the discovery of a martyr, namely, if the holy bishop should go to pray to a place at which he had never been before. [Life of Saint Ambrose, Chapter VIII:32]

St. Ambrose’s mystical ability to discern the burial places of the martyrs was demonstrated previously by Paulinus in his account of the discovery of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius

Paulinus continues:

We know, however, from the custodians of the place, that it was a tradition with them from their parents, not to depart from that place from generation to generation of their people on this account because great treasures had been buried there. And indeed great treasures they were, which neither rust nor the worm destroys nor thieves dig up and steal, because Christ is their guardian and their habitation is the court of heaven, for whom it was Christ to live and to die was gain. [Life of Saint Ambrose, Chapter VIII:32]

Then, as with the discovery of the relics of Protasius and Gervasius previously, something strange happened in the immediate aftermath, as described by Paulinus:

And so after the body of the martyr was transported to the Basilica of the Apostles,26 where previously the relics of the Holy Apostles had been deposited with the greatest devotion of all, while the bishop was preaching one of the populace filled with an unclean spirit began to cry out that he was tormented by Ambrose. But he turned to him and said: “Be silent, devil, because Ambrose does not torment thee, but the faith of the saints and thy envy, because you see men rise to that place whence you have been cast down, for Ambrose knows not how to be puffed up.” After these words, he who was crying out became silent and threw himself upon the ground and no longer uttered a sound by which he might cause disturbance. [Life of Saint Ambrose, Chapter VIII:32]

It should also be added that the relics of St. Nazarius are mentioned in another early 5th century source, the letters and poems of Paulinus of Nola. Of course, this is not the same person as Paulinus the Deacon, the biographer of St. Ambrose, but instead a wealthy Roman writer and saint in his own right. Specifically, Paulinus says that he had obtained for his basilica dedicated to St. Felix at Fundi some relics of St. Nazarius (as well as relics of St. Luke, St. Andrew, St. Gervasius and St. Protasius. See Letter 32:17. In his poem addressed to Nicetas, he elaborates, saying:  

Here, too, is the martyr Nazarius, whom I received in humility of heart as a gift of faith from the noble Ambrose, so that he, too, lends distinction to Felix’s dwelling, and as a fellow resident sets his own resting-place close by the house of that brother. See Poem 27:439.

May the ancient martyrs Nazarius and Celsus pray for us.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Jabs, Adverse Event Data, Medical-Industrial Complex Warnings, and all that Jazz

Posting links to some of these articles here for future reference lest they go down the great internet memory hole. At least we will know that they once existed. 

NB. I have tried to stick to factual articles from sources that most people will find reliable regardless of their political bent. You'll note that in the majority of these articles, the authors' favorite word seems to be "rare." Let readers make their own decisions.

'Proud' Aaron receives COVID-19 vaccine [January 5, 2021]
“[Getting vaccinated] makes me feel wonderful,” Aaron told The Associated Press. “I don’t have any qualms about it at all, you know. I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this. ... It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.” (Aaron died at age 86 on Jan. 22, 17 days after he chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.)

Hearns blames COVID-19 vaccine for Marvin Hagler’s death [March 15, 2021]
Thomas Hearns has claimed Marvin Hagler’s death at the age of 66 was linked to the coronavirus vaccine he received recently, reports worldboxingnews.net. Hearns, known as ‘The Hitman’ during his career, took to social media to report that Hagler was ‘fighting for his life in the ICU’ on Saturday. The ex-boxer also added that Hagler was there due to the ‘after-effects of the vaccine.’ In a sad final statement, Hearns said he believed ‘he’ll be just fine, but we could use the positive energy and Prayer for his full recovery.’...

Johnson & Johnson vaccine linked to 28 cases of blood clots, CDC reports [May 12, 2021]
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it had identified a total of 28 cases of serious, potentially life-threatening blood clots among the more than 8.7 million people who had received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccination. This latest case count is as of May 7. Previously, as of April 25, the CDC had reported 17 cases of the clots out of nearly 8 million people given the shots....

Blood Clots Aren't the Only Vaccine Side Effects Worth Studying [May 19, 2021]
One can hardly blame people for being worried about the new Covid-19 vaccines when there are so many anecdotal reports of weird side effects — including women experiencing disturbing changes in their menstrual cycles. Reports of early and unusually heavy periods or other irregularities were becoming so common earlier this spring that University of Illinois anthropologist Kate Clancy started collecting them. People may wonder, rightly, why this isn’t being studied in a more systematic way. If something this unexpected can happen, then what else?...

Northwestern University student appears to have died from heart inflammation linked to COVID vaccine [June 15, 2021]
A 19-year-old Northwestern University student died on June 11, two months after she received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and a month after receiving the second dose. While her doctors have not fully confirmed the cause of her death, it appears that Simone Scott (right) suffered from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscles. Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s doctors were able to obtain a new heart for Scott, but that lasted less than one week....

FDA adds warning about rare heart inflammation to Pfizer, Moderna Covid vaccines [June 26, 2021]
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday added a warning to patient and provider fact sheets for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines to indicate a rare risk of heart inflammation. For each vaccine, the fact sheets were revised to include a warning about myocarditis and pericarditis after the second dose and with the onset of symptoms within a few days after receiving the shot. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is the inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart....

More Evidence Links Myocarditis to mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines [June 29, 2021]
Two new case series published Tuesday in JAMA Cardiology support a temporal link between second doses of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines and the development of acute myocarditis within 4 to 5 days. While the consensus remains that vaccine benefits outweigh the risks, more experts are calling for vigilance and some are suggesting it may be prudent to delay the second dose for young people. Similar to prior studies, the reports show that affected patients tend to be young and male; to present with chest pain, abnormal ECG findings, and elevated troponins; to have findings on cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging consistent with acute myocarditis; and to have a relatively mild clinical course. No alternative explanations for the observed myocarditis were found....

Myocarditis detailed in 30 patients after mRNA COVID vaccines [June 30, 2021]
Two recent reports in JAMA Cardiology describe 30 patients with myocarditis, or inflamed heart muscles, less than a week after receiving either a Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. While these events may indicate a higher prevalence of myocarditis than expected, both reports note their rarity....

Latest CDC VAERS Data Show Reported Injuries Surpass 400,000 Following COVID Vaccines [July 2, 2021]
...Data released today show that between Dec. 14, 2020 and June 25, 2021, a total of 411,931 total adverse events were reported to VAERS, including 6,985 deaths — an increase of 872 deaths over the previous week. There were 34,065 serious injury reports, up 2,825 compared with last week....

Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination [July 13,2021]
Anaphylaxis after COVID-19 vaccination is rare and has occurred in approximately 2 to 5 people per million vaccinated in the United States....CDC and FDA identified 38 confirmed reports of people who got the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and later developed TTS (Thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome)....there have been around 100 preliminary reports of GBS (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) identified in VAERS....As of July 12, 2021, VAERS has received 1,047 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 30 and younger who received a COVID-19 vaccine....VAERS received 6,079 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.

FDA adds new warning on Johnson & Johnson vaccine related to rare autoimmune disorder [July 13, 2021]
The Food and Drug Administration announced a new warning for the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on Monday, saying the shot has been linked to a serious but rare side effect called Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nerves...

Updates to this post as events warrant. Note that this list makes no claims to completeness, particularly with the passage of time.

Update #1, July 30, 2021. Not a good sign.

Over 25% of cases in Los Angeles are fully vaccinated people [July 29, 2021]
Around one in four new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles are among fully vaccinated people, health officials said. Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that about 26 percent of cases confirmed between July 1 and July 16 were people who were vaccinated against the virus, news station Fox11 reported. “As more people are vaccinated, the number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected will increase and with the Delta variant that’s far more infectious, exposures to infections have also increased,” Ferrer said during county Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday....

Most COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts outbreak among vaccinated, says CDC [July 30, 2021]
July 30 (Reuters) - Three quarters of people infected with COVID-19 at public events in a Massachusetts town were fully vaccinated, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed. The study, published on Friday without naming the town, suggested the Delta variant of the virus was highly contagious. The study found vaccinated individuals had a similar amount of virus presence as the unvaccinated, suggesting that, unlike with other variants, vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant could transmit the virus, the CDC said....

Update #2, August 19, 2021. The hits keep coming.

Delta variant renders herd immunity from Covid ‘mythical’ [August 10, 2021]
Reaching herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current Delta variant, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said. Giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday, Prof Sir Andrew Pollard said the fact that vaccines did not stop the spread of Covid meant reaching the threshold for overall immunity in the population was “mythical”....“The Delta variant will still infect people who have been vaccinated. And that does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated at some point will meet the virus … and we don’t have anything that will [completely] stop that transmission.”

COVID cabinet approves new restrictions as cases soar [August 12, 2021]
On Wednesday morning, the Health Ministry reported 694 people were being treated in Israeli hospitals for the virus, among them 400 in serious condition, with 64% of those patients defined as serious cases being fully vaccinated, compared with 32% who were not. Another 2% were in the process of being vaccinated, and 2% were recovered.

A grim warning from Israel: Vaccination blunts, but does not defeat Delta [August 16, 2021]
Israel has among the world’s highest levels of vaccination for COVID-19, with 78% of those 12 and older fully vaccinated, the vast majority with the Pfizer vaccine. Yet the country is now logging one of the world’s highest infection rates, with nearly 650 new cases daily per million people. More than half are in fully vaccinated people, underscoring the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant and stoking concerns that the benefits of vaccination ebb over time.

Friday, July 02, 2021

"We Grant and Concede in Perpetuity" ~ Pope Saint Pius V's promulgation of the Tridentine Mass in Quo Primum, AD 1570

“In virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, 
for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever,
this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple
of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure,
and may freely and lawfully be used.” 
—Pope Saint Pius V
taken from Quo Primum, AD 1570

Once again, there are sad rumblings coming from Rome of yet another attempt to hamper the usage of the traditional Tridentine Mass. Anyone paying attention is aware that the traditional Catholic movement is growing quickly and is one of the few sources of dynamism within the Church.  

By comparison, the post-Conciliar Church is now free-falling into ruin in most of its traditional regions. Parishes are emptying out, consolidating, and closing with alarming rapidity in the US, Canada and Europe. More Catholic elementary and secondary schools are being shuttered every year. Institutions of higher learning which traditionally claimed to be Catholic are no longer recognizable as such. Many actively and openly work against Church teachings on a variety of worldly moral and theological questions. The typical parish of the post-Vatican II Order is populated by a high percentage of elderly faithful, many of whom lament that their own children have left the Catholic Faith. As a parishioner of such a church, I can attest to this sad state of affairs first hand. Perhaps worst of all, even among those who still self-identify as Catholics, only about 30% believe one of the core tenets of the Catholic Faith: that the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ present on the altar at Mass. 

At the same time that the post-Conciliar Church is dying, the traditional practice of Catholicism is growing and spreading, particularly among young Catholics. A visit to any traditional parish such as those run by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, or the Institute of Christ the King, or the Society of Saint Pius X, will quickly reveal the shocking dichotomy. While there are certainly numerous elderly parishioners in traditional parishes, one is immediately struck by the plentitude of young families whom God has blessed with numerous children. One will also notice the abundance of altar boys, seminarians and young priests. The joyful energy in such parishes is palpable. The seminaries run by the above groups do not suffer from the same "vocations crisis" as afflicts the post-Conciliar Church in Europe and North America.

A look at some statistics reveals the stark differences between those who practice the Faith in the post-Conciliar form, and those who retain the usage of the Tridentine form, as taken from the Traditional Latin Mass National Survey conducted by Fr. Donald Kloster in 2020:

Click to see the original article and methodology on the LiturgyGuy blog.

Is anyone at all surprised by these results?

And yet, it seems that Rome is on the cusp of coming down hard on that faithful remnant who dare to practice the Faith of the Catholic Church as great saints have done through the centuries. Is it possible that the elders of the Church at the Vatican are so tone-deaf that they fail to comprehend the movement of the Holy Spirit within the Church? Our Lord Himself taught us how to recognize it:

“By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.” [Matthew 7:17-20].

Anyone who pays even a modicum of attention to Church affairs can clearly discern where the good fruit is being generated. There are large swathes of the post-Conciliar Church that bear very bad fruit when they bear any fruit at all. Certainly, I need not go into detail of the bad fruit here. We can see it every day before our eyes on the social media cesspool, and the various scandals have been covered to death, even on this very blog. Sadly, to the laity it often appears that there is no will at the Vatican to resolve such scandals.

It is worth remembering, however, that the current auto-destruction of the Church by those entrusted by Christ with preserving Her and spreading His Gospel was perhaps foreseen by our saintly ancestors. For those who seek to curtail the use of the traditional Tridentine rite, it is arguable that they even possess the authority to do so. In AD 1570, Pope Saint Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Liturgy in an encyclical entitled Quo Primum. This document is relatively short and certainly worth reading in its entirety. In Quo Primum may be found the quote shown at the top of this post. Following is the quote with some greater context:

“Furthermore, by these presents [this law], in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force notwithstanding the previous constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, as well as any general or special constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long and immemorial prescription – except, however, if more than two hundred years’ standing.”

It is possible, therefore, to make the argument that any attempt to contravene the clear, precise and perpetual grants made by Pope St. Pius V in Quo Primum are automatically void. Sadly, I doubt many of the bishops who currently preside in most places throughout the earth will see things that way. If the diktat comes down from Rome that the traditional Tridentine practice of the Mass is to be suppressed, most bishops will attempt to enforce it. Scandals and quarrels will emerge. And as always, the good priests and the devout laity will suffer the most. Yet more bad fruit.

That said, let us remember that suffering is our calling as Catholics. If those with ecclesiastical authority seek to persecute you for daring to pray the Mass as Saint Pius V, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Saint Therese of Lisieux, the Cure of Ars, Padre Pio, and thousands of other saints throughout the ages, then remember to pray for them and offer up the persecution for the salvation of their souls. 

Woe to those bishops and priests who see the Will of the Holy Spirit and yet actively work to thwart it. May God have mercy on them.

Lord Jesus Christ, save your Church! Send us a new Athanasius and a new Gregory the Great to rescue the Church which is travail.

Friday, June 04, 2021

"I do not sacrifice to devils" ~ The martyrdom of St. Quirinus of Siscia, June 4, AD 309

Fresco of from the catacombs of St. Callixtus showing, left to right,
the martyrs St. Polycamus, St. Sebastian, and St. Quirinus. Click to enlarge.

June 4th is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Quirinus, Bishop of Siscia, during the Great Persecution of the early 4th century AD. Though he was bishop of the Roman town of Siscia (modern-day Sisak in Croatia) in the province of Pannonia, he was taken to the provincial capital of Sabaria (modern-day Szombathely in Hungary) for trial and execution. Thus, he is especially venerated in both Croatia and Hungary though his remains have found their way to Rome over the centuries. 

Unlike many of the Christian martyrs of this time, Quirinus is known from multiple sources including a passio, the 4th century AD Chronicon of Eusebius (as copied and extended by St. Jerome in the 5th century) and a poem by Prudentius in his work known as the Peristephanon written in the last 4th century.  

Here is the brief notice taken from Eusebius/Jerome's Chronicon:

Quirinus, bishop of Siscia, is gloriously killed for Christ: for the top of a household quern fastened to his neck, and thrown headlong into a river, he floated for a very long time and while he was being remarked upon by the spectators, lest by his example they should be frightened, hardly praying that he should sink, he obtained it.

The Passio of St. Quirinus is among those collected by Fr. Theodore Ruinart's Acta Primorum Martyrum Sincera et Selecta. It was translated into English and included in Butler's Lives of the Saints and is fairly typical of the authentic Acts of the martyrs which have survived from that time. In it, we see Quirinus debating with his accusers and offering a vigorous defense of his Christianity:

Maximus, chief magistrate of Siscia: “You talk much, and are guilty thereby of delay in executing the commands of our sovereigns: read their divine edicts, and comply with what they enjoin.”

Quirinus: “I make no account of such injunctions, because they are impious; and, contrary to God’s commandments, would oblige us his servants to offer sacrifice to imaginary divinities. The God whom I serve is everywhere; he is in heaven, on earth, and in the sea. He is above all things, containing everything within himself; and by him alone everything subsists.” 

Maximus: “Old age has weakened your understanding and you are deluded by idle tales. See, here is incense: offer it to the gods or you will have many affronts to bear, and will suffer a cruel death.” 

Quirinus: “That disgrace I account my glory, and that death will purchase me eternal life. I respect only the altar of my God, on which I have offered to him a sacrifice of sweet odor.”

Maximus: “I perceive you are distracted, and that your madness will be the cause of your death. Sacrifice to the gods.”

Quirinus: “No, I do not sacrifice to devils.”

Following this conversation, Quirinus was beaten despite his age. When even this failed to make him abjure his Christianity, he was remanded to prison where he proceeded to convert one of his jailers. 

Relief of St. Quirinus from a well on the island of Krk in Croatia.
After three days in prison, Maximus sent Quirinus to the provincial capital of Sabaria to appear before the praeces, Amantius. There, the bishop once again declared his Christian faith publicly during a trial and was sentenced to death by drowning. A millstone was fastened around his neck and he was plunged into a nearby stream, likely the nearby Gyongyos. Prudentius, writing in the late 4th century AD, poetically describes what happened next:
Within the walls of Sisak,
   As in a sire’s embrace,
God willed his faithful martyr
   Should witness to his grace.
So when the stern Galerius
   Oppressed th’ Illyrian sea,
Quirinus there, with sword and prayer,
   Won truest victory.

Not by the steel relentless;
   Not by the fire’s fierce breath;
Not by the paw and tooth of beast,
   Won he the meed of death.
No matter if by water;
   No matter if by blood;
Death with equal glory
   Appears in either flood.
So in the river’s bosom,
   Washed by the tender wave
That laid him down, he gained the crown
   That marks the martyr’s grave.

They bear him where the Savus
   Beneath the bridge runs deep;
They tear him from his people—
   The shepherd from his sheep.
About his neck they fasten,
   That he may surely drown,
O, cruel fate, a millstone great,
   To drag him swiftly down.

The whirlpool spreads its circles,
   And bears him on its breast:
He and the mighty millstone
   Lie there in quiet rest.
But now the martyr bishop,
   Who waits the victor’s palm
Feels even death denied him
   In this most holy calm:
Death and the sure ascension,
   That wellnigh seemed his own;
The opening skies to wistful eyes;
Th’ Eternal Father’s throne.

“O, Jesus, Lord, all-powerful,”
   He cries, “not new to Thee
This triumph o’er the waters,
   For Thou canst quell the sea:
Thine own apostle Peter,
   Whom Thy right hand did keep,
Unyielding found, as solid ground,
   The pathway of the deep.

This stream Thy power proclaimeth,
   In bearing up a stone;
Grant me this boon, O Christ my God,
   To die for Thee alone!”
He praying thus is answered,
   And voice and vital flame,
Leaving the mortal body,
   Ascend to whence they came:
The stone again is heavy;
   The water’s tender breast
Yields to his prayer and lays him there,
   In sweet and perfect rest.

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The above excerpt was taken from I Am a Christian: Authentic Accounts of Christian Martyrdom and Persecution from the Ancient Sources which also contains numerous other accounts of the ancient martyrs and is worth reading if you are interested in this topic. 

The remains of St. Quirinus were recovered and later interred within a church built at the gates of Sabaria after the end of the Great Persecution and the advent of Constantine. However, with the decline of the Empire's fortunes over the next century and the repeated barbarian invasions of Pannonia, the relics of St. Quirinus were withdrawn to Rome for safe-keeping. They were deposited, apparently, in the catacomb of Callixtus whence the fresco featured at the top oc this post may be found. Later, the relics of St. Quirinus were moved again to the catacomb of Saint Sebastian where they remain to this day. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Pride Goeth Before Destruction ~ Celebrate Humility

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Recall, Christians, what Sacred Scripture declareth: 

"Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall." [Proverbs 16:18]

And also:

"Pride is the beginning of all sin. He that holdeth it, shall be filled with maledictions, and it shall ruin him in the end." [Ecclesiasticus, 10:15]

Pride is numbered in the Catholic Catechism among the Seven Deadly Sins [CCC 1866]. Writing in the early Seventh Century AD, Pope Saint Gregory the Great reflected on the sin of pride in his epochal Moralia in Job, saying:  

"Whoever extols himself above his proper condition, is weighed down by the very burden of his pride, and plunges himself the lower, the more he has rushed into the sin of pride, and has separated himself far from Him Who is truly exalted... [Moralia in Job, Book XXIV, Chapter 3]

Not surprisingly, Gregory recognized the link between pride and all the other sins, including fornication, saying:  

"And it is certain that there is not even genuine chastity in the heart of him who lacks humility, since by pride corrupting him within he commits fornication, if from loving himself he departs from the love of God. [Moralia in Job, Book XXII, Chapter 2]

As a remedy to this awful sin, St. Gregory proposes:

"Wherefore the sin of pride must be cut up at once by the very roots, that when it springs up secretly it may be cut off vigilantly, so that it may not gain vigor by growth, or strength by habit." [Moralia in Job, Book XXIV, Chapter 23]

Thus, we should never celebrate pride. Furthermore, we should never present pride as something acceptable or remarkable when teaching our children. 

Rather, Christians are enjoined to reflect on humility.

"The fruit of humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and glory and life." [Proverbs 22:4]

Even though he was God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth was never puffed up with pride, but was rather an exemplar of humility. The image above is taken from a scene in the Gospel of Saint John [Chapter 13] where, after the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of the Apostles:

"He riseth from supper, and layeth aside His garments, and having taken a towel, girded Himself. After that, He putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded."

When Saint Peter objected to Jesus humbling himself, Our Lord cautioned him, saying:

"If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me."

Peter responded, saying: 

"Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."

Jesus then explained to His Apostles that if they wish to be the leaders of His Church, they must first become servants.

"Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also. Amen, amen I say to you: The servant is not greater than his lord; neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him. If you know these things, you shall be blessed if you do them." [John 13:13-17]

Gregory the Great in his Moralia in Job, calls humility "the mistress and mother of all virtues [Moralia in Job, Book XXIII, Chapter 13]," and offers contrite confession of sins as the hallmark of humility:

"For these are the proofs of true humility, both for a man to ascertain his own wickedness, and on being ascertained to discover it by the voice of confession."

Meanwhile, someone who is consumed by pride, will not only fail to confess but will attempt to cover-up, deny, and rationalize his sins. Gregory continues:

"But on the contrary it is the accustomed evil practice of man’s race, at once to commit sin keeping himself hidden from sight, and when committed to hide it by denying, and when brought home to him, to multiply it by standing up for it." [Moralia in Job, Book XXII, Chapter 14]

Thus we come to our own present ruinous culture which not only seeks to deny sins, but to create communities around them, celebrate them with parades, and force others to join the revel with them. 

The painting in the image above, showing Christ washing the feet of the Apostles, was done by the Venetian Tintoretto and was completed about AD 1549. 

Saturday, May 08, 2021

“Alas! You propose men unfit for the charge of public affairs.” ~ The abdication of Diocletian and his fascinating dialogue with Galerius

A gold solidus of Diocletian (left) and a bronze follis of Galerius (right)

Late Antiquity is full of epoch-making, history-changing events, but up there among the most momentous was the voluntary resignation of Diocletian Jovius and Maximian Herculius from the height of imperial power to private life in AD 305. The announcement of this occurrence must have sent shockwaves throughout the Roman world, particularly considering both men had together celebrated their Vicennalia, or 20th anniversary of their reign, less than two years before. This made them the longest reigning Roman emperors since Antoninus Pius who ruled nearly 150 years previous. And considering how short, miserable, and bloody the reigns of their predecessors of the third century had been, the longevity and relative stability of the joint reigns of Diocletian and Maximian were accomplishments truly worthy of note. 

Why Diocletian chose to abdicate has been a matter of speculation since ancient times. Aurelius Victor, writing in the later 4th century AD, said that Diocletian had received an augury of disasters threatening to disintegrate the Roman state and, as a result, decided to retire while still in good health. Furthermore, he convinced Maximian to likewise step down, but only with the greatest difficulty. Adding his own opinion, Victor dismisses other theories and attributes the abdication to Diocletian’s lack of ambition and excellence of character. [See Bird: De Caesaribus, Chapter 39, page 46]

Similarly, Eutropius writing at about the same time as Victor, praises Diocletian’s decision, saying: 

"He alone of all men, since the foundation of the Roman empire, voluntarily returned from so high a dignity to the condition of private life, and to an equality with the other citizens. That happened to him, therefore, which had happened to no one since men were created, that, though he died in a private condition, he was enrolled among the gods." [Eutropius: Breviarium, Book IX, Chapter 28].

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Having a quite different opinion, however, was an ancient writer who was not only a contemporary of Diocletian and Galerius, but who resided at the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia and was likely an eyewitness to much of what happened at the end of his reign and afterwards: Firmianus Lactantius. Writing in his fascinating work, On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Lactantius gives more than just the brief summaries offered by Aurelius Victor and Eutropius. He provides blow-by-blow details of events, including an extraordinary dialogue between Diocletian and Galerius on who best to choose as their successors. 

Leading up to this dialogue, Lactantius offers a description of the Vicennalia of Diocletian as celebrated at Rome, and the subsequent long illness suffered by that emperor which nearly led to his death in AD 304. Indeed, Lactantius reports that on December 13, AD 304: 

There was heard in the palace sorrow, and weeping, and lamentation, and the courtiers ran to and fro. There was silence throughout the city [Nicomedia], and a report went out of the death and even burial of Diocletian. But early on the morrow, it was suddenly rumored that he still lived. At this the countenance of his domestics and courtiers changed from melancholy to gay. Nevertheless, there were those who suspected his death to be kept secret until the arrival of Galerius Caesar.” [On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Chapter XVII].

It wasn’t until March of AD 305 that Diocletian again appeared in public. Lactantius says that the man who was displayed appeared so thin and haggard that he was hardly recognizable. Furthermore, he reports that Diocletian was never again of sound mind, appearing sometimes sane and sometimes insane.

It was at this point that Galerius arrived in Nicomedia to discuss the future of the empire with the now partially recovered Diocletian. Sensing the old man’s weakness, Galerius suggested that Diocletian and Maximian leave the government of the empire to younger, healthier men. According to Lactantius, Diocletian balked, arguing:

It was unfit for one who had held a rank eminent above all others and conspicuous to sink into the obscurity of a low station. Neither indeed was it safe because in the course of so long a reign, he must unavoidably have made many enemies. [On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Chapter XVIII]

Galerius, however, was tired of playing games. He had reigned as Caesar, or junior emperor, for nearly 15 years and was anxious to obtain the exalted rank of Augustus, or senior emperor, promoting other men to do the dirty work associated with defending the vast frontiers of the Empire. He was ready to enjoy the privileges of pre-eminent power and was not about to take no for an answer. According to Lactantius:

On hearing his discourse, the spiritless old man [Diocletian] burst into tears and said, “Be it as you will.” [On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Chapter XVIII]

And with that, the way became clear for the Caesars, Galerius and Constantius, to be promoted to Augustus while Diocletian and Maximian embarked upon an honorable retirement. Receiving Diocletian’s assent, Galerius now turned the conversation toward which candidates to promote as Caesars. Diocletian had some suggestions and recommended that the advice of Maximian and Constantius be considered. But it turned out that Galerius had already made up his mind. Lactantius records this fascinating conversation as follows:

“But,” said Galerius, “why ask the advice of Maximian and Constantius, since they must needs acquiesce in whatever we do?”

“Certainly they will,” replied Diocletian, “for we must elect their sons.”

Now Maximian Herculius had a son, Maxentius, married to the daughter of Galerius, a man of bad and mischievous dispositions and so proud and stubborn withal, that he would never pay the wonted obeisance either to his father or father-in-law, and on that account he was hated by them both. Constantius also had a son, Constantine, a young man of very great worth and well meriting the high station of Cæsar. The distinguished comeliness of his figure, his strict attention to all military duties, his virtuous demeanor and singular affability, had endeared him to the troops and made him the choice of every individual. He was then at court, having long before been created by Diocletian a tribune of the first order.

“What is to be done?” said Galerius, “for that Maxentius deserves not the office. He who, while yet a private man, has treated me with contumely, how will he act when once he obtains power?”

“But Constantine is amiable, and will so rule as hereafter in the opinion of mankind to surpass the mild virtues of his father.” 

“Be it so, if my inclinations and judgment are to be disregarded. Men ought to be appointed who are at my disposal, who will dread me and never do anything unless by my orders.”

“Whom then shall we appoint?”

“Severus.”

“What! That dancer, that habitual drunkard who turns night into day and day into night?”

“He deserves the office, for he has proved himself a faithful paymaster and purveyor of the army. And, indeed, I have already dispatched him to receive the purple from the hands of Maximian.”

“Well, I consent, but whom else do you suggest?”

“Him,” said Galerius, pointing out Daia, a young man, half-barbarian. Now Galerius had lately bestowed part of his own name on that youth and called him Maximin, in like manner as Diocletian formerly bestowed on Galerius the name of Maximian, for the omen’s sake because Maximian Herculius had served him with unshaken fidelity.

“Who is that you present?”

“A kinsman of mine.”

“Alas!” said Diocletian, heaving a deep sigh, “you propose men unfit for the charge of public affairs!”

“I have tried them.”

“Then do you look to it, who are about to assume the administration of the empire. As for me, while I continued emperor, long and diligent have been my labors in providing for the security of the commonweal and now, should anything disastrous ensue, the blame will not be mine.” [On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Chapter XVIII].

Following this rather contentious discussion, Galerius and Diocletian would go on to make their decision public with a solemn procession and ceremony that Lactantius likely witnessed himself. But that fascinating event and its fallout will be the subjects of a subsequent post.

Of course, many scholars consider this dialogue to be nothing more than a rhetorical reconstruction of what may have passed between Diocletian and Galerius, heavily colored by the author’s own biases—and that certainly may be the case. It should be remembered that when writing On the Deaths of the Persecutors, Lactantius was most likely residing at the court of Constantine in Gaul, some time around AD 316. Therefore, the likelihood is strong that his account reflects the official narrative of events put forth by Constantine’s supporters. It is not out of the question that Lactantius received this information directly from Constantine himself or other high-ranking officials in his circle as he served as the tutor to Constantine's eldest son, Crispus, at this time. 

With that in mind, it should be noted that while Constantine is praised and Maxentius derided in the above dialogue, the words of praise are put into the mouth of Diocletian—one of the primary villains of Lactantius’s narrative. Were Lactantius merely a mouthpiece for Constantinian propaganda and not a subjective but faithful reporter of events as he remembered them, would he have done that? 

Furthermore, the subsequent course of events as recorded in other sources meshes well with Lactantius’s take. Other contemporary historians agree that Severus and Maximin Daia were largely incapable and unworthy of imperial authority. Severus would soon be stripped of his armies and killed by Maxentius in Italy. Daia would live in the shadow of Galerius for a decade only to be defeated and killed by Licinius when the two grappled for supreme power in the East. 

It is also interesting to note Diocletian’s last statement, warning Galerius that his ill-considered decisions would bring on disastrous results and thus washing his hands of them. This theme may have been picked up later by Aurelius Victor who, as noted above, mentions that Diocletian retired because he foresaw catastrophes in store for the empire in the immediate future.

Finally, Diocletian’s concern that he would be vulnerable in retirement proved valid as well. In later chapters, Lactantius would describe how Diocletian’s wife, Prisca, and daughter, Valeria, were persecuted by Maximin Daia, the old man being unable to protect them despite appealing directly to Daia. The now powerless Diocletian would apparently expire a short time later having witnessed the destruction of his monuments and in anxiety that he had aroused the ire of Constantine and Licinius.

See some other posts on Diocletian and Galerius from this blog as follows: