Thursday, September 03, 2020

The Synthesis of a Loveable Ascetic and a Grave-faced Administrator ~ Pope Saint Gregory the Great and his venerable parents

Pope St. Gregory the Great flanked by his parents, Gordianus and St. Silvia.

Today, September 3, is the feast of Pope Saint Gregory the Great on the modern calendar. This great pope who is simultaneously considered the last Father of the ancient Church and the first of the medieval Church, has featured frequently on this blog (see his rebuke of the bishops of Dalmatia and his ponderings on Purgatory, in particular). I had not previously looked into Gregory’s early life, however, and falling as it does in the mid-6th century which is right in my wheel-house, I figured I would do a little research. 

It seems that the earliest Vita of Gregory was written by John the Deacon in the 9th century, at least 200 years after his death. An English translation of this multi-volume work is apparently not available, so I resorted to an early 20th century work that draws heavily from John’s Vita, namely, Gregory the Great: His Place in History and Thought by F. Holmes Dudden which may be found in full at 

Flipping through this work, I immediately discovered the image above of Gregory on the frontispiece flanked by his parents, Gordianus and Silvia. This 17th century engraving was originally published as part of the Ecclesiastical Annals of Baronius. It is drawn from two ancient paintings of Gregory's parents that he caused to be set up in Monastery of Saint Andrew in Rome which was founded on the site of his hereditary estate on the Caelian hill. The site of this monastery is today occupied by the Church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio

Dudden provides the sparse information that we have about Gregory’s parents:
Gregory’s father bore the Imperial name of Gordianus. He is styled “Regionarius,” but what his office was is far from clear…Of Gordianus and his work we know practically nothing. We gather from the “Lives” that he was wealthy, the owner of large estates in Sicily, and of a stately mansion on the Caelian Hill in Rome…Of Gregory’s mother, Silvia, we have again but scanty information. Like her husband, she appears to have been of good family, and in later life she became famous for ascetic piety. After the death of Gordianus she embraced a life of seclusion and went into retreat at a place called Cella Nova, close by the great door of the Basilica of St. Paul. Here, in after ages, stood an oratory dedicated to the blessed Silvia; and the patrician lady herself is still commemorated as a saint on the third of November.

Dudden then remarks on the aforementioned portraits as they were described by John the Deacon: 

Through a fortunate circumstance we are able to form a tolerable notion of the outward appearance of the Regionary and his wife, for Gregory had the pair painted in the atrium of St Andrew's Monastery, and three hundred years later the portraits were inspected by John the Deacon, whose interesting description of them is still extant. In the first painting the Apostle Peter was represented sitting, with his right hand clasping the hand of Gordianus, who was standing near. The Regionary was clad in a chestnut-colored planeta or chasuble, over a dalmatic, and wore shoes. He was a tall man, with a long face, light eyes, a short beard, busby hair, and a grave expression of countenance. 
The second picture showed Silvia seated, robed in white — a lady of full height, with a round, fair face, wrinkled with age, yet still bearing traces of great beauty. Her eyes were large and blue, with delicate eyebrows, her lips were well-formed, her expression cheerful. With two fingers of her right hand she was in the act of making the sign of the cross. In her left was a Psalter, on the open page of which was inscribed with the verse, “Let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee; and let Thy judgments help me.”  
Full image of St. Gregory and his
parents from Dudden's frontispiece.
Click to enlarge.
John's description leaves us with a pleasant impression of Gregory's parents, and the word-sketch of the aged mother has a special charm. But the whole account is valuable inasmuch as it helps us to understand some of the characteristics of Gregory's mind and character. For it cannot be doubted that Gregory inherited certain traits from each of the parents whose portraits he had painted in St Andrew's. Some physical resemblances to each are noticed by John. And it is not to be questioned that many also of Gregory's moral and intellectual peculiarities may be accounted for by means of the principle of heredity. From his mother he doubtless derived his almost feminine tenderness and power of sympathy, his innate bent toward asceticism, his religious mysticism, his self-sacrificing, self-effacing disposition. From his father, no less certainly, he inherited his administrative capacity, his legal acumen, his unswerving love of justice, and that inexorable severity towards hardened offenders which caused him to be feared, in some degree, even by those who loved him best. Thus the nature of the parents is reproduced in the offspring, and in the transactions of Gregory’s life we are again and again reminded, now of the grave-faced man of business and administrator of the Region, now of the loveable, ascetic woman who crosses herself as she ponders over the psalter.
Of Gregory’s sole sibling, Dudden says the following:
Gordianus and Silvia had two sons; one they called Gregory—the watchful…while of the other we have no record. That he existed is proved by two passages in Pope Gregory’s correspondence. But we know nothing about him, not even his name.
It seems that the mansion of Gordianus still exists beneath the foundations of San Gregorio Magno al Celio, and Dudden offers the following tantalizing glimpse into this portal to the ancient Church:
In the present day, the palace of Gordianus is no longer visible. Centuries have raised the level of the soil, and the church and monastery of San Gregoria, which occupy the site, are entirely modern. In 1890, however, a search of the cellars of the monastery revealed the fact that deep beneath the modern buildings the old house still exists in a marvelous state of preservation, and might easily be excavated without impairing the stability of the church above. Unfortunately, the projected excavation has not been carried out.
Based on a brief web search, no later excavations were undertaken and the marvelously preserved boyhood home of Saint Gregory the Great remains to be discovered by future generations. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

"With great haste and tears, he fell down before Zephyrinus" ~ August 26, feast of Pope Saint Zephyrinus

Natalius falls at the feet of Pope St. Zephyrinus, seeking forgiveness.

August 26 is the feast of Pope Saint Zephyrinus on the traditional Catholic calendar. Following is the entry for Zephyrinus that appears in the Liber Pontificalis: 
Zephyrinus, by nationality a Roman, son of Habundius, occupied the see 18 years, 3 months and 10 days [or 8 years, 7 months and 10 days]. 
He was bishop in the time of Antoninus and Severus, from the consulship of Saturninus and Gallicanus (AD 198) to the year when Presens and Stricatus were consuls (AD 217). 
Click for more info.

He decreed that in the presence of all the clergy and the faithful laity every cleric, deacon or priest, should be ordained. He also made a regulation for the church, that there should be vessels of glass before the priests in the church and servitors to hold them while the bishop was celebrating mass and priests standing about him. Thus mass should be celebrated and the clergy should assist in all the ceremony, except in that which belongs only to the bishop. From the consecration of the bishop's hand the priest should receive the consecrated wafer to distribute to the people. He held 4 ordinations in the month of December, 14 priests, 7 deacons, 13 bishops in divers places. He also was buried in his own cemetery near the cemetery of Callistus on the Via Appia, August 25. [Liber Pontificalis, page 19]
Another anecdote regarding Pope Zephyrinus may be found in the Eccelsiastical History of Eusebius. This story regards a man named Natalius who was persuaded by heretics to accept a bishopric for the sum of 150 denarii per month. Eusebius explains:
When he had thus connected himself with them, he was warned oftentimes by the Lord through visions. For the compassionate God and our Lord Jesus Christ was not willing that a witness of his own sufferings, being cast out of the Church, should perish. But as he paid little regard to the visions, because he was ensnared by the first position among them and by that shameful covetousness which destroys a great many, he was scourged by holy angels, and punished severely through the entire night. Thereupon having risen in the morning, he put on sackcloth and covered himself with ashes, and with great haste and tears he fell down before Zephyrinus, the bishop, rolling at the feet not only of the clergy, but also of the laity; and he moved with his tears the compassionate Church of the merciful Christ. And though he used much supplication, and showed the welts of the stripes which he had received, yet scarcely was he taken back into communion. [Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter 28]
It is also recorded by Eusebius that while Zephyrinus was Pope, Origin—the great theologian of Alexandria—visited Rome, "desiring, as he himself somewhere says, to see the most ancient Church of Rome."

There is some confusion as to whether Zephyrinus died a martyr under Caracalla or not. This obscurity has led to a general suppression of his cult in modern times and his feast was moved to December 20 after 1969, as this date is considered to be more reliable as the anniversary of his death.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

"That is our building. I helped put it up." ~ Booker T. Washington on merit and the dignity of hard work

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Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) is one of the most noteworthy men America has ever produced. Born into slavery in 1856, Washington would make the most of his newfound freedom after the Civil War, procuring an education through hard work and rigorous study that would have even the most dedicated modern students fainting with exhaustion. He would go on to devote his life to lifting up others of his race in the South, founding Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881. 

A firm believer in the principles of hard work, personal merit, entrepreneurship and Christian charity toward all, Washington would eventually achieve national standing as a visionary educator and mediator of antipathy among the races in the South. He would famously be invited to dine with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901, an event which caused a scandal in some quarters. In response, Roosevelt would write: "That idiot or vicious Bourbon element in the South is crazy because I have had Booker T. Washington to dine. I shall have him to dine as often as I please."

Though Roosevelt would not issue a repeat invitation, he did pay a visit to Washington at Tuskegee while touring Alabama four years later. During this visit, Roosevelt would address the faculty and students of Tuskegee and offered high praise for Washington and his work:

“I had read a good deal of your work, and I believe in it with all my heart. I would not call myself a good American if I did not. I was prepared to see what would impress me and please me, but I had no idea that I would be so deeply impressed, so deeply pleased as I have been. I did not realize the extent of your work. I did not realize how much you were doing…Mr. Washington, while I have always stood for this institution, now that I have seen it and realize as I had never realized by the descriptions of it, all it means, I will stand for it more than ever.”  [Taken from A Compilation of the Messages and Speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Volume 1]

As part of our study of Reconstruction-era America, my children and I have been reading Washington's autobiographical work entitled Up from Slavery. The quote above is taken from this book, which is at its heart an inspiring, thoughtful and very positive work that has a universally applicable message beyond race relations. Following is the context of the quote, taken from Chapter X: A Harder Task than Making Bricks without Straw. In this extended excerpt, Washington explains his rationale for engaging the students at Tuskegee in more than just book learning—he had them construct the buildings on campus themselves using bricks they manufactured on-site:

From the very beginning, at Tuskegee, I was determined to have the students do not only the agricultural and domestic work, but to have them erect their own buildings. My plan was to have them, while performing this service, taught the latest and best methods of labour, so that the school would not only get the benefit of their efforts, but the students themselves would be taught to see not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity; would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake. My plan was not to teach them to work in the old way, but to show them how to make the forces of nature—air, water, steam, electricity, horse-power—assist them in their labour.

At first many advised against the experiment of having the buildings erected by the labour of the students, but I was determined to stick to it. I told those who doubted the wisdom of the plan that I knew that our first buildings would not be so comfortable or so complete in their finish as buildings erected by the experienced hands of outside workmen, but that in the teaching of civilization, self-help, and self-reliance, the erection of buildings by the students themselves would more than compensate for any lack of comfort or fine finish.

I further told those who doubted the wisdom of this plan, that the majority of our students came to us in poverty, from the cabins of the cotton, sugar, and rice plantations of the South, and that while I knew it would please the students very much to place them at once in finely constructed buildings, I felt that it would be following out a more natural process of development to teach them how to construct their own buildings. Mistakes I knew would be made, but these mistakes would teach us valuable lessons for the future.

During the now nineteen years' existence of the Tuskegee school, the plan of having the buildings erected by student labour has been adhered to. In this time forty buildings, counting small and large, have been built, and all except four are almost wholly the product of student labour. As an additional result, hundreds of men are now scattered throughout the South who received their knowledge of mechanics while being taught how to erect these buildings. Skill and knowledge are now handed down from one set of students to another in this way, until at the present time a building of any description or size can be constructed wholly by our instructors and students, from the drawing of the plans to the putting in of the electric fixtures, without going off the grounds for a single workman.

Not a few times, when a new student has been led into the temptation of marring the looks of some building by leadpencil marks or by the cuts of a jack-knife, I have heard an old student remind him: "Don't do that. That is our building. I helped put it up."

In the early days of the school I think my most trying experience was in the matter of brickmaking. As soon as we got the farm work reasonably well started, we directed our next efforts toward the industry of making bricks. We needed these for use in connection with the erection of our own buildings; but there was also another reason for establishing this industry. There was no brickyard in the town, and in addition to our own needs there was a demand for bricks in the general market.

I had always sympathized with the "Children of Israel," in their task of "making bricks without straw," but ours was the task of making bricks with no money and no experience.

In the first place, the work was hard and dirty, and it was difficult to get the students to help. When it came to brickmaking, their distaste for manual labour in connection with book education became especially manifest. It was not a pleasant task for one to stand in the mud-pit for hours, with the mud up to his knees. More than one man became disgusted and left the school.

We tried several locations before we opened up a pit that furnished brick clay. I had always supposed that brickmaking was very simple, but I soon found out by bitter experience that it required special skill and knowledge, particularly in the burning of the bricks. After a good deal of effort we moulded about twenty-five thousand bricks, and put them into a kiln to be burned. This kiln turned out to be a failure, because it was not properly constructed or properly burned. We began at once, however, on a second kiln. This, for some reason, also proved a failure. The failure of this kiln made it still more difficult to get the students to take part in the work. Several of the teachers, however, who had been trained in the industries at Hampton, volunteered their services, and in some way we succeeded in getting a third kiln ready for burning. The burning of a kiln required about a week. Toward the latter part of the week, when it seemed as if we were going to have a good many thousand bricks in a few hours, in the middle of the night the kiln fell. For the third time we had failed.

The failure of this last kiln left me without a single dollar with which to make another experiment. Most of the teachers advised the abandoning of the effort to make bricks. In the midst of my troubles I thought of a watch which had come into my possession years before. I took the watch to the city of Montgomery, which was not far distant, and placed it in a pawn-shop. I secured cash upon it to the amount of fifteen dollars, with which to renew the brickmaking experiment. I returned to Tuskegee, and, with the help of the fifteen dollars, rallied our rather demoralized and discouraged forces and began a fourth attempt to make bricks. This time, I am glad to say, we were successful. Before I got hold of any money, the time-limit on my watch had expired, and I have never seen it since; but I have never regretted the loss of it.

Brickmaking has now become such an important industry at the school that last season our students manufactured twelve hundred thousand of first-class bricks, of a quality suitable to be sold in any market. Aside from this, scores of young men have mastered the brickmaking trade—both the making of bricks by hand and by machinery—and are now engaged in this industry in many parts of the South.

The making of these bricks taught me an important lesson in regard to the relations of the two races in the South. Many white people who had had no contact with the school, and perhaps no sympathy with it, came to us to buy bricks because they found out that ours were good bricks. They discovered that we were supplying a real want in the community. The making of these bricks caused many of the white residents of the neighbourhood to begin to feel that the education of the Negro was not making him worthless, but that in educating our students we were adding something to the wealth and comfort of the community. As the people of the neighbourhood came to us to buy bricks, we got acquainted with them; they traded with us and we with them. Our business interests became intermingled. We had something which they wanted; they had something which we wanted. This, in a large measure, helped to lay the foundation for the pleasant relations that have continued to exist between us and the white people in that section, and which now extend throughout the South.

Wherever one of our brickmakers has gone in the South, we find that he has something to contribute to the well-being of the community into which he has gone; something that has made the community feel that, in a degree, it is indebted to him, and perhaps, to a certain extent, dependent upon him. In this way pleasant relations between the races have been stimulated.

My experience is that there is something in human nature which always makes an individual recognize and reward merit, no matter under what colour of skin merit is found. I have found, too, that it is the visible, the tangible, that goes a long ways in softening prejudices. The actual sight of a first-class house that a Negro has built is ten times more potent than pages of discussion about a house that he ought to build, or perhaps could build.

The same principle of industrial education has been carried out in the building of our own wagons, carts, and buggies, from the first. We now own and use on our farm and about the school dozens of these vehicles, and every one of them has been built by the hands of the students. Aside from this, we help supply the local market with these vehicles. The supplying of them to the people in the community has had the same effect as the supplying of bricks, and the man who learns at Tuskegee to build and repair wagons and carts is regarded as a benefactor by both races in the community where he goes. The people with whom he lives and works are going to think twice before they part with such a man.

Few people remember Booker T. Washington today, but that was not always the case. In 1946, thirty years after his death and one year before Jackie Robinson broke into major league baseball, the United States mint issued a commemorative half-dollar featuring Washington.

The coin was designed by Tuskegee professor Isaac Scott Hathaway and would be minted from 1946 through 1951. Click here for more detailed information. I managed to get my hands on one of these via eBay some years ago and it has made for a great historical artifact to accompany our reading of Up from Slavery.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Of Council Rock, Teedyuscung and "the Place of Solemn Assembly Visited by Delaware Indians"

"Teedyuscung," as he is know by the locals, gazes out over the Wissahickon
Creek toward the West. As he appeared in 2011.

Since I was a youth, I have enjoyed hiking in Valley Green—a beautiful stretch of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia along the Wissahickon Creek. A destination I have particularly favored is the limestone statue of an Indian which most of us locals have long referred to as Teedyuscung, chief of the Delawares. Originally placed on the spot in 1902, the statue is 12 feet high and the work of noted Scottish-American sculptor, John Massey Rhind. It sits high above Council Rock on a bluff commanding the east bank of the Wissahickon Creek. This picturesque location was so named because of its association with Lenape councils which took place there in olden days. I have been blessed to be able to share this pleasant spot with my own children and we have made the trek many times.

Sad to say, Valley Green has not been spared the ravages of Kenney-era Philadelphia. For reasons that remain obscure, the park has recently become a major party spot for revelers from out of state. Not that this is a bad thing on its face—the park is a public area that should be enjoyed by all. The problem is that many of the visitors who are part of the recent surge come to bathe in the creek (supposedly prohibited), set up grills and campsites, regale all and sundry with obnoxiously loud music, and leave piles of their filth behind for others to clean up. Things have gotten bad enough that locals are staging protests and Philly police have been blocking off parking lots, to little avail.

But honestly, the recent travails along Forbidden Drive are not what spurred me to write. It was, instead, a surprising complaint I heard from some representatives of the politically-obsessed but historically-challenged segment of society about the Indian statue specifically and any kind of Native American-inspired public art more generally. These are the folks who can't be bothered to read and analyze actual historical documents, but happily follow Howard-Zinn-style ersatz-history down whatever blind alleys it leads. Far from seeing the statue as an homage to Teedyuscung and the long departed Delawares (as it was intended), they claim that because it is not historically correct, the statue should be removed and/or replaced. Furthermore, they say, the rock upon which it sits was never a council site for the Lenape.

If this is starting to sound similar to my previous post about the statue of Christopher Columbus that was recently removed from Cooper River Park in New Jersey, keep reading.

Teedyuscung in Philadelphia
wearing his colonial-era finery.

With regard to the first issue, the statue does indeed show a Native American brave wearing a war-bonnet more typical of the Plains tribes of the 19th century than a Delaware of the mid-18th century. Interestingly, however, the only rough period depiction of Teedyuscung I could find showed him in a British great coat more reminiscent of William Penn than Tamanend (see image at right). I don't suppose that the complainants above would approve of a statue showing the Delaware chief in such garb, of course.

It is noteworthy that Rhind, the sculptor, never intended to depict Teedyuscung in this work, but rather a Native American figure looking toward the West, symbolizing the departure of the Delaware for Indian territory after the Treaty of Easton in 1758. According to the Friends of the Wissahickon Valley website:

“At the dedication of the statue, which was an event attended by the elite of the city and even by the governor of Pennsylvania, a presenter referred to the statue as 'Tedyuscung' and the name has persisted.” 

The presenter above may be forgiven this faux pas in that the existing stone statue replaced two wooden images that actually did depict Teedyuscung that had stood in the same spot but had deteriorated over the years. More about this below. 

So the claim that the statue is not a historically accurate representation of Teedyuscung is a red herring. It was never intended to be. That said, the statue itself is a beautiful piece of public art in perfect harmony with its surroundings, is a fitting tribute to Native peoples, and has its own very interesting history within local lore that should be respected. 

The second claim – that there is no evidence that Council Rock was ever an Indian meeting place – is simply not true. A post at the Hidden City site entitled “Monument to Ignorance” claims: “There is in fact little evidence that the Lenape lived along the Wissahickon. It is believed they came there to hunt and fish but that was all. Indeed, historians have found no evidence that so called 'council rock' was ever used as a gathering spot and a visit to the location reveals a rather small bluff that would hardly be a good location for a mass gathering.” 

In making that claim, Hidden City does not provide a citation to the research of those “historians who have found no evidence.” They do, however, make passing mention of an article by Rev. Thomas Middleton (1842-1923), a Catholic priest who was a convert from Quakerism and who later in life served as president of Villanova College. A read over Fr. Middleton’s article, entitled "Some Memoirs of Our Lady’s Shrine at Chestnut Hill, PA. AD 1855-1900", provides some fascinating evidence that Hidden City apparently overlooked—or disregarded. I am happy to post the following excerpt from this forgotten piece of history: 

“…There can be no question that at Chestnut Hill on the north bank of the picturesque Wissahickon is yet to be seen the place of solemn assembly visited by Delaware Indians, known to them as Council, (though now more commonly styled Indian,) Rock—an unfailing object of curiosity to passers-by on the Wissahickon road. In this reference to Council Rock, no pointed allusion is intended to their yearly visits thither of the Delaware Indians from Bethlehem, all Moravians, I should say. That members of this particular tribe with their chieftains, one of them Tedyuscung, whose name is famed in story and song, came periodically on pilgrimage to Chestnut Hill is unquestioned.

At Council Rock, April 2011.
But while there is no positive evidence, as must be said in all honesty, that Catholic Indians were settled at the Hill, or thereabouts, or even visited it, still, unless I am mistaken in my reasoning, there is a fair, even strong, probability, that while on their road to St. Joseph’s, or the city, and their return home, these same Indians were wont too with their other forest brethren to gather at Council Rock or matters of tribal or family discussion.

In his boyhood days the writer was acquainted with two aged maiden ladies—the Misses Lydia and Susan Piper, daughters of John Piper, whose residence (as it too had been their father’s) was a few years ago on the purchase of the property of Charles A. Newhall transformed by him into a coach-house. These two old dames (now many years dead) told the father of the writer how in their girlhood days, the Indians (we have been speaking of,) in their yearly pilgrimage to Council Rock never failed in passing by to stop at their father’s house, for hospitality on their way to the spot, that for ages maybe had been the meeting-place of their sires. John Piper was regarded by these wild children of the forest as their friend. From him they got food and drink; and were given shelter in his barn—a very tumble-down affair, just across Chestnut avenue in front of what once was the old Piper homestead.

Near by the “barn” or the ruins of it, the observer may yet descry their lines, though now barely distinguishable from the surrounding soil, are (or rather were) mounds of aboriginal construction, apparently used for burial purposes, as therein at one time (so the writer has been told) could be found interred various relics of Indian make, but of late years overturned and rifled of their contents by curio-seekers. Usually the visit to the Hill of these forest pilgrims lasted a month, during which time they were engaged chiefly in “pow-wows” around the Rock.

The "apse" described by Fr. Middleton
as it appeared in 2019.

And now having referred to the fact of Indian visits to the Hill, we come to their place of meeting on the Wissahickon, at Council Rock, about midway between the mansion of Chancellor C. English and the creek. The writer remembers when a boy visiting that famous shrine of Indian veneration, then apparently changed little from its primeval form and appearance. Projecting form under the hollowed front of this rock, that by art, or (as seems more probably) by nature, I know not which, had been scooped out like some rudely fashioned tiny chapel apse, was a ledge or shelf-like stone—something that might have served for a seat, or throne, for aboriginal chieftains, or may be as an altar of worship. All over the inner face of this cave, easily distinguishable then, were marks, symbolic signs, of odd-looking shape, of strokes and curves, or crooked lines, drawn in what seemed to be red and blue paints, which the writer remembers he was told, were inscriptions in Indian sign-language. These symbols, plain enough to view in the ‘50s, at the time of his earliest visits thither, are now no longer to be seen.

In those days, Council Rock was sheltered in the woods, and by the very fact of its solitude guarded from profanation. Trees and thick undergrowth of bushes and vines, which covered the Wissahickon hills, cut off all view of the Rock from around, while the very existence of the spot was known to but a few persons, and honored by still fewer.

There was no easy way of approach to the Rock—in fact, but few people seemed to know of it—some by the woodpaths, rough at best and unenticing, that winding snake-like among the trees led thither. At that time too along the creek, there was no drive, nor any Chestnut avenue running back (as now) from Thomas’ Mill road to within a short distance from the Rock. So that with the place little known, and the traditions centering around it in keeping of only a few persons, there was no mutilation of the shrine; no defacing the lines of it, no scratching out the symbols on it. Now the seat-like shape of this inner shelf in the cave has disappeared in large part—chipped away by relic-hunter, or thoughtless visitor….”

Also intriguing is Fr. Middleton’s further account describing the first image Teedyuscung which was placed on the spot to honor the Delaware chief. In fact, he had a personal connection to this wooden effigy erected in 1856. In the same article as above, he says: 

“The writer of these lines was witness too of the erection on the summit of Council Rock, mainly by the energy of his father, of the first image (in wood) of the venerable Tedyuscung, chief of the Delawares, and remembers moreover the many researches made in old books, and many discussions held by the parties of interest, to determine just how to guide the artist that was to paint the wooden icon of the departed Leni-Lenape brave and adorn him with colors proper to his race and tribe."

Fr. Middleton goes on to record the costs associated with erecting this first statue in detail. In a footnote below this passage, Fr. Middleton adds: “From the Germantown Telegraph I learn that the figure of Tedyuscung standing on the rock was placed in position on July 18, (Friday) 1856, “in commemoration of (his) last visit to the spot, which happened just one hundred years ago.” 

Fr. Middleton’s article may be read in its entirety here as part of a collection compiled by the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia ~ Some Memoirs of Our Lady’s Shrine at Chestnut Hill, PA. AD 1855-1900. 

I found all of this to be fascinating and very compelling. 

Council Rock in the Wissahickon valley has a long and storied history, mostly unknown these days to those of us who grew up in the region. And if it must be pointed out that the statue on the Rock is not strictly accurate as to the figure’s dress, I say, “So what?” The concept of artistic license and symbolism is a long honored practice. If we start quibbling over the historical accuracy of works of art, then Joan of Arc on the Parkway will have to be replaced with a figure wearing more accurate 15th century French armor and the St. Gaudens Diana in the Art Museum atrium will have to come down because her hair-style is too 19th century for a supposed Roman goddess. Sadly, I have little doubt that the neo-ignorati who wish to dismount "Teedyuscung" at Council Rock would likely approve these innovations as well. Beauty and tradition are words that seem positively anathema to them.

By way of epilogue to this already overly-long article, allow me to add another interesting tid-bit from Fr. Middleton’s article about a fixture that should be immediately recognizable to anyone who frequents Forbidden Drive:

The Pro Bono Publico fountain as it appears

Here on a quarter acre of land purchased by Mr. Cooke for this purpose and subsequently donated by him to the city of Philadelphia, was erected this granite fountain, on the design of one he had chanced upon in his travels in Europe. The writer remembers well the several phases in the genesis of this work of beneficence—the hewing of the granite in his father’s quarry, where the fountain was made, the chisellings and inscriptions on it by the hand of Richard Hunt, a stone-cutter; its erection on the spot it now adorns; and finally the fact that when connection had been made with the springs—there was a whole nest of them—at the rear of the monument on the hill-side, he was witness of the jubilee of the builders in their hailing the fountain as a boon to the public—PRO BONO PUBLICO—for the public good—being one of the inscriptions on it. ESTO PERPETUA—be thou everlasting—the other. And drinking therefrom, men and beasts straightway went their road refreshed and enlivened. (Middleton, page 26) 

Lamentably, it seems that the builders of yesteryear may have been overly optimistic in hopes that the works of their hands would remain in perpetuity. The facade mentioned above may still be seen on Forbidden Drive, but the fountain itself was sealed up in the 1950s because the water had become tainted. 

Our own age seems to be polluted with a foreign ideology that favors vandalism and destruction over inspiration and creativity. Too many of our young people were never taught to treasure and enhance their unique local heritage and have instead been fooled into a deleterious mindset reminiscent of students during the Cultural Revolution in China: that the past must be relentlessly swept away in the mindless pursuit of ephemeral material gains and counterproductive political changes.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

"He wrote from experience, and in forcible language" ~ Saint John Cassianus

"How great is the evil of pride, that it rightly has no angel,
nor other virtues opposed to it, but God Himself as its adversary."
~Saint John Cassian

July 23 is the feast of Saint John Cassian. Though little remembered in our day, John Cassian was celebrated in his own time as one who helped introduce eastern ascetic practices to the Roman west. He was born ca. AD 360 and passed to eternal life around AD 435. His relics remain to this day in the city of Marseille, France, where he died.

He is featured among the Illustrious Men of his contemporary, Saint Jerome, who records his life and works as follows:
Cassianus, Scythian by race, ordained deacon by bishop John the Great [that is, Chrysostom], at Constantinople, and a presbyter at Marseilles, founded two monasteries, that is to say one for men and one for women, which are still standing. He wrote from experience, and in forcible language, or to speak more clearly, with meaning back of his words, and action back of his talk. He covered the whole field of practical directions, for monks of all sorts, in the following works: On dress, also On the canon of prayers, and the Usage in the saying of Psalms, (for these in the Egyptian monasteries, are said day and night), three books. One of Institutes, eight books On the origin, nature and remedies for the eight principal sins, a book on each sin. He also compiled Conferences with the Egyptian fathers, as follows: On the aim of a monk and his creed, On discretion, On three vocations to the service of God, On the warfare of the flesh against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, On the nature of all sins, On the slaughter of the saints, On fickleness of mind, On principalities, On the nature of prayer, On the duration of prayer, On perfection, On chastity, On the protection of God, On the knowledge of spiritual things, On the Divine graces, On friendship, On whether to define or not to define, On three ancient kinds of monks and a fourth recently arisen, On the object of cenobites and hermits, On true satisfaction in repentance, On the remission of the Quinquagesimal fast, On nocturnal illusions, On the saying of the apostles, "For the good which I would do, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do," On mortification, and finally at the request of Leo the archdeacon, afterwards bishop of Rome, he wrote seven books against Nestorius, On the incarnation of the Lord, and writing this, made an end, both of writing and living, at Marseilles, in the reign of Theodosius and Valentinianus. [Jerome, On Illustrious Men]
Of these many works, the most well known today are his Institutes and his Conferences. These works remain extant to this day and are full of deep wisdom derived from Cassian’s conversations with the anchorite fathers of Egypt. Here are a few quotes from this rich mine of advice on how to live as an authentic follower of Christ:
“How great is the evil of pride, that it rightly has no angel, nor other virtues opposed to it, but God Himself as its adversary!” [Institutes, Book XII, Chapter 7]
“Above all we ought at least to know that there are three origins of our thoughts, i.e., from God, from the devil, and from ourselves.” [Conferences, Book 1, Chapter 19]
“When death has been brought upon a saint, we ought not to think that an evil has happened to him but a thing indifferent; which is an evil to a wicked man, while to the good it is rest and freedom from evils. For death is rest to a man whose way is hidden. And so a good man does not suffer any loss from it.” [Conferences, Book 6, Chapter 6]
“Among all these [types of friendship] then there is one kind of love which is indissoluble, where the union is owing not to the favor of a recommendation, or some great kindness or gifts, or the reason of some bargain, or the necessities of nature, but simply to similarity of virtue. This, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what no interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot part. This is true and unbroken love which grows by means of the double perfection and goodness of friends, and which, when once its bonds have been entered, no difference of liking and no disturbing opposition of wishes can sever.” [Conferences, Book 16, Chapter 3]
“We cannot possibly…make trial of spiritual combats if we are baffled in a carnal contest, and smitten down in a struggle with the belly.” [Institutes, Book 5, Chapter 19]
The image at the top is a 6th century mosaic portrait identified as "Cassianus" which may be found in the Archepiscopal Chapel in Ravenna, Italy. It is most likely not an image of Saint John Cassian, but of Saint Cassianus of Imola, a martyr of the mid-4th century.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"The black babies killed in the abortion clinic matter, right?" ~ The silence of the virtue-signaler exposed

If this American nation is to be saved, I posit that it will be black men who will lead the way.

Here is an example of a brave anonymous fellow who confronted a bunch of virtue-signalling medical drones on the paradox inherent in their position. The truth is this: to them, only certain black lives matter -- those that may be exploited to push forward the goals of the political left.

The video is a minute long and worth watching:
Here is a transcript:

Speaker: “Do all black lives matter or just some black lives?”

Crowd of medical professionals: “All black lives matter.”

Speaker: “The black lives killed by black men matter, right? Yes?”

Crowd: “Yes.”

Speaker: “The black babies killed in the abortion clinic matter, right?”

Crowd: *silence*

Speaker: “Thought so. The black officers killed by that bastard in Minnesota, that matters too, right?”

A few in the crowd: "Yes."

Speaker: “OK. But the black babies killed in the abortion clinics don’t matter, do they, medical people.”

Crowd: *silence*

Speaker: “Do their lives matter? Does the future of our black babies matter? Huh?”

Crowd: *silence*

Speaker: “What’s up? What’s up? Awful quiet now, aren’t they? Uh huh. It’s ok if we kill ‘em in the womb, right? But we have a problem…you don’t seem to really have a problem if we kill ‘em on the streets. Yeah, but we know they’re the same issue. If we don’t respect the lives of our unborn children enough to save them and fight for them, our lives mean nothing once we’re born."

Here is a link to the video on YouTube in case Twitter decides that the video violates their "community standards."