Tuesday, December 31, 2019

How to make a really good beginning

Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state;
but if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves,
a really good beginning will have been made.

St. Peter of Alcantara

Pope St. Sylvester I

(314-335) Date of birth unknown; d. 31 December, 335. According to the "Liber pontificalis" (ed. Duchesne, I, 170) he was the son of a Roman named Rufinus; the legendary "Vita beati Sylvestri" calls his mother Justa. After the death of Miltiades (Melchiades), Sylvester was made Bishop of Rome and occupied this position twenty-one years. This was the era of Constantine the Great, when the public position of the Church so greatly improved, a change which must certainly have been very noticeable at Rome; it is consequently to be regretted that there is so little authoritative information concerning Sylvester's pontificate. At an early date legend brings him into close relationship wtih the first Christian emperor, but in a way that is contrary to historical fact. These legends were introduced especially into the "Vita beati Sylvestri" (Duchesne, loc. cit., Introd., cix sq.) which appeared in the East and has been preserved in Greek, Syriac, and Latin in the "Constitutum Sylvestri"-an apocryphal account of an alleged Roman council which belongs to the Symmachian forgeries and appeared between 501 and 508, and also in the "Donatio Constantini". The accounts given in all these writings concerning the persecution of Sylvester, the healing and baptism of Constantine, the emperor's gift to the pope, the rights granted to the latter, and the council of 275 bishops at Rome, are entirely legendary. The pope, however, took part in the negotiations concerning Arianism and the Council of Nicæa, and the expression 'omooúsion was probably agreed upon with him before the council. The pontiff also sent legates to the first œcumenical council. Still it is not certain whether Constantine had arranged beforehand with Sylvester concerning the actual convening of the council, nor whether there was an express papal confirmation of the decrees beyond the signatures of the papal legates (cf. Funk in "Kirchengesch. Abhandlungen und Untersuchungen", I, 95, 501 sq.).
During Sylvester's pontificate were built the great churches founded at Rome by Constantine, e.g. the basilica and baptistery of the Lateran near the former imperial palace where the pope lived, the basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs. No doubt the pope helped towards the construction of these churches. Sylvester's memory is especially connected with the tiitular Church of Equitius, which takes its name from a Roman presbyter who is said to have erected this church on his property. It was situated near the thermæ of Diocletian, and still exists. Parts of the present building may date from the fourth century. No doubt the pope contributed to the development of the liturgy of the Church at Rome. During his reign, moreover, the first martyrology of Roman martyrs was probably drawn up. Sylvester is connected also with the establishment of the Roman school of singing. on the Via Salaria he built a cemeterial church over the Catacomb of Priscilla, the ruins of which have lately been brought to light. In this church he was buried. His feast is given under 31 December in the "Depositio episcoporum", or list of the burial days of the Roman bishops, which was compiled barely a year after his death; the same date is given in the "Calendar" of Philocalus. This day, therefore, is doubtless the day of his burial. For his possible relations with Armenia, see .
Liber pontificalis, ed. DUCHESNE, I, 170-201; introduction, cix sq.; JAFFE, Regesta rom. pont., 2nd ed., I, 28-30; Vita beati Sylvestri in LAND, Anecdota syriaca, III, 46 sq. and in SURIUS, Vita sanct., VI, 1173 sq.; LANGEN, Gesch. der römischen Kirche, I, 395 sqq.; DÖLLINGER, Papstfabeln (2nd ed., 1890), 61 sqq.; MARUCCHI, La basilica papale del cimitero di Priscilla (Rome, 1908).
J.P. KIRSCH (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Monday, December 30, 2019

10 Tips for better New Year's Resolutions

10 tips for better New Year Resolutions Header

1. Be honest. Know yourself. What is your strongest virtue? What is your worst vice? Therefore, tailor your resolution so it strengthens your good side and fights your bad one. A one-size fits all resolution is useless. 

2. Be specific. Don't use generalities. They don't work. For example, if you need to be more humble, just saying "I am going to be more humble," is useless. You need to zero in on one situation where you need to practice humility and resolve to improve in that one situation.

3. Be simple. Don't make it complicated. Focus on something you can see and measure easily and that does not overwhelm you each time you try to obtain it. Otherwise, you will become distracted and your energy will be dispersed and misdirected.

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4. Be reasonable. Don't try to do too much at once. You won't become a saint in one day. Remember: you have one MAJOR point upon which is hinged your entire fidelity to God and His Holy Laws. This is a called your primordial light. Find out and work on improving it. Everything else will improve if you improve on that one major point.

5. Be consistent. It's far better to do something small everyday to improve on that one key point in your soul than to make a big resolution that you cannot keep for more than a week or two. Slow and steady wins the race!

6. Be humble. Recognize that you cannot do any good action which has value in the supernatural order without God's grace and the intercessory help of the Blessed Mother. Beg God's grace through Our Lady's intercession constantly in all your thoughts, desires and actions.

7. Be disinterested. Remember that God wants us to defend His rights and interests, and to share His thoughts and ways. And therefore, to focus on things, happening and events that are very close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that are not necessarily linked to our own personal interests.
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8. Write it down. It's important to write down your resolution so you can refer back to it often during the year. Also, by writing it down, you will be able to review it when the year is over, and to evaluate your progress since the time the resolution was made.

9. Public expressions of faith. Don't hide your faith. That's just what the devil wants. He knows when you express your faith publicly, others see you and are encouraged to follow your good example. Say grace openly and proudly before meals in a restaurant so people can see. You'll be surprised with the good reactions you will get.

10. Devotion to Our Lady. Have more devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Devotion to the Mother of God is a panacea. Saint Louis de Montfort said that devotion to Holy Mary is the easiest, safest, fastest, most secure, and surest path to Jesus and to our own salvation. If you can do nothing else, resolve to say the Rosary everyday. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote:
"If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins 'you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.' Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if-- and mark well what I say-- if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins."

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Satisfy your longings

You have everything when you have within you the One who made all things,
the only One who can satisfy the longings of your spirit.

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Egwin

Third Bishop of Worcester; date of birth unknown; d. (according to Mabillon) December 20, 720, though his death may have occurred three years earlier. His fame as founder of the great Abbey of Evesham no doubt tended to the growth of legends which, though mainly founded on facts, render it difficult to reconcile all the details with those of the ascertained history of the period. It appears that either in 692, or a little later, upon the death of Oftfor, second Bishop of Worcester, Egwin, a prince of the Mercian blood royal, who had retired from the world and sought only the seclusion of religious life, was forced by popular acclaim to assume the vacant see. His biographers say that king, clergy, and commonalty all united in demanding his elevation; but the popularity which forced on him this reluctant assumption of the episcopal functions was soon wrecked by his apostolic zeal in their discharge.
The Anglo-Saxon population of the then young diocese had had less than a century in which to become habituated to the restraints of Christian morality; they as yet hardly appreciated the sanctity of Christian marriage, and the struggle of the English Benedictines for the chastity of the priesthood had already fairly begun. At the same time large sections of England were more or less permanently occupied by pagans closely allied in blood to the Anglo-Saxon Christians. Egwin displayed undaunted zeal in his efforts to evangelize the heathen and no less in the enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline. His rigorous policy towards his own flock created a bitter resentment which, as King Ethelred was his friend, could only find vent in accusations addressed to his ecclesiastical superiors. Egwin undertook a pilgrimage to seek vindication from the Roman Pontiff himself. According to a legend, he prepared for his journey by locking shackles on his feet, and throwing the key into the River Avon. While he prayed before the tomb of the Apostles, at Rome, one of his servants brought him this very key—found in the maw of a fish that had just been caught in the Tiber. Egwin then released himself from his self-imposed bonds and straightway obtained from the pope an authoritative release from the load of obloquy which his enemies had striven to fasten upon him.
It was after Egwin's triumphant return from this pilgrimage that the shepherd Eoves came to him with the tale of a miraculous vision by which the Blessed Virgin had signified her will that a new sanctuary should be dedicated to her. Egwin himself went to the spot pointed out by the shepherd (Eoves ham, or "dwelling") and to him also we are told the same vision was vouchsafed. King Ethelred granted him the land thereabouts upon which the famous abbey was founded. As to the precise date of the foundation, although the monastic tradition of later generations set it in 714, recent research points to some year previous to 709. At any rate it was most probably in 709 that Egwin made his second pilgrimage to Rome, this time in the company of Coenred, the successor of Ethelred, and Offa, King of the East Saxons, and it was on this occasion that Pope Constantine granted him the extraordinary privileges by which the Abbey of Evesham was distinguished. One of the last important acts of his episcopate was his participation in the first great Council of Clovesho.
Ewan Macpherson (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Pure, radiant, and useful

Mary is a most pure star, a most radiant star, and a most useful star.
She is a most pure star by living most purely;
a most radiant star by bringing forth Eternal Light;
a most useful star by directing us to the shores of our true home country.

St. Bonaventure

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

In the fullness of time, God chose to send His Only- begotten Son to earth by means of a family – a family of Judea. The head of that family was a man whom Scriptures calls “Just” (Matt.1:19). It also gives the genealogy of this “Just Man”, Joseph by name, he was “of the house of David” (Luke 1:27), though he was impoverished and exercised the profession of a carpenter. His bride was the youthful Mary, offered by her parents to the Temple as a small child; she had been raised among the things of God and educated in the Holy Writ. She also descended from King David.

Given their ancestry, Joseph and Mary were a Judean prince and princess.

By a special providence of the Most High, these two holy people were betrothed, though Mary had made a vow of perpetual virginity, which Joseph meant to honor in their marriage. Evidence of their mutual agreement to this effect  is the fact that when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she was to bear a son, she asked the question foremost in her mind: “How shall this be, since I know not man?” (Luke1:34) – a question, otherwise nonsensical, in a person entering the married state.

Mary’s question was not the result of doubt but of a simple need to understand. And thus, when she was told that the child she was to bear would be Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and that this marvel would occur through the work of the Holy Spirit, she gave her Fiat, “…and the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14).

And Joseph and Mary were married and lawfully constituted a family, in the eyes of God and men. And when Joseph learned of the mystery within Mary, we can imagine him falling to his knees, and adoring the God Child in the world’s first tabernacle.

And as true foster father, he lived to serve the God made man who called him “father”.

In the virtuous, cross-embracing example of the Holy Family, and later by constituting marriage between a man and a woman a Sacrament, God has exalted the Christian Family, giving it the means to be the mainstay of every wholesome society, the “hub” of true culture, and the nest of sanctity.

Photos by: Ralph Hammann

St. Thomas Becket

Martyr, Archbishop of Canterbury, born at London, 21 December, 1118 (?); died at Canterbury, 29 December, 1170. St. Thomas was born of parents who, coming from Normandy, had settled in England some years previously. No reliance can be placed upon the legend that his mother was a Saracen. In after life his humble birth was made the subject of spiteful comment, though his parents were not peasants, but people of some mark, and from his earliest years their son had been well taught and had associated with gentlefolk. He learned to read at Merton Abbey and then studied in Paris. On leaving school he employed himself in secretarial work, first with Sir Richer de l'Aigle and then with his kinsman, Osbert Huitdeniers, who was "Justiciar" of London. Somewhere about the year 1141, under circumstances that are variously related, he entered the service of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and in that household he won his master's favour and eventually became the most trusted of all his clerks. A description embodied in the Icelandic Saga and derived probably from Robert of Cricklade gives a vivid portrait of him at this period.

To look upon he was slim of growth and pale of hue, with dark hair, a long nose, and a straightly featured face. Blithe of countenance was he, winning and loveable in his conversation, frank of speech in his discourses, but slightly stuttering in his talk, so keen of discernment and understanding that he could always make difficult questions plain after a wise manner.
Theobald recognized his capacity, made use of him in many delicate negotiations, and, after allowing him to go for a year to study civil and cannon law at Bologna and Auxerre, ordained him deacon in 1154, after bestowing upon him several preferments, the most important of which was the Archdeaconry of Canterbury (see Radford, "Thomas of London", p. 53).
It was just at this period that King Stephen died and the young monarch Henry II became unquestioned master of the kingdom. He took "Thomas of London", as Becket was then most commonly called, for his chancellor, and in that office Thomas at the age of thirty-six became, with the possible exception of the justiciar, the most powerful subject in Henry's wide dominions. The chroniclers speak with wonder of the relations which existed between the chancellor and the sovereign, who was twelve years his junior. People declared that "they had but one heart and one mind". Often the king and his minister behaved like two schoolboys at play. But although they hunted or rode at the head of an army together it was no mere comradeship in pastime which united them. Both were hard workers, and both, we may believe, had the prosperity of the kingdom deeply at heart. Whether the chancellor, who was after all the elder man, was the true originator of the administrative reforms which Henry introduced cannot now be clearly determined. In many matters they saw eye to eye. The king's imperial views and love of splendour were quite to the taste of his minister. When Thomas went to France in 1158 to negotiate a marriage treaty, he travelled with such pomp that the people said: "If this be only the chancellor what must be the glory of the king himself?"
In 1153 Thomas acted as justice itinerant in three counties. In 1159 he seems to have been the chief organizer of Henry's expedition to Toulouse, upon which he accompanied him, and though it seems to be untrue that the impost of "scutage" was called into existence for that Occasion (Round, "Feudal England", 268-73), still Thomas undoubtedly pressed on the exaction of this money contribution in lieu of military service and enforced it against ecclesiastics in such a way that bitter complaints were made of the disproportionately heavy burden this imposed upon the Church. In the military operations Thomas took a leading part, and Garnier, a French chronicler, who lived to write of the virtues of St. Thomas and his martyrdom, declares that in these encounters he saw him unhorse many French knights. Deacon though he was, he lead the most daring attacks in person, and Edward Grim also gives us to understand that in laying waste the enemy's country with fire and sword the chancellor's principles did not materially differ from those of the other commanders of his time. But although, as men then reported, "he put off the archdeacon", in this and other ways, he was very far from assuming the licentious manners of those around him. No word was ever breathed against his personal purity. Foul conduct or foul speech, lying or unchastity were hateful to him, and on occasion he punished them severely. He seems at all times to have had clear principles with regard to the claims of the Church, and even during this period of his chancellorship he more than once risked Henry's grievous displeasure. For example, he opposed the dispensation which Henry for political reasons extorted from the pope, and strove to prevent the marriage of Mary, Abbess of Romsey, to Matthew of Boulogne. But to the very limits of what his conscience permitted, Thomas identified himself with his master's interests, and Tennyson is true to history when he makes the archbishop say:

I served our Theobald well when I was with him:
I served King Henry well as Chancellor:
I am his no more, and I must serve the Church.
Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, and in the course of the next year Henry seems to have decided that it would be good policy to prepare the way for further schemes of reform by securing the advancement of his chancellor to the primacy. Our authorities are agreed that from the first Thomas drew back in alarm. "I know your plans for the Church," he said, "you will assert claims which I, if I were archbishop, must needs oppose." But Henry would not be gainsaid, and Thomas at the instance of Cardinal Henry of Pisa, who urged it upon him as a service to religion, yielded in spite of his misgivings. He was ordained priest on Saturday in Whitweek and consecrated bishop the next day, Sunday, 3 June, 1162. It seems to have been St. Thomas who obtained for England the privilege of keeping the feast of the Blessed Trinity on that Sunday, the anniversary of his consecration, and more than a century afterwards this custom was adopted by the papal Court, itself and eventually imposed on the whole world.
A great change took place in the saint's way of life after his consecration as archbishop. Even as chancellor he had practised secret austerities, but now in view of the struggle he clearly saw before him he gave himself to fastings and disciplines, hair shirts, protracted vigils, and constant prayers. Before the end of the year 1162 he stripped himself of all signs of the lavish display which he had previously affected. On 10 Aug. he went barefoot to receive the envoy who brought him the pallium from Rome. Contrary to the king's wish he resigned the chancellorship. Whereupon Henry seems to have required him to surrender certain ecclesiastical preferments which he still retained, notably the archdeaconry, and when this was not done at once showed bitter displeasure. Other misunderstandings soon followed. The archbishop, having, as he believed, the king's express permission, set about to reclaim alienated estates belonging to his see, a procedure which again gave offence. Still more serious was the open resistance which he made to the king's proposal that a voluntary offering to the sheriffs should be paid into the royal treasury. As the first recorded instance of any determined opposition to the king's arbitrary will in a matter of taxation, the incident is of much constitutional importance. The saint's protest seems to have been successful, but the relations with the king only grew more strained.
Soon after this the great matter of dispute was reached in the resistance made by Thomas to the king's officials when they attempted to assert jurisdiction over criminous clerks. The question has been dealt with in some detail in the article ENGLAND. That the saint himself had no wish to be lenient with criminous clerks has been well shown by Norgate (Angevin Kings, ii, 22). It was with him simply a question of principle. St. Thomas seems all along to have suspected Henry of a design to strike at the independence of what the king regarded as a too powerful Church. With this view Henry summoned the bishops at Westminster (1 October, 1163) to sanction certain as yet unspecified articles which he called his grandfather's customs (avitæ consuetudines), one of the known objects of which was to bring clerics guilty of crimes under the jurisdiction of the secular courts. The other bishops, as the demand was still in the vague, showed a willingness to submit, though with the condition "saving our order", upon which St. Thomas inflexibly insisted. The king's resentment was thereupon manifested by requiring the archbishop to surrender certain castles he had hitherto retained, and by other acts of unfriendliness. In deference to what he believed to be the pope's wish, the archbishop in December consented to make some concessions by giving a personal and private undertaking to the king to obey his customs "loyally and in good faith". But when Henry shortly afterwards at Clarendon (13 January, 1164) sought to draw the saint on to a formal and public acceptance of the "Constitutions of Clarendon", under which name the sixteen articles, the avitæ consuetudines as finally drafted, have been commonly known, St. Thomas, though at first yielding somewhat to the solicitations of the other bishops, in the end took up an attitude of uncompromising resistance.
Then followed a period of unworthy and vindictive persecution. When opposing a claim made against him by John the Marshal, Thomas upon a frivolous pretext was found guilty of contempt of court. For this he was sentenced to pay £500; other demands for large sums of money followed, and finally, though a complete release of all claims against him as chancellor had been given on his becoming archbishop, he was required to render an account of nearly all the moneys which had passed through his hands in his discharge of the office. Eventually a sum of nearly £30,000 was demanded of him. His fellow bishops summoned by Henry to a council at Northampton, implored him to throw himself unreservedly upon the king's mercy, but St. Thomas, instead of yielding, solemnly warned them and threatened them. Then, after celebrating Mass, he took his archiepiscopal cross into his own hand and presented himself thus in the royal council chamber. The king demanded that sentence should be passed upon him, but in the confusion and discussion which ensued the saint with uplifted cross made his way through the mob of angry courtiers. He fled away secretly that night (13 October, 1164), sailed in disguise from Sandwich (2 November), and after being cordially welcomed by Louis VII of France, he threw himself at the feet of Pope Alexander III, then at Sens, on 23 Nov. The pope, who had given a cold reception to certain episcopal envoys sent by Henry, welcomed the saint very kindly, and refused to accept his resignation of his see. On 30 November, Thomas went to take up his residence at the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny in Burgundy, though he was compelled to leave this refuge a year later, as Henry, after confiscating the archbishop's property and banishing all the Becket kinsfolk, threatened to wreak his vengeance on the whole Cistercian Order if they continued to harbour him.
The negotiations between Henry, the pope, and the archbishop dragged on for the next four years without the position being sensibly changed. Although the saint remained firm in his resistance to the principle of the Constitutions of Clarendon, he was willing to make any concessions that could be reasonably asked of him, and on 6 January, 1169, when the kings of England and France were in conference at Montmirail, he threw himself at Henry's feet, but as he still refused to accept the obnoxious customs Henry repulsed him. At last in 1170 some sort of reconciliation was patched up. The question of the customs was not mentioned and Henry professed himself willing to be guided by the archbishop's council as to amends due to the See of Canterbury for the recent violation of its rights in the crowning of Henry's son by the Archbishop of York. On 1 December, 1170, St. Thomas had brought with him, as well as over the restoration by the de Broc family of the archbishop's castle at Saltwood. How far Henry was directly responsible for the tragedy which soon after occurred on 20 December is not quite clear. Four knights who came from France demanded the absolution of the bishops. St. Thomas would not comply. They left for a space, but came back at Vesper time with a band of armed men. To their angry question, "Where is the traitor?" the saint boldly replied, "Here I am, no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God." They tried to drag him from the church, but were unable, and in the end they slew him where he stood, scattering his brains on the pavement. His faithful companion, Edward Grim, who bore his cross, was wounded in the struggle.
A tremendous reaction of feeling followed this deed of blood. In an extraordinary brief space of time devotion to the martyred archbishop had spread all through Europe. The pope promulgated the bull of canonization, little more than two years after the martyrdom, 21 February, 1173. On 12 July, 1174, Henry II did public penance, and was scourged at the archbishop's tomb. An immense number of miracles were worked, and for the rest of the Middle Ages the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury was one of the wealthiest and most famous in Europe. The martyr's holy remains are believed to have been destroyed in September, 1538, when nearly all the other shrines in England were dismantled; but the matter is by no means clear, and, although the weight of learned opinion is adverse, there are still those who believe that a skeleton found in the crypt in January, 1888, is the body of St. Thomas. The story that Henry VIII in 1538 summoned the archbishop to stand his trial for high treason, and that when, in June, 1538, the trial had been held and the accused pronounced contumacious, the body was ordered to be disinterred and burnt, is probably apocryphal.
By far the best English life is MORRIS, The Life of St. Thomas Becket (2nd ed., London, 1885); there is a somewhat fuller work of L'HUILLIER, Saint Thomas de Cantorbery (2 vols., Paris, 1891); the volume by DEMIMUID, St. Thomas Becket (Paris, 1909), in the series Les Saints is not abreast of modern research. There are several excellent lives by Anglicans, of which HUTTON, Thomas Becket (London, 1900), and the account by NORGATE in Dict. Nat. Biog., s. v. Thomas, known as Thomas a Becket, are probably the best. The biography by ROBERTSON, Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (London, 1859), is not sympathetic. Nearly all the sources of the Life, as well as the books of miracles worked at the shrine, have been edited in the Rolls Series by ROBERTSON under the title Materials for the History of Thomas Becket (7 vols., London, 1875-1883). The valuable Norse saga is edited in the same series by MAGNUSSON, Thomas Saga Erkibyskups (2 vols., London, 1884). The chronicle of GARNIER DE PONT S. MAXENCE, Vie de St. Thomas Martyr, has been edited by HIPPEAU (Paris, 1859). The miracles have been specially studied from an agnostic standpoint by ABBOT, Thomas of Canterbury, his death and miracles (2 vols., London, 1898). Some valuable material has been collected by RADFORD, Thomas of London before his Consecration (Cambridge, 1894). On the relics see MORRIS, Relics of St. Thomas (London, 1888); THORNTON, Becket's Bones (Canterbury, 1900); WARD, The Canterbury Pilgrimages (London, 1904); WARNER in Eng. Hist. Rev., VI (1891), 754-56.
HERBERT THURSTON (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Not only at Christmas, but...

… day after day He humbles Himself,
as when He came down from His royal throne into the Virgin’s womb.
Day by day He comes to us personally in this lowly form.
Daily He comes down from the bosom of His Father, onto the altar, into
the hands of the priest.

St. Francis of Assisi

Holy Innocents

The children mentioned in St. Matthew, ii, 16-18:
Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
The Greek Liturgy asserts that Herod killed 14,000 boys (ton hagion id chiliadon Nepion), the Syrians speak of 64,000, many medieval authors of 144,000, according to Apoc., xiv, 3. Modern writers reduce the number considerably, since Bethlehem was a rather small town. Knabenbauer brings it down to fifteen or twenty (Evang. S. Matt., I, 104), Bisping to ten or twelve (Evang. S. Matt.), Kellner to about six (Christus and seine Apostel, Freiburg, 1908); cf. "Anzeiger kath. Geistlichk. Deutschl.", 15 Febr., 1909, p. 32. This cruel deed of Herod is not mentioned by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, although he relates quite a number of atrocities committed by the king during the last years of his reign. The number of these children was so small that this crime appeared insignificant amongst the other misdeeds of Herod. Macrobius (Saturn., IV, xiv, de Augusto et jocis ejus) relates that when Augustus heard that amongst the boys of two years and under Herod's own son also had been massacred, he said: "It is better to be Herod's hog [ous], than his son [houios]," alluding to the Jewish law of not eating, and consequently not killing, swine. The Middle Ages gave faith to this story; Abelard inserted it in his hymn for the feast of Holy Innocents:
Ad mandatum regis datum generale
nec ipsius infans tutus est a caede.
Ad Augustum hoc delatum risum movit,
et rex mitis de immiti digne lusit:
malum, inquit, est Herodis esse natum.
prodest magis talis regis esse porcum. (Dreves, "Petri Abaelardi Hymnarius Paracletensis", Paris, 1891, pp. 224, 274.)

But this "infant" mentioned by Macrobius, is Antipater, the adult son of Herod, who, by command of the dying king was decapitated for having conspired against the life of his father. It is impossible to determine the day or the year of the death of the Holy Innocents, since the chronology of the birth of Christ and the subsequent Biblical events is most uncertain. All we know is that the infants were slaughtered within two years following the apparition of the star to the Wise Men (Belser, in the Tubingen "Quartalschrift", 1890, p. 361). The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., "Sermo 10us de sanctis"). In connection with them the Apostle recalls the words of the Prophet Jeremias (xxxi, 15) speaking of the lamentation of Rachel. At Rama is the tomb of Rachel, representative of the ancestresses of Israel. There the remnants of the nation were gathered to be led into captivity. As Rachel, after the fall of Jerusalem, from her tomb wept for the sons of Ephraim, so she now weeps again for the men children of Bethlehem. The ruin of her people, led away to Babylon, is only a type of the ruin which menaces her children now, when the Messias is to be murdered and is compelled to flee from the midst of His own nation to escape from the sword of the apparitor. The lamentation of Rachel after the fall of Jerusalem receives its eminent completion at the sight of the downfall of her people, ushered in by the slaughter of her children and the banishment of the Messias.
The Latin Church instituted the feast of the Holy Innocents at a date now unknown, not before the end of the fourth and not later than the end of the fifth century. It is, with the feasts of St. Stephen and St. John, first found in the Leonine Sacramentary, dating from about 485. To the Philocalian Calendar of 354 it is unknown. The Latins keep it on 28 December, the Greeks on 29 December, the Syrians and Chaldeans on 27 December. These dates have nothing to do with the chronological order of the event; the feast is kept within the octave of Christmas because the Holy Innocents gave their life for the newborn Saviour. Stephen the first martyr (martyr by will, love, and blood), John, the Disciple of Love (martyr by will and love), and these first flowers of the Church (martyrs by blood alone) accompany the Holy Child Jesus entering this world on Christmas day. Only the Church of Rome applies the word Innocentes to these children; in other Latin countries they are called simply Infantes and the feast had the title "Allisio infantium" (Brev. Goth.), "Natale infantum", or "Necatio infantum". The Armenians keep it on Monday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Armen. Menology, 11 May), because they believe the Holy Innocents were killed fifteen weeks after the birth of Christ.
In the Roman Breviary the feast was only a semi-double (in other breviaries a minor double) up to the time of Pius V, who, in his new Breviary (1568), raised it to a double of the second class with an octave (G. Schober, "Expl. rit. brev. rom.", 1891, p. 38). He also introduced the two hymns "Salvete flores martyrum" and "Audit tyrannus anxius", which are fragments of the Epiphany hymn of Prudentius. Before Pius V the Church of Rome sang the Christmas hymns on the feast of the Holy Innocents. The proper preface of the Gelasian Sacramentary for this feast is still found in the Ambrosian Missal. We possess a lengthy hymn in honour of the Holy Innocents from the pen of the Venerable Bede, "Hymnum canentes martyrum" (Dreves, "Analecta hymnica") and a sequence composed by Notker, "Laus tibi Christe", but most Churches at Mass used the "Clesa pueri concrepant melodia" (Kehrein, "Sequenzen", 1873, p. 348). At Bethlehem the feast is a Holy Day of obligation. The liturgical colour of the Roman Church is purple, not red, because these children were martyred at a time when they could not attain the beatific vision. But of compassion, as it were, towards the weeping mothers of Bethlehem, the Church omits at Mass both the Gloria and Alleluia; this custom, however, was unknown in the Churches of France and Germany. On the octave day, and also when the feast falls on a Sunday, the Roman Liturgy, prescribes the red colour, the Gloria, and the Alleluia. In England the feast was called "Childermas".
The Roman Station of 28 December is at St. Paul's Outside the Walls, because that church is believed to possess the bodies of several of the Holy Innocents. A portion of these relics was transferred by Sixtus V to Santa Maria Maggiore (feast on 5 May; it is a semi-double). The church of St. Justina at Padua, the cathedrals of Lisbon and Milan, and other churches also preserve bodies which they claim to be those of some of the Holy Innocents. In many churches in England, Germany, and France on the feast of St. Nicholas (6 December) a boy-bishop (q.v.) was elected, who officiated on the feast of St. Nicholas and of the Holy Innocents. He wore a mitre and other pontifical insignia, sang the collect, preached, and gave the blessing. He sat in the bishop's chair whilst the choir-boys sang in the stalls of the canons. They directed the choir on these two days and had their solemn procession (Schmidt, "Thesaurus jur eccl.", III, 67 sqq.; Kirchenlex., IV, 1400; P.L., CXLVII, 135).
HELMLING IN Kirchenlex., XII, 369-71; NILLES, Kal. man. utriusque eccl. (Innsbruck, 1897); TONDINI, Calendrier de la nation armenienne (Rome, 1906); HAMPSON, Calendarium medii aevi (London, 1857); HOEYNCK, Augsburger Liturgie (Augsburg, 1889); ROCK, Church of Our Fathers (London, 1905).
FREDERICK G. HOLWECK (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Friday, December 27, 2019

I would wield the sword

I would wield the sword, I would be a Priest,
an Apostle, a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church,
I would fain accomplish the most heroic deeds
— the spirit of the Crusader burns within me,
and I would gladly die on the battlefield in defense of the Church

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. John the Evangelist

John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee" and received from Christ the honourable title of Boanerges, i.e. "sons of thunder" (Mark, iii, 17). Originally they were fishermen and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth. According to the usual and entirely probable explanation they became, however, for a time disciples of John the Baptist, and were called by Christ from the circle of John's followers, together with Peter and Andrew, to become His disciples (John, i, 35-42). The first disciples returned with their new Master from the Jordan to Galilee and apparently both John and the others remained for some time with Jesus (cf. John ii, 12, 22; iv, 2, 8, 27 sqq.). Yet after the second return from Judea, John and his companions went back again to their trade of fishing until he and they were called by Christ to definitive discipleship (Matt., iv 18-22; Mark, i, 16-20). In the lists of the Apostles John has the second place (Acts, i, 13), the third (Mark, iii, 17), and the fourth (Matt., x, 3; Luke, vi, 14), yet always after James with the exception of a few passages (Luke, viii, 51; ix, 28 in the Greek text; Acts, i, 13).
From James being thus placed first, the conclusion is drawn that John was the younger of the two brothers. In any case John had a prominent position in the Apostolic body. Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark, v, 37), of the Transfiguration (Matt., xvii, 1), and of the Agony in Gethsemani (Matt., xxvi, 37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke, xxii, 8). At the Supper itself his place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John, xiii, 23, 25). According to the general interpretation John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest (John, xviii, 15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John, xix, 25-27). After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John, xx, 2-10). When later Christ appeared at the Lake of Genesareth John was also the first of the seven disciples present who recognized his Master standing on the shore (John, xxi, 7). The Fourth Evangelist has shown us most clearly how close the relationship was in which he always stood to his Lord and Master by the title with which he is accustomed to indicate himself without giving his name: "the disciple whom Jesus loved". After Christ's Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, John took, together with Peter, a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the Church. We see him in the company of Peter at the healing of the lame man in the Temple (Acts, iii, 1 sqq.). With Peter he is also thrown into prison (Acts, iv, 3). Again, we find him with the prince of the Apostles visiting the newly converted in Samaria (Acts, viii, 14).
We have no positive information concerning the duration of this activity in Palestine. Apparently John in common with the other Apostles remained some twelve years in this first field of labour, until the persecution of Herod Agrippa I led to the scattering of the Apostles through the various provinces of the Roman Empire (cf. Acts, xii, 1-17). Notwithstanding the opinion to the contrary of many writers, it does not appear improbable that John then went for the first time to Asia Minor and exercised his Apostolic office in various provinces there. In any case a Christian community was already in existence at Ephesus before Paul's first labours there (cf. "the brethren", Acts, xviii, 27, in addition to Priscilla and Aquila), and it is easy to connect a sojourn of John in these provinces with the fact that the Holy Ghost did not permit the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel in Asia, Mysia, and Bithynia (Acts, xvi, 6 sq.). There is just as little against such an acceptation in the later account in Acts of St. Paul's third missionary journey. But in any case such a sojourn by John in Asia in this first period was neither long nor uninterrupted. He returned with the other disciples to Jerusalem for the Apostolic Council (about A.D. 51). St. Paul in opposing his enemies in Galatia names John explicitly along with Peter and James the Less as a "pillar of the Church", and refers to the recognition which his Apostolic preaching of a Gospel free from the law received from these three, the most prominent men of the old Mother-Church at Jerusalem (Gal., ii, 9). When Paul came again to Jerusalem after the second and after the third journey (Acts, xviii, 22; xxi, 17 sq.) he seems no longer to have met John there. Some wish to draw the conclusion from this that John left Palestine between the years 52 and 55.
Of the other New-Testament writings, it is only from the three Epistles of John and the Apocalypse that anything further is learned concerning the person of the Apostle. We may be permitted here to take as proven the unity of the author of these three writings handed down under the name of John and his identity with the Evangelist. Both the Epistles and the Apocalypse, however, presuppose that their author John belonged to the multitude of personal eyewitnesses of the life and work of Christ (cf. especially I John, i, 1-5; iv, 14), that he had lived for a long time in Asia Minor, was thoroughly acquainted with the conditions existing in the various Christian communities there, and that he had a position of authority recognized by all Christian communities as leader of this part of the Church. Moreover, the Apocalypse tells us that its author was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus", when he was honoured with the heavenly Revelation contained in the Apocalypse (Apoc., i, 9).

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John designates himself in the superscription of each by the name (ho presbyteros), "the ancient", "the old". Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, also uses the same name to designate the "Presbyter John" as in addition to Aristion, his particular authority, directly after he has named the presbyters Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew (in Eusebius, "Hist. eccl.", III, xxxix, 4). Eusebius was the first to draw, on account of these words of Papias, the distinction between a Presbyter John and the Apostle John, and this distinction was also spread in Western Europe by St. Jerome on the authority of Eusebius. The opinion of Eusebius has been frequently revived by modern writers, chiefly to support the denial of the Apostolic origin of the Fourth Gospel. The distinction, however, has no historical basis. First, the testimony of Eusebius in this matter is not worthy of belief. He contradicts himself, as in his "Chronicle" he expressly calls the Apostle John the teacher of Papias ("ad annum Abrah 2114"), as does Jerome also in Ep. lxxv, "Ad Theodoram", iii, and in "De viris illustribus", xviii. Eusebius was also influenced by his erroneous doctrinal opinions as he denied the Apostolic origin of the Apocalypse and ascribed this writing to an author differing from St. John but of the same name. St. Irenaeus also positively designates the Apostle and Evangelist John as the teacher of Papias, and neither he nor any other writer before Eusebius had any idea of a second John in Asia (Adv. haer., V, xxxiii, 4). In what Papias himself says the connection plainly shows that in this passage by the word presbyters only Apostles can be understood. If John is mentioned twice the explanation lies in the peculiar relationship in which Papias stood to this, his most eminent teacher. By inquiring of others he had learned some things indirectly from John, just as he had from the other Apostles referred to. In addition he had received information concerning the teachings and acts of Jesus directly, without the intervention of others, from the still living "Presbyter John", as he also had from Aristion. Thus the teaching of Papias casts absolutely no doubt upon what the New-Testament writings presuppose and expressly mention concerning the residence of the Evangelist John in Asia.

The Christian writers of the second and third centuries testify to us as a tradition universally recognized and doubted by no one that the Apostle and Evangelist John lived in Asia Minor in the last decades of the first century and from Ephesus had guided the Churches of that province. In his "Dialogue with Tryphon" (Chapter 81) St. Justin Martyr refers to "John, one of the Apostles of Christ" as a witness who had lived "with us", that is, at Ephesus. St. Irenæus speaks in very many places of the Apostle John and his residence in Asia and expressly declares that he wrote his Gospel at Ephesus (Adv. haer., III, i, 1), and that he had lived there until the reign of Trajan (loc. cit., II, xxii, 5). With Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, xiii, 1) and others we are obliged to place the Apostle's banishment to Patmos in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96). Previous to this, according to Tertullian's testimony (De praescript., xxxvi), John had been thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil before the Porta Latina at Rome without suffering injury. After Domitian's death the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Trajan, and at Ephesus he died about A.D. 100 at a great age. Tradition reports many beautiful traits of the last years of his life: that he refused to remain under the same roof with Cerinthus (Irenaeus "Ad. haer.", III, iii, 4); his touching anxiety about a youth who had become a robber (Clemens Alex., "Quis dives salvetur", xiii); his constantly repeated words of exhortation at the end of his life, "Little children, love one another" (Jerome, "Comm. in ep. ad. Gal.", vi, 10). On the other hand the stories told in the apocryphal Acts of John, which appeared as early as the second century, are unhistorical invention.

St. John is commemorated on 27 December, which he originally shared with St. James the Greater. At Rome the feast was reserved to St. John alone at an early date, though both names are found in the Carthage Calendar, the Hieronymian Martyrology, and the Gallican liturgical books. The "departure" or "assumption" of the Apostle is noted in the Menology of Constantinople and the Calendar of Naples (26 September), which seems to have been regarded as the date of his death. The feast of St. John before the Latin Gate, supposed to commemorate the dedication of the church near the Porta Latina, is first mentioned in the Sacramentary of Adrian I (772-95).

Early Christian art usually represents St. John with an eagle, symbolizing the heights to which he rises in the first chapter of his Gospel. The chalice as symbolic of St. John, which, according to some authorities, was not adopted until the thirteenth century, is sometimes interpreted with reference to the Last Supper, again as connected with the legend according to which St. John was handed a cup of poisoned wine, from which, at his blessing, the poison rose in the shape of a serpent. Perhaps the most natural explanation is to be found in the words of Christ to John and James "My chalice indeed you shall drink" (Matthew 20:23).
Leopold Fonck (Catholic Encyclopedia)_

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Our best Friend

To withdraw from creatures and repose with Jesus in the Tabernacle
is my delight; there I can hide myself and seek rest.
There I find a life which I cannot describe, a joy which I cannot make
others comprehend,
  a peace such as is found only under the
hospitable roof of our best Friend.

St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Stephen

One of the first deacons and the first Christian martyr; feast on 26 December. In the Acts of the Apostles the name of St. Stephen occurs for the first time on the occasion of the appointment of the first deacons (Acts, vi, 5). Dissatisfaction concerning the distribution of alms from the community's fund having arisen in the Church, seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members. Of these seven, Stephen, is the first mentioned and the best known.
Stephen's life previous to this appointment remains for us almost entirely in the dark. His name is Greek and suggests he was a Hellenist, i.e., one of those Jews who had been born in some foreign land and whose native tongue was Greek; however, according to a fifth century tradition, the name Stephanos was only a Greek equivalent for the Aramaic Kelil (Syr. kelila, crown), which may be the protomartyr's original name and was inscribed on a slab found in his tomb. It seems that Stephen was not a proselyte, for the fact that Nicolas is the only one of the seven designated as such makes it almost certain that the others were Jews by birth. That Stephen was a pupil of Gamaliel is sometimes inferred from his able defence before the Sanhedrin; but this has not been proved. Neither do we know when and in what circumstances he became a Christian; it is doubtful whether the statement of St. Epiphanius (Haer., xx, 4) numbering Stephen among the seventy disciples is deserving of any credence. His ministry as deacon appears to have been mostly among the Hellenist converts with whom the Apostles were at first less familiar; and the fact that the opposition he met with sprang up in the synagogues of the "Libertines" (probably the children of Jews taken captive to Rome by Pompey in 63 B. C. and freed hence the name Libertini), and "of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia" shows that he usually preached among the Hellenist Jews. That he was pre eminently fitted for that work, his abilities and character, which the author of the Acts dwells upon so fervently, are the best indication. The Church had, by selecting him for a deacon, publicly acknowledged him as a man "of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts, vi, 3). He was "a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" (vi, 5), "full of grace and fortitude" (vi, 8); his uncommon oratorical powers and unimpeachable logic no one was able to resist, so much so that to his arguments replete with the Divine energy of the Scriptural authorities God added the weight of "great wonders and signs" (vi, 8). Great as was the efficacy of "the wisdom and the spirit that spoke" (vi, 10), still it could not bend the minds of the unwilling; to these the forceful preacher was fatally soon to become an enemy.
The conflict broke out when the cavillers of the synagogues "of the Libertines, and of the Cyreneans, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia", who had challenged Stephen to a dispute, came out completely discomfited (vi, 9 10); wounded pride so inflamed their hatred that they suborned false witnesses to testify that "they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God" (vi, 11).
No charge could be more apt to rouse the mob; the anger of the ancients and the scribes had been already kindled from the first reports of the preaching of the Apostles. Stephen was arrested, not without some violence it seems (the Greek word synerpasan implies so much), and dragged before the Sanhedrin, where he was accused of saying that "Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place [the temple], and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us" (vi, 12 14). No doubt Stephen had by his language given some grounds for the accusation; his accusers apparently twisted into the offensive utterance attributed to him a declaration that "the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands" (vii, 48), some mention of Jesus foretelling the destruction of the Temple and some inveighing against the burthensome traditions fencing about the Law, or rather the asseveration so often repeated by the Apostles that "there is no salvation in any other" (cf. iv, 12) the Law not excluded but Jesus. However this may be, the accusation left him unperturbed and "all that sat in the council...saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel" (vi, 15).
Stephen's answer (Acts, vii) was a long recital of the mercies of God towards Israel during its long history and of the ungratefulness by which, throughout, Israel repaid these mercies. This discourse contained many things unpleasant to Jewish ears; but the concluding indictment for having betrayed and murdered the Just One whose coming the Prophets had foretold, provoked the rage of an audience made up not of judges, but of foes. When Stephen "looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God", and said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (vii, 55), they ran violently upon him (vii, 56) and cast him out of the city to stone him to death. Stephen's stoning does not appear in the narrative of the Acts as a deed of mob violence; it must have been looked upon by those who took part in it as the carrying out of the law. According to law (Lev., xxiv, 14), or at least its usual interpretation, Stephen had been taken out of the city; custom required that the person to be stoned be placed on an elevation from whence with his hands bound he was to be thrown down. It was most likely while these preparations were going on that, "falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (vii, 59). Meanwhile the witnesses, whose hands must be first on the person condemned by their testimony (Deut., xvii, 7), were laying down their garments at the feet of Saul, that they might be more ready for the task devolved upon them (vii, 57). The praying martyr was thrown down; and while the witnesses were thrusting upon him "a stone as much as two men could carry", he was heard to utter this supreme prayer: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (vii, 58). Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.
The bodies of men stoned to death were to be buried in a place appointed by the Sanhedrin. Whether in this instance the Sanhedrin insisted on its right cannot be affirmed; at any rate, "devout men" whether Christians or Jews, we are not told "took order for Stephen's funeral, and made great mourning over him" (vii, 2). For centuries the location of St. Stephen's tomb was lost sight of, until (415) a certain priest named Lucian learned by revelation that the sacred body was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem. The relics were then exhumed and carried first to the church of Mount Sion, then, in 460, to the basilica erected by Eudocia outside the Damascus Gate, on the spot where, according to tradition, the stoning had taken place (the opinion that the scene of St. Stephen's martyrdom was east of Jerusalem, near the Gate called since St. Stephen's Gate, is unheard of until the twelfth century). The site of the Eudocian basilica was identified some twenty years ago, and a new edifice has been erected on the old foundations by the Dominican Fathers.
The only first hand source of information on the life and death of St. Stephen is the Acts of the Apostles (vi, i viii, 2).
CHARLES L. SOUVAY (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

On December 25 the Church celebrates the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity made man, Who taking flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, was  born nine months later in a stable in Bethlehem as predicted in the Scriptures: "And Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity" (Micah, 5:2). The Gospels of St. Luke and St. Mathew cover the marvelous story. St. Luke writes of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem for the census of Caesar Augustus and Jesus being born there and laid in a manger.  He tells of the appearance of an angel to shepherds nearby announcing the birth of the Child as the awaited Savior, Christ the Lord, and how these same shepherds found Him in the humble stable just as the angel had foretold.

In the account of St. Matthew, wise men follow a mysterious star to Bethlehem and lay gifts at the feet of the Divine Child. He also recounts the massacre, ordered by the envious Herod, of all little boys two years old and under, and the flight of the holy family into Egypt to save the Child Jesus. They later settle in Nazareth.

Though there are records of the feast of the Nativity of Jesus being celebrated as early as the third century in Egypt, the celebration of this feast did not spread throughout the Christian world until the middle of the fourth century. It was at first celebrated along with the feast of Epiphany on January 6, the feast of the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi. Little by little, Christmas became its own feast. Many of the early Church Fathers regarded December 25 as the actual date of Christ’s birth.

Historically and traditionally, Christmas is deemed one of the greatest Christian feasts along with the solemn, grateful remembrance of the Lord’s death on Good Friday, and the joyful celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In all Christian countries, Christmas gives rise to a multitude of cultural expressions of colorful, sparkling joy, in remembrance and thanksgiving for this most charming of divine gifts, a God made a babe for our salvation. Countless songs, and ballads through the ages sing of this Gift of gifts, and people, in turn, have recourse to gift giving as a visible overflow of their gratitude and joy – or so it should be.

Why did He choose to be born so?

Our Lord could have ordered the angels to embellish the
            Holy Grotto with the most delicate silks, the most aromatic
            perfumes, and the most celestial symphonies. He could have
            enjoyed every legitimate material delight from the first
            moment of His human life.

               Instead, He chose the very opposite. His delicate body lay
            not on soft silk, but on coarse straw. His crib was a feeding
            trough which, however diligently scoured by Our Lady, did not
            exude the sweet smells of exquisite perfumes. Born at midnight
            in the middle of winter, the Holy Infant trembled in the cold
            night air, warmed only by the breath of beasts. His cradle song
            was the lowing of cows.

               Thus, Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us how foolish it is
            to make this world’s delights the end of our lives. To the
            contrary, Christ taught us to disdain them for the glory of
            God and the good of souls, in the measure that they distract
            and even deviate us from our ultimate end the eternal
            delight of unending life with Him.

                                            Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Merry Christmas!

St. Alphonsus composed this Christmas Carol, Tu Scendi Delle Stelle, which is still sung throughout Italy, including Christmas Eve Mass.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Approach Him

The Son of God was not satisfied with promising to redeem us or with becoming Man.
But He willed to come into this world in a manner not at all consistent with His grandeur.
He came as humbly as can be imagined so that we might be more free to approach Him.

St. Louise de Marillac

Sts. Irmina and Adela

Princesses Irmina and Adela were daughters of St. Dagobert II, King of the Francs. Their father had acceded to the throne at the age of seven but had been deposed soon after and had fled to Ireland for safety. During his exile he married the Anglo-Saxon princess, Matilda, and had five children, among them Adela and Irmina. He returned to the Frankish capital of Metz in 673 and reclaimed the throne.

Irmina was betrothed to Count Herman but he was assassinated shortly before they were to marry and she professed her desire to embrace the religious life instead. King Dagobert restored a convent at Horren in Trier where she founded a Benedictine community. When a deadly plague threatened her sisters, she sought the help of St. Willibrord. In gratitude for being preserved from this pestilence, she provided the manor where the monastery of Echternach was founded in 698. Her devotion to the poor led to her being honored as a saint after her death in the year 710.

Her sister, Adela, was married to Alberic and they had a son prior to her husband’s untimely death. Despite many marriage offers, the young widow chose to enter religion as well. She founded the convent of Palatiolum outside of Trier on lands that were then undeveloped and governed it as Abbess for many years until her death on December 24, 735. The monastic site later grew into the town of Pfalzel. Her son became the future father of St. Gregory of Utrecht.

The memory of the two royal sisters and foundresses is celebrated jointly on December 24.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Magnet of souls

The Blessed Sacrament is the magnet of souls.
There is a mutual attraction between Jesus and the souls of men.
Mary drew Him down from heaven. Our nature attracted Him rather than the nature of angels.
Our misery caused Him to stoop to our lowness.
Even our sins had a sort of attraction for the abundance of His mercy and the predilection of His grace.
Our repentance wins Him to us. Our love makes earth a paradise to Him; and
our souls lure Him as gold lures the miser, with irresistible fascination.

Fr. Frederick William Faber

St. John Cantius

Born at Kenty, near Oswiecim, Diocese of Krakow, Poland, 1412 (or 1403); died at Krakow, 1473, and was buried there under the church of St. Anne. He was the son of Stanislaus and Anne who were pious country people; he received his primary education at his native town, and then being sent by his parents to the Academy of Krakow, he soon impressed his professors and colleagues with his pleasant and amiable disposition; always happy, but serious, humble, and godly, he won the hearts of all who came in contact with him,. Having made excellent progress in the study of philosophical and theological sciences, he was graduated first as bachelor, then as master and doctor, was ordained priest and then appointed professor of theology at the Academy of Krakow, from where he was sent, after a short time, by his superiors to olkusz, Diocese of Krakow, to be parish priest. Being afraid of the great responsiblity of parish work, he very soon left the parish, and was again appointed professor of Sacres Scripture at the Academy of Krakow, which position he held without interruption until his death. As testified by Michael Miechowita, the medieval Polish historian and the saint's first biographer, extreme humility and charity were conspicuous in his life; he took as his motto:
Conturbare cave: non est placare suave,
Infamare cave; nam revocare grave.
He distributed to the poor all the money and clothes he had, retaining only what was absolutely necessary to support himself. He slept but little, and on the floor, ate very sparingly, and was a total abstainer from meat after he became a doctor. He made one pilgrimage to Jerusalem with the desire of becoming a martyr among the Turks, and four pilgrimages to Rome on foot. During his life he performed various miracles, which were multiplied after his death at his tomb. He was canonized by Clement XIII in 1767. The Roman Breviary distinguishes him with three hymns; he is the only confessor not a bishop who is thus honoured. J. Godrycz (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Sunday, December 22, 2019

How to be holy

Holiness is a disposition of the heart
that makes us humble and little in the arms of God,
aware of our weakness, and confident
– to the point of audacity –
in His Fatherly goodness.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Sts. Chaeremon, Ischyrion and other Martyrs

In his letter to Fabian, the Bishop of Antioch, St. Dionysius of Alexandria speaks of Christians who suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Decius. Many were driven to flee into the desert where they suffered hunger, exposure, and died prey to either wild beasts, or at the hand of men just as wild. A good number were also sold into slavery.

St. Dionysius particularly mentions a very old man, the Bishop of Nilopolis, by name of Chaeremon who, with a companion, disappeared into the mountains of Arabia. Though a search was carried out, not even their bodies were found.

In the same letter St. Dionysius also mentions the name of Ischyrion, the procurator of a magistrate of Egypt. When ordered by the Egyptian official to sacrifice to the idols, Ischyrion refused so steadfastly that neither abuse nor threats could make him change his mind. The enraged magistrate then had him mutilated and impaled.

Photo by: Roland Unger

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Holy Family Novena

Header-Holy Family Novena

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace of loving Holy Church, as we are bound to do, above every earthly thing, and of ever showing forth our love by the witness of our deeds.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace of openly professing, as we are bound to do, with courage and without human respect, the faith that we received of Thy gift in Holy Baptism.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace of sharing, as we are bound to do, in the defense and propagation of the Faith, when duty calls, whether by word or by the sacrifice of our fortunes and our lives.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace of loving one another in mutual charity, as we are bound to do, and establish us in perfect harmony of thought, will and action, under the rule and guidance of our holy Pastors.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, bless us and grant us the grace of conforming our lives fully, as we are bound to do, to the commandments of God's law and that of His holy church, so as to live always in that charity which they set forth.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we ask in particular this special favor: [state your request here]

Let us Pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest, world without end.  Amen.

Jesus wishes to remain completely united with us

Could anyone ever have been able to imagine that the Word become flesh 
would take on the appearance of bread to become our food unless He Himself had already done so?
Even though we cannot see Him in the Eucharist, He sees us and is really present there.
He is present so that we can possess Him, but hidden in order that we might desire Him.
Until such time as we come to our homeland, Jesus wishes to give Himself completely to us 
and to remain completely united with us. 

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

St. Peter Canisius

(Kannees, Kanys, probably also De Hondt).
Born at Nimwegen in the Netherlands, 8 May, 1521; died in Fribourg, 21 November, 1597. His father was the wealthy burgomaster, Jacob Canisius; his mother, Ægidia van Houweningen, died shortly after Peter's birth. In 1536 Peter was sent to Cologne, where he studied arts, civil law, and theology at the university; he spent a part of 1539 at the University of Louvain, and in 1540 received the degree of Master of Arts at Cologne. Nicolaus van Esche was his spiritual adviser, and he was on terms of friendship with such staunch Catholics as Georg of Skodborg (the expelled Archbishop of Lund), Johann Gropper (canon of the cathedral), Eberhard Billick (the Carmelite monk), Justus Lanspergius, and other Carthusian monks. Although his father desired him to marry a wealthy young woman, on 25 February, 1540 he pledged himself to celibacy. In 1543 he visited Peter Faber and, having made the "Spiritual Exercises" under his direction, was admitted into the Society of Jesus at Mainz, on 8 May. With the help of Leonhard Kessel and others, Canisius, labouring under great difficulties, founded at Cologne the first German house of the order; at the same time he preached in the city and vicinity, and debated and taught in the university. In 1546 he was admitted to the priesthood, and soon afterwards was sent by the clergy and university to obtain assistance from Emperor Charles V, the nuncio, and the clergy of Liège against the apostate Archbishop, Hermann von Wied, who had attempted to pervert the diocese. In 1547, as the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsburg, he participated in the general ecclesiastical council (which sat first at Trent and then at Bologna), and spoke twice in the congregation of the theologians. After this he spent several months under the direction of Ignatius in Rome. In 1548 he taught rhetoric at Messina, Sicily, preaching in Italian and Latin. At this time Duke William IV of Bavaria requested Paul III to send him some professors from the Society of Jesus for the University of Ingolstadt; Canisius was among those selected.
On 7 September, 1549, he made his solemn profession as Jesuit at Rome, in the presence of the founder of the order. On his journey northward he received, at Bologna, the degree of doctor of theology. On 13 November, accompanied by Fathers Jaius and Salmeron, he reached Ingolstadt, where he taught theology, catechized, and preached. In 1550 he was elected rector of the university, and in 1552 was sent by Ignatius to the new college in Vienna; there he also taught theology in the university, preached at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, and at the court of Ferdinand I, and was confessor at the hospital and prison. During Lent, 1553 he visited many abandoned parishes in Lower Austria, preaching and administering the sacraments. The king's eldest son (later Maximilian II) had appointed to the office of court preacher, Phauser, a married priest, who preached the Lutheran doctrine. Canisius warned Ferdinand I, verbally and in writing, and opposed Phauser in public disputations. Maximilian was obliged to dismiss Phauser and, on this account, the rest of his life he harboured a grudge against Canisius. Ferdinand three times offered him the Bishopric of Vienna, but he refused. In 1557 Julius III appointed him administrator of the bishopric for one year, but Canisius succeeded in ridding himself of this burden (cf. N. Paulus in "Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie", XXII, 742-8). In 1555 he was present at the Diet of Augsburg with Ferdinand, and in 1555-56 he preached in the cathedral of Prague. After long negotiations and preparations he was able to open Jesuit colleges at Ingolstadt and Prague. In the same year Ignatius appointed him first provincial superior of Upper Germany (Swabia, Bavaria, Bohemia, Hungary, Lower and Upper Austria). During the winter of 1556-57 he acted as adviser to the King of the Romans at the Diet of Ratisbon and delivered many sermons in the cathedral. By the appointment of the Catholic princes and the order of the pope he took part in the religious discussions at Worms. As champion of the Catholics he repeatedly spoke in opposition to Melanchthon. The fact that the Protestants disagreed among themselves and were obliged to leave the field was due in a great measure to Canisius. He also preached in the cathedral of Worms.
During Advent and Christmas he visited the Bishop of Strasburg at Zabern, started negotiations for the building of a Jesuit college there, preached, explained the catechism to the children, and heard their confessions. He also preached in the cathedral of Strasburg and strengthened the Catholics of Alsace and Freiburg in their faith. Ferdinand, on his way to Frankfort to be proclaimed emperor, met him at Nuremburg and confided his troubles to him. Then Duke Albert V of Bavaria secured his services; at Straubing the pastors and preachers had fled, after having persuaded the people to turn from the Catholic faith. Canisius remained in the town for six weeks, preaching three or four times a day, and by his gentleness he undid much harm. From Straubing he was called to Rome to be present at the First General Congregation of his order, but before its close Paul IV sent him with the nuncio Mentuati to Poland to the imperial Diet of Pieterkow; at Cracow he addressed the clergy and members of the university. In the year 1559 he was summoned by the emperor to be present at the Diet of Augsburg. There, at the urgent request of the chapter, he became preacher at the cathedral and held this position until 1566. His manuscripts show the care with which he wrote his sermons. In a series of sermons he treats of the end of man, of the Decalogue, the Mass, the prophecies of Jonas; at the same time he rarely omitted to expound the Gospel of the day; he spoke in keeping with the spirit of the age, explained the justification of man, Christian liberty, the proper way of interpreting the Scriptures, defended the worship of saints, the ceremonies of the Church, religious vows, indulgences. urged obedience to the Church authorities, confession, communion, fasting, and almsgiving; he censured the faults of the clergy, at times perhaps too sharply, as he felt that they were public and that he must avoid demanding reformation from the laity only. Against the influence of evil spirits he recommended the means of defence which had been in use in the Church during the first centuries-lively faith, prayer, ecclesiastical benedictions, and acts of penance. From 1561-62 he preached about two hundred and ten sermons, besides giving retreats and teaching catechism. In the cathedral, his confessional and the altar at which he said Mass were surrounded by crowds, and alms were placed on the altar. The envy of some of the cathedral clergy was aroused, and Canisius and his companions were accused of usurping the parochial rights. The pope and bishop favoured the Jesuits, but the majority of the chapter opposed them. Canisius was obliged to sign an agreement according to which he retained the pulpit but gave up the right of administering the sacraments in the cathedral.
In 1559 he opened a college in Munich; in 1562 he appeared at Trent as papal theologian. The council was discussing the question whether communion should be administered under both forms to those of the laity who asked for it. Lainez, the general of the Society of Jesus, opposed it unconditionally. Canisius held that the cup might be administered to the Bohemians and to some Catholics whose faith was not very firm. After one month he departed from Trent, but he continued to support the work of the Fathers by urging the bishops to appear at the council, by giving expert opinion regarding the Index and other matters, by reports on the state of public opinion, and on newly-published books. In the spring of 1563 he rendered a specially important service to the Church; the emperor had come to Innsbruck (near Trent), and had summoned thither several scholars, including Canisius, as advisers. Some of these men fomented the displeasure of the emperor with the pope and the cardinals who presided over the council. For months Canisius strove to reconcile him with the Curia. He has been blamed unjustly for communicating to his general and to the pope's representatives some of Ferdinand's plans, which otherwise might have ended contrary to the intention of all concerned in the dissolution of the council and in a new national apostasy. The emperor finally granted all the pope's demands and the council was able to proceed and to end peacefully. All Rome praised Canisius, but soon after he lost favour with Ferdinand and was denounced as disloyal; at this time he also changed his views regarding the giving of the cup to the laity (in which the emperor saw a means of relieving all his difficulties), saying that such a concession would only tend to confuse faithful Catholics and to encourage the disobedience of the recalcitrant.
In 1562 the College of Innsbruck was opened by Canisius, and at that time he acted as confessor to the "Queen" Magdalena (declared Venerable in 1906 by Pius X; daughter of Ferdinand I, who lived with her four sisters at Innsbruck), and as spiritual adviser to her sisters. At their request he sent them a confessor from the society, and, when Magdalena presided over the convent, which she had founded at Hall, he sent her complete directions for attaining Christian perfection. In 1563 he preached at many monasteries in Swabia; in 1564 he sent the first missionaries to Lower Bavaria, and recommended the provincial synod of Salzburg not to allow the cup to the laity, as it had authority to do; his advice, however, was not accepted. In this year Canisius opened a college at Dillingen and assumed, in the name of the order, the administration of the university which had been founded there by Cardinal Truchsess. In 1565 he took part in the Second General Congregation of the order in Rome. While in Rome he visited Philip, son of the Protestant philologist Joachim Camerarius, at that time a prisoner of the Inquisition, and instructed and consoled him. Pius IV sent him as his secret nuncio to deliver the decrees of the Council of Trent to Germany; the pope also commissioned him to urge their enforcement, to ask the Catholic princes to defend the Church at the coming diet, and to negotiate for the founding of colleges and seminaries. Canisius negotiated more or less successfully with the Electors of Mainz and Trier, with the bishops of Augsburg, Würzburg, Osnabrück, Münster, and Paderborn, with the Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, and with the City and University of Cologne; he also visited Nimwegen, preaching there and at other places; his mission, however, was interrupted by the death of the pope. Pius V desired its continuation, but Canisius requested to be relieved; he said that it aroused suspicions of espionage, of arrogance, and of interference in politics (for a detailed account of his mission see "Stimmen aus Maria-Laach", LXXI, 58, 164, 301).
At the Diet of Augsburg (1566), Canisius and other theologians, by order of the pope, gave their services to the cardinal legate Commendone; with the help of his friends he succeeded, although with great difficulty, in persuading the legate not to issue his protest against the religious peace, and thus prevented a new fratricidal war. The Catholic members of the diet accepted the decrees of the council, the designs of the Protestants were frustrated, and from that time a new and vigorous life began for the Catholics in Germany. In the same year Canisius went to Wiesensteig, where he visited and brought back to the Church the Lutheran Count of Helfenstein and his entire countship, and where he prepared for death two witches who had been abandoned by the Lutheran preachers. In 1567 he preached the Lenten sermons in the cathedral of Würzburg, gave instruction in the Franciscan church twice a week to the children and domestics of the town, and discussed the foundling of a Jesuit college at Würzburg with the bishop. Then followed the diocesan synod of Dillingen (at which Canisius was principal adviser of the Bishop of Augsburg), journeys to Würzburg, Mainz, Speyer, and a visit to the Bishop of Strasburg, whom he advised, though unsuccessfully, to take a coadjutor. At Dillingen he received the application of Stanislaus Kostka to enter the Society af Jesus, and sent him with hearty recommendations to the general of the order at Rome. At this time he successfully settled a dispute in the philosophical faculty of the University of Ingolstadt. In 1567 and 1568 he went several times to Innsbruck, where in the name of the general he consulted with the Archduke Ferdinand II and his sisters about the confessors of the archduchesses and about the establishment of a Jesuit house at Hall. In 1569 the general decided to accept the college at Hall.
During Lent of 1568 Canisius preached at Ellwangen, in Würtemberg; from there he went with Cardinal Truchsess to Rome. The Upper German province of the order had elected the provincial as its representative at the meeting of the procurators; this election was illegal, but Canisius was admitted. For months he collected in the libraries of Rome material for a great work which he was preparing. In 1569 he returned to Augsburg and preached Lenten sermons in the Church of St. Mauritius. Having been a provincial for thirteen years (an unusually long time) he was relieved of the office at his own request, and went to Dillingen, where he wrote, catechized, and heard confessions, his respite, however, was short; in 1570 he was obliged again to go to Augsburg. A year latter he was compelled to move to Innsbruck and to accept the office of court preacher to Archduke Ferdinand II. In 1575 Gregory XIII sent him with papal messages to the archduke and to the Duke of Bavaria. When he arrived in Rome to make his report, the Third General Congregation of the order was assembled and, by special favour, Canisius was invited to be present. From this time he was preacher in the parish church of Innsbruck until the Diet of Ratisbon (1576), which he attended as theologian of the cardinal legate Morone. In the following year he supervised at Ingolstadt the printing of an important work, and induced the students of the university to found a sodality of the Blessed Virgin. During Lent, 1578, he preached at the court of Duke William of Bavaria at Landshut. The nuncio Bonhomini desired to have a college of the society at Fribourg; the order at first refused on account of the lack of men, but the pope intervened and, at the end of 1580, Canisius laid the foundation stone. In 1581 he founded a sodality of the Blessed Virgin among the citizens and, soon afterwards, sodalities for women and students; in 1582 schools were opened, and he preached in the parish church and in other places until 1589.
The canton had not been left uninfluenced by the Protestant movement. Canisius worked indefatigably with the provost Peter Schnewly, the Franciscan Johannes Michel, and others, for the revival of religious sentiments amongst the people; since then Fribourg has remained a stronghold of the Catholic Church. In 1584, while on the way to take part in another meeting of the order at Augsburg, he preached at Lucerne and made a pilgrimage to the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin at Einsiedeln. According to his own account, it was then that St. Nicholas, the patron saint of Fribourg, made known to him his desire that Canisius should not leave Fribourg again. Many times the superiors of the order planned to transfer him to another house, but the nuncio, the city council, and the citizens themselves opposed the measure; they would not consent to lose this celebrated and saintly man. The last years of his life he devoted to the instruction of converts, to making spiritual addresses to the brothers of the order, to writing and re-editing books. The city authorities ordered his body to be buried before the high altar of the principal church, the Church of St. Nicolaus, from which they were translated in 1625 to that of St. Michael, the church of the Jesuit College.
Canisius held that to defend the Catholic truths with the pen was just as important as to convert the Hindus. At Rome and Trent he strongly urged the appointment at the council, at the papal court, and in other parts of Italy, of able theologians to write in defence of the Catholic faith. He begged Pius V to send yearly subsidies to the Catholic printers of Germany, and to permit German scholars to edit Roman manuscripts; he induced the city council of Fribourg to erect a printing establishment, and he secured special privileges for printers. He also kept in touch with the chief Catholic printers of his time-Plantin of Antwerp, Cholin of Cologne, and Mayer of Dillingen-and had foreign works of importance reprinted in Germany, for example, the works of Andrada, Fontidonio, and Villalpando in defence of the Council of Trent.
Canisius advised the generals of the order to create a college of authors; urged scholars like Bartholomæus Latomus, Friedrich Staphylus, and Hieronymus Torensis to publish their works; assisted Onofrio Panvinio and the polemic Stanislaus Hosius, reading their manuscripts and correcting proofs; and contributed to the work of his friend Surius on the councils. At his solicitation the "Briefe aus Indien", the first relations of Catholic missioners, were published (Dillingen, 1563-71); "Canisius", wrote the Protestant preacher, Witz, "by this activity gave an impulse which deserves our undivided recognition, indeed which arouses our admiration" ("Petrus Canisius", Vienna, 1897, p. 12).
The latest bibliography of the Society of Jesus devotes thirty-eight quarto pages to a list of the works published by Canisius and their different editions, and it must be added that this list is incomplete. The most important of his works are described below; the asterisk signifies that the work bears the name of Canisius neither on the title page nor in the preface. His chief work is his triple "Catechism". In 1551 King Ferdinand I asked the University of Vienna to write a compendium of Christian doctrine, and Canisius wrote (Vienna, 1555), at first for advanced students, his "Summa doctrinæ christianæ . . . in usum Christianæ pueritiæ", two hundred and eleven questions in five chapters (the first edition appeared without the name of the author, but later all three catechisms bore his name); then a short extract for school children, "Summa . . . ad captum rudiorum accommodata" (Ingolstadt, 1556), was published as an appendix to the "Principia Grammatices"; his catechism for students of the lower and middle grades, "Parvus Catechismus Catholicorum" (later known as "Institutiones christianæ pietatis" or "Catechismus catholicus"), is an extract from the larger catechism, written in the winter of 1557-58. Of the first Latin edition (Cologne, 1558), no copy is known to exist; the German edition appeared at Dillingen, 1560. The "Summa" only received its definite form in the Cologne edition of 1556; it contains two hundred and twenty-two questions, and two thousand quotations from the Scriptures, and about twelve hundred quotations from the Fathers of the Church are inscribed on the margins; later all these quotations were compiled in the original by Peter Busæus, S.J., and appeared in four quarto volumes under the title "Authoritates Sacræ Scripturæ et Sanctorum patrum" etc. (Cologne, 1569-70); in 1557 Johannes Hasius, S.J., published the same work in one large folio volume, entitled "Opus catechisticum", for which Canisius wrote an introduction. The catechism of Canisius is remarkable for its ecclesiastically correct teachings, its clear, positive sentences, its mild and dignified form. It is today recognized as a masterpiece even by non-Catholics, e.g., the historians Ranke, Menzel, Philippson, and the theologians Kawerau, Rouffet, Zerschwitz.
Pius V entrusted Canisius with the confutation of the Centuriators of Magdeburg. Canisius undertook to prove the dishonesty of the centuriators by exposing their treatment of the principal persons in the Gospel-John the Baptist, the Mother of God, the Apostle St. Peter-and published (Dillingen, 1571) his next most important work, "Commentariorum de Verbi Dei corruptelis liber primus: in quo de Sanctissimi Præcursoris Domini Joannis Baptistæ Historia Evangelica . . . pertractatur". Here the confutation of the principal errors of Protestantism is exegetical and historical rather than scholastical; in 1577 "De Maria Virgine incomparabili, et Dei Genitrice sacrosancta, libri quinque" was published at Ingolstadt. Later he united these two works into one book of two volumes, "Commentariorum de Verbi corruptelis" (Ingolstadt, 1583, and later Paris and Lyons); the treatise on St. Peter and his primacy was only begun; the work on the Virgin Mary contains some quotations from the Fathers of the Church that had not been printed previously, and treats of the worship of Mary by the Church. A celebrated theologian of the present day called this work a classic defence of the whole Catholic doctrine about the Blessed Virgin (Scheeben, "Dogmatik", III, 478); in 1543 he published (under the name of Petrus Nouiomagus) "Des erleuchten D. Johannis Tauleri, von eym waren Euangelischen leben, Göttliche Predig. Leren" etc., in which several writings of the Dominican mystic appear in print for the first time. This was the first book published by a Jesuit. "Divi Cyrilli archiepiscopi Alexandrini Opera" (Latin translation, 2 fol. vols., Cologne, 1546); "D. Leonis Papæ huius nominis primi . . . Opera" (Cologne, 1546, later reprinted at Venice, Louvain, and Cologne), Leo is brought forward as a witness for the Catholic teachings and the discipline of the Church against the innovators; "De consolandis ægrotis" (Vienna, 1554), exhortations (Latin, German, and Italian) and prayers, with a preface by Canisius; "Lectiones et Precationes Ecclesiasticæ" (Ingolstadt, 1556), a prayerbook for students, reprinted more than thirty times under the titles of "Epistolæ et Evangelia" etc.; *"Principia grammatices" (Ingolstadt, 1556); Hannibal Codrett's Latin Grammar, adapted for German students by Canisius, reprinted in 1561, 1564 and 1568; *"Ordnung der Letaney von vnser lieben Frawen" [Dillingen (1558)], the first known printing of the Litany of Loreto, the second (Macerata, 1576) was most probably arranged by Canisius; *"Vom abschiedt des Coloquij zu Wormbs" (s. l. a., 1558?).
  • "Ain Christlicher Bericht, was die hailige Christliche Kirch . . . sey" (Dillingen, 1559), translation and preface by Canisius (cf. N. Paulus in "Historischpolit. Blätter", CXXI, 765); "Epistolæ B. Hieronymi . . . selectæ" (Dillingen, 1562), a school edition arranged and prefaced by, Canisius and later reprinted about forty times; *"Hortulus Animæ" (q.v.), a German prayer-book arranged by Canisius (Dillingen, 1563), reprinted later, probably published also in Latin by him. The "Hortuli" were placed later on the Index nisi corrigantur; *"Von der Gesellschaft Jesu Durch. Joannem Albertum Wimpinensem" (Ingolstadt, 1563), a defence of the order against Chemnitz and Zanger, the greater part of which was written by Canisius; "Institutiones, et Exercitamentas Christianæ Pietatis" (Antwerp, 1566), many times reprinted, in which Canisius combined the catechism for the middle grades and the "Lectiones et Precationes ecclesiasticæ" (revised in Rome); "Beicht und Communionbüchlein" [Dillingen, 1567 (?), 1575, 1579, 1582, 1603; Ingolstadt, 1594, etc.]; "Christenliche . . . Predig von den vier Sontagen im Aduent, auch vonn dem heiligen Christag" (Dillingen, 1570).
At the request of Ferdinand II of Tyrol, Canisius supervised the publishing of *"Von dem hoch vnd weitberhümpten Wunderzeichen, so sich . . . auff dem Seefeld . . . zugetragen" (Dillingen, 1580), and wrote a long preface for it; then appeared "Zwey vnd neuntzig Betrachtung vnd Gebett, dess . . . Bruders Clausen von Vnterwalden" (Fribourg, 1586); "Manuale Catholicorum. In usum pie precandi" (Fribourg, 1587); "Zwo . . . Historien . . . Die erste von . . . S. Beato, ersten Prediger in Schweitzerland. Die andere von . . . S. Fridolino, ersten Prediger zu Glaris vnd Seckingen" (Fribourg, 1590): in this, the first of the popular biographies of the saints especially worshipped in Switzerland, Canisius does not give a scholarly essay, but endeavours to strengthen the Catholic Swiss in their faith and arouse their piety; "Notæ in Evangelicas lectiones, quæ per totum annum Dominicis diebus . . . recitantur (Fribourg, 1591), a large quarto volume valuable for sermons and meditations for the clergy; "Miserere, das ist: Der 50. Psalm Davids . . . Gebettsweiss . . . aussgelegt" (Munich, 1594, Ingolstadt, 1594); "Warhafte Histori . . . Von Sanct Moritzen . . . vnd seiner Thebaischen Legion . . . Auch insonderheit von Sanct Vrso" (Fribourg, 1594); *"Catholische Kirchengesäng zum theil vor vnd nach dem Catechismo zum teil sonst durchs Jahr . . . zusingen" (Fribourg, 1596); "Enchiridion Pietatis quo ad precandum Deum instruitur Princeps" (s. l., 1751), dedicated by Canisius in 1592 to the future emperor Ferdinand II (Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie; XIV, 741); "Beati Petri Canisii Exhortationes domesticæ", mostly short sketches, collected and edited by G. Schlosser, S.J. (Roermond, 1876); "Beati Petri Canisii Epistulæ et Acta": 1541-65, edited by O. Braunsberger, S.J. (4 vols., Freiburg im Br., 1896-1905). There still remain unpublished four or five volumes containing eleven hundred and ninety-five letters and regesta written to or by Canisius, and six hundred and twenty-five documents dealing with his labours.
"Peter Canisius", says the Protestant professor of theology, Krüger, "was a noble Jesuit; no blemish stains his character" ("Petrus Canisius" in "Geschichte u. Legende", Giessen, 1898, 10). The principal trait of his character was love for Christ and for his work; he devoted his life to defend, propagate, and strengthen the Church. Hence his devotion to the pope. He did not deny the abuses which existed in Rome; he demanded speedy remedies; but the supreme and full power of the pope over the whole Church, and the infallibility of his teaching as Head of the Church, Canisius championed as vigorously as the Italian and Spanish brothers of the order. He cannot be called an "Episcopalian" or "Semi-Gallican"; his motto was "whoever adheres to the Chair of St. Peter is my man. With Ambrose I desire to follow the Church of Rome in every respect". PIus V wished to make him cardinal. The bishops, Brendel of Mains, Brus of Prague, Pflug of Naumburg, Blarer of Basle, Cromer of Ermland, and Spaur of Brixen, held him in great esteem. St. Francis of Sales sought his advice by letter. He enjoyed the friendship of the most distinguished members of the College of Cardinals-Borromeo, Hosius, Truchsess, Commendone, Morone, Sirlet; of the nuncios Delfino, Portia, Bonhomini and others; of many leading exponents of ecclesiastical learning; and of such prominent men as the Chancellor of the University of Louvain, Ruard Tapper, the provost Martin Eisengrein, Friedrich Staphylus, Franz Sonnius, Martin Rithovius, Wilhelm Lindanus, the imperial vice-chancellors Jacob Jonas and Georg Sigismund Seld, the Bavarian chancellor Simon Thaddaeus Eck, and the Fuggers and Welsers of Augsburg. "Canisius's whole life", writes the Swiss Protestant theologian Gautier, "is animated by the desire to form a generation of devout clerics capable of serving the Church worthily" ("Etude sur la correspondance de Pierre Canisius", Geneva, 1905, p. 46). At Ingolstadt he held disputations and homiletic exercises among the young clerics, and endeavoured to raise the religious and scientific standard of the Georgianum. He collected for and sent pupils to the German College at Rome and provided for pupils who had returned home. He also urged Gregory XIII to make donations and to found similar institutious in Germany; soon papal seminaries were built at Prague, Fulda, Braunsberg, and Dillingen. At Ingolstadt, Innsbruck, Munich, and Vienna schools were built under the guidance of Canisius for the nobility and the poor, the former to educate the clergy of the cathedrals, the latter for the clergy of the lower grades. The reformed ordinances published at that time for the Universities of Cologne, Ingolstadt, and Vienna must be credited in the main to his suggestions.
With apostolic zeal he loved the Society of Jesus; the day of his admission to the order he called his second birthday. Obedience to his superiors was his first rule. As a superior he cared with parental love for the necessities of his subordinates. Shortly before his death he declared that he had never regretted becoming a Jesuit, and recalled the abuses which the opponents of the Church had heaped upon his order and his person. Johann Wigand wrote a vile pamphlet against his "Catechism"; Flacius Illyricus, Johann Gnypheus, and Paul Scheidlich wrote books against it; Melanchthon declared that he defended errors wilfully; Chemnitz called him a cynic; the satirist Fischart scoffed at him; Andreæ Dathen, Gallus, Hesshusen, Osiander, Platzius, Roding, Vergerio, and others wrote vigorous attacks against him; at Prague the Hussites threw stones into the church where he was saying Mass; at Berne he was derided by a Protestant mob. At Easter, 1568, he was obliged to preach in the Cathedral of Würzburg in order to disprove the rumour that he had become a Protestant. Unembittered by all this, he said, "the more our opponents calumniate us, the more we must love them". He requested Catholic authors to advocate the truth with modesty and dignity without scoffing or ridicule. The names of Luther and Melanchthon were never mentioned in his "Catechism". His love for the German people is characteristic; he urged the brothers of the order to practise German diligently, and he liked to hear the German national hymns sung. At his desire St. Ignatius decreed that all the members of the order should offer monthly Masses and prayers for the welfare of Germany and the North. Ever the faithful advocate of the Germans at the Holy See, he obtained clemency for them in questions of ecclesiastical censures, and permission to give extraordinary absolutions and to dispense from the law of fasting. He also wished the Index to be modified that German confessors might be authorized to permit the reading of some books, but in his sermons he warned the faithful to abstain from reading such books without permission. While he was rector of the University of Ingolstadt, a resolution was passed forbidding the use of Protestant textbooks and, at his request, the Duke of Bavaria forbade the importation of books opposed to religion and morals. At Cologne he requested the town council to forbid the printing or sale of books hostile to the Faith or immoral, and in the Tyrol had Archduke Ferdinand II suppress such books. He also advised Bishop Urban of Gurk, the court preacher of Ferdinand I, not to read so many Protestant books, but to study instead the Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. At Nimwegen he searched the libraries of his friends, and burned all heretical books. In the midst of all these cares Canisius remained essentially a man of prayer; he was an ardent advocate of the Rosary and its sodalities. He was also one of the precursors of the modern devotion of the Sacred Heart.
During his lifetime his "Catechism" appeared in more than 200 editions in at least twelve languages. It was one of the works which influenced St. Aloysius Gonzaga to enter the Society of Jesus; it converted, among others, Count Palatine Wolfgang Wilhelm of Neuburg; and as late as the eighteenth century in many places the words "Canisi" and catechism were synonymous. It remained the foundation and pattern for the catechisms printed later. His preaching also had great influence; in 1560 the clergy of the cathedral of Augsburg testified that by his sermons nine hundred persons had been brought back to the Church, and in May, 1562, it was reported the Easter communicants numbered one thousand more than in former years. Canisius induced some of the prominent Fuggers to return to the Church, and converted the leader of the Augsburg Anabaptists. In 1537 the Catholic clergy had been banished from Augsburg by the city council; but after the preaching of Canisius public processions were held, monasteries gained novices, people crowded to the jubilee indulgence, pilgrimages were revived, and frequent Communion again became the rule. After the elections of 1562 there were eighteen Protestants and twenty-seven Catholics on the city council. He received the approbation of Pius IV by a special Brief in 1561. Great services were rendered by Canisius to the Church through the extension of the Society of Jesus; the difficulties were great: lack of novices, insufficient education of some of the younger members, poverty, plague, animosity of the Protestants, jealousy on the part of fellow-Catholics, the interference of princes and city councils. Notwithstanding all this, Canisius introduced the order into Bavaria, Bohemia, Swabia, the Tyrol, and Hungary, and prepared the way in Alsace, the Palatinate, Hesse, and Poland. Even opponents admit that to the Jesuits principally is due the credit of saving a large part of Germany from religious innovation. In this work Canisius was the leader. In many respects Canisius was the product of an age which believed in strange miracles, put witches to death, and had recourse to force against the adherents of another faith; but notwithstanding all this, Johannes Janssen does not hesitate to declare that Canisius was the most prominent and most influential Catholic reformer of the sixteenth century (Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, 15th and 16th editions, IV, p. 406). "Canisius more than any other man", writes A. Chroust, "saved for the Church of Rome the Catholic Germany of to-day" (Deutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, new series, II, 106). It has often been declared that Canisius in many ways resembles St. Boniface, and he is therefore called the second Apostle of Germany. The Protestant professor of theology, Paul Drews, says: "It must be admitted that, from the standpoint of Rome, he deserves the title of Apostle of Germany" ("Petrus Canisius", Halle, 1892, p. 103).
Soon after his death reports spread of the miraculous help obtained by invoking his name. His tomb was visited by pilgrims. The Society of Jesus decided to urge his beatification. The ecclesiastical investigations of his virtues and miracles were at first conducted by the Bishops of Fribourg, Dillingen, and Freising (1625-90); the apostolic proceedings began in 1734, but were interrupted by political and religions disorders. Gregory XVI resumed them about 1833; Pius IX on 17 April, 1864, approved of four of the miracles submitted, and on 20 November, 1869, the solemn beatification took place in St. Peter's at Rome. In connection with this, there appeared between 1864-66 more than thirty different biographies. On the occasion of the tercentenary of his death, Leo XIII issued to the bishops of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland his much-discussed "Epistola Encyclica de memoria sæculari B. Petri Canisii"; the bishops of Switzerland issued a collective pastoral; in numerous places of Europe and in some places in the United States this tercentenary was celebrated and about fifty pamphlets were published. In order to encourage the veneration of Canisius there is published at Fribourg, Switzerland, monthly since 1896, the "Canisius-Stimmen" (in German and French). The infirmary of the College of St. Michael, in which Canisius died, is now a chapel. Vestments and other objects which he used are kept in different houses of the order. The Canisius College at Buffalo possesses precious relics. In the house of Canisius in the Broersstraat at Nimwegen the room is still shown where he was born. Other memorials are: the Canisius statue in one of the public squares of Fribourg, the statue in the cathedral of Augsburg, the Church of the Holy Saviour and the Mother of Sorrows, recently built in his memory in Vienna, and the new Canisius College at Nimwegen. At the twenty-sixth general meeting of German Catholics held at Aachen, 1879, a Canisius society for the religious education of the young was founded. The general prayer, said every Sunday in the churches originated by Canisius, is still in use in the greater part of Germany, and also in many places in Austria and Switzerland. Various portraits of Canisius exist: in the Churches of St. Nicolaus and St. Michael in Fribourg; in the vestry of the Augsburg Cathedral; in the Church of St. Michael at Munich; in the town hall at Nimwegen; in the town hall at Ingolstadt; in the Cistercian monastery at Stams. The woodcut in Pantaleo, "Prosopographia", III (Basle, 1566), is worthless. Copper-plates were produced by Wierx (1619), Custos (1612), Sadeler (1628), Hainzelmann (1693), etc. In the nineteenth century are: Fracassini's painting in the Vatican; Jeckel's steel engraving; Leo Samberger's painting; Steinle's engraving (1886). In most of these pictures Canisius is represented with his catechism and other books, or surrounded by children whom he is instructing. (See CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE; COUNTER-REFORMATION; SOCIETY OF JESUS.)
B.P. Canisii Epist. et Acta, ed. BRAUNSBERGER, (5 vols., Freiburg im Br., 1896-1905) s. v. Confessions and Testamentum; the Beatification Acts (some printed as manuscripts in only a few copies, the others unprinted); Mon. Hist. Societatis Jesu: Chronicon Polanci, Epistola quadrimestres mittæ etc., so far about thirty volumes (Madrid. 1894--). Of the complete biographies, the following are the most important: RADERUS, De Vita Canisii (Munich, 1614); SACCHINUS, De vita et rebus gestis P. Petri Canisii (Ingolstadt, 1616); BOERO, Vita del Beato Pietro Canisio (Rome, 1864); RIESS, Der selige Petrus Canisius (Freiburg, 1865); LE BACHELET in Dict. de Théol. Cath. (Paris, 1905), s. v. Canisius. Biographies, in German: by PRATISS (Vienna, 1865), MARCOUR (Freiburg, 1881), PFÜLF (Einsiedeln, 1897), MEHLER (Ratisbon, 1897); in Latin by PYTHON (Munich, 1710); in French by DORIGNY (Paris, 1707), SÉGUIN (Paris, 1864), BOVET (Fribourg, 1865, 1881), DE BERTIGNY (Fribourg, 1865), MICHEL (Lille, 1897); in Dutch by DE SMIDT (Antwerp, 1652), SÉGUIN-ALLARD (Nimwegen, 1897); in Italian by FULIGIATTI (Rome, 1649), ODDI (Naples, 1755); in Spanish by NIEREMBERG (Madrid, 1633), GARCIA (Madrid, 1865). Cf. also KROSS, Der selige Petrus Canisius in Oesterreich (Vienna, 1898), from manuscript sources; REISER, B. Petrus Canisius als Katechet (Mainz, 1882); ALLARD, Canisiana, from the Dutch Studien (Utrecht, 1898-99); BRAUNSBERGER, Entstehung u. erste Entwicklung d. Katechismen d. seligen Petrus Canisius (Freiburg, 1893); SOMMERVOGEL, Bibliothèque de la C. de J. (new ed., Brussels and Paris, 1890-1900), II, 617-88; VIII, 1974-83; DUHR, Gesch. d. Jesuiten in den Länden deutscher Zunge, I (Freiburg, 1907); various Nuntiature Reports of Germany and Switzerland published by STEINHERZ, SCHELLHASS, HANSEN, STEFFENS-REINHARDT, etc.
OTTO BRAUNSBERGER (Catholic Encycopedia)