Saturday 29 September 2007

Εν τουτο νικα: in this sign conquer...

Εν τουτο νικα

"in this conquer" in ancient Greek:
the Emperor Constantine the Great saw a vision of the Cross before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312AD

This is a book of stories about Catholic laymen - that much neglected and often maligned group in today's supposedly "renewed" and "in touch" circles in the Catholic Church.

It's a collection of stories about men doing manly things that women don't usually do and that Feminists usually hate.

So, therefore, apart from the unfortunate inability of its American authors and publishers to spell the Queen's English properly (and, remember, folks, the English invented English!), it is a good book.

And don't worry, ladies, there's another book, from the same publishers, called Amazing Grace for Mothers in which ladies do heroic things that men don't usually do.

In the Catholic Church we are not afraid for men to be men and women to be women. Indeed, since that's how God made us, we're proud of the fact.

Here's what Christine Trollinger says about the Dad she so obviously loves:

"During the winding down of the war against Japan, my Dad served in the Pacific. One night, he drew night patrol and was assigned to scout for enemy troop movements in the rough jungle terrain. He had just climbed a tree to conceal himself when, seemingly out of nowhere, the entire area beneath the tree was filled with Japanese soldiers. Dad found himself trapped in the treetop for hours, as the enemy decided to camp right beneath the tree.

Barely able to breathe for fear of giving himself away his position, Dad said he spent the time praying for God' protection and asking God to help him. Every prayer he had ever learned swirled through his mind and heart as he waited silently in that treetop. He prayed not to be discovered. And, as time went on, he began to pray for the enemy soliders beneath the tree. He said he could see in his mind's eye our family back home, and he imagined these soldiers missing their loved ones, too.

Up close, the enemy soldiers looked very much like the men in his own unit. While their physical appearance was different and he could not understand their language, he knew that they were God's children, too. They were all men caught up in a war, whch had brought them all to serve their respective countries.

They fought for what they thought was right according to their upbringing and nationality - who might never see their loved ones again should they perish in the jungles of war. As he prayed and watched them, they sat and relaxed around the jungle clearing, laughing and sharing letters and photos from back home, just as my father and his fellow soldiers often did.

As night began to give way to the first light of the morning, my father accepted that in the end he would probably not be returning home. The odds were stacked against him. He knew that he could not remain motionless and undetected for much longer. Having made his peace with God, my Dad began his final silent prayer. He prayed for the men beneath him and for their families and for courage for himself.

Just as my father gave everything over to our Father in heaven and made the sign of the Cross, an enemy soldier spotted his hiding place in the treetop. As my father signed himself with the Cross, their eyes locked. To my Dad's utter amazement, the enemy soldier silently made the sign of the Cross himself, and put his finger to his lips as if to say, 'Be still, my brother, I shall not betray you'. Almost in that very instant, the enemy soldiers began to move out as silently and as quickly as they had arrived.

My Dad never ceased thanking God for his protection that day. And Dad always remembered to pray for his brother in Christ - and enemy solider, whose name he never knew - who had spared his life and surely loved God, too."

This was the victory of the Holy Cross: a victory that made friends of enemies, through the recognition of the sign of the Holy Sacrifice of Christ, the God Who became a vanquished slave and victim for our sakes.

How utterly different from the pagan idea of victory and conquest!

Pagans of old used to consider that defeating their enemies was not enough. They had also to demolish them completely, to immolate them and annihilate them, even, in some cases, by eating their flesh as cannibals so that nothing remained of them. Modern pagans, like the Nazis, tried to immolate and annihilate their enemies, too, as they did with the Jews. The late President Idi Amin of Uganda used to eat his enemies as did the New Guinea pagans of the Kukukuku tribe, the last of the pagan cannibals of that country.

The conquests of our Lord Jesus Christ are entirely the opposite.

He gives us His own flesh to eat mysteriously in the Sacrament of the Altar in the form of food, with the appearance of bread and wine, even annihilating Himself physically and appearing as humble creatures of bread and wine, so that we need never eat the flesh of our enemies, whether figuratively or really, as the gross pagans did and do.

Likewise, His conquests of his enemies and our conquests, too, consist in overcoming them by making them our friends.

This, surely, is the most glorious conquest of all, for neither side loses but, equally, one's enemy is totally vanquished and is no more, because he is now rather one's friend and brother.

What a beautiful conquest! What a glorious victory - none greater can there be!

This is the best and most satisfying conquest of all: when two enemies overcome enmity and, in the name of Christ and His Holy Cross, become friends.

That, truly, makes the Holy Cross a sign that conquers most fully and completely.

In this sign, therefore, let us conquer, and remember what that the Emperor Constantine saw in the sky before he began the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christ:

Εν τουτο νικα


Monday 24 September 2007

Feast of our Lady of Walsingham

Today is the Feast of our Lady of Walsingham.

In 1061, our Lady appeared to the Lady Richeldis de Faverches, the widow of the Lord of the Manor of Walsingham Parva ("Little Walsingham").

In this vision she was taken by Mary to be shown the Holy House in Nazareth where the Archangel St Gabriel had announced to her that she would be the mother of the Saviour and thus the Mother of God. The real Holy House itself was later taken from Nazareth to Italy, coming to rest eventually where it now is in Loreto.

Mary asked the Lady Richeldis to build an exact replica of the Holy House in Walsingham. The vision was repeated three times and the materials given by Richeldis were finally constructed miraculously one night into the replica Holy House while she kept a vigil of prayer. The shrine was later passed down to her son, Geoffrey de Faverches. The shrine came to be called "England's Nazareth".

Geoffrey left instructions for the building of a Priory in Walsingham. The Priory passed into the care of Augustinian Canons sometime between 1146 and 1174.

The Shrine grew enormously due to receiving visits and support from Kings Henry III, Edward II, Edward III, Henry IV, Edward IV, Henry VII and Henry VIII.

It became one of the 4 great shrines of Latin Christendom with Rome, Santiago de Compostella and Monte Gargano in Italy (where the Archangel St Michael had appeared in a cave).

Throughout the Middle Ages it was England's greatest national shrine and great men like St Thomas More and Erasmus of Rotterdam visited it and prayed.

King Henry VIII came there and followed the custom of removing shoes at the "Slipper chapel" (now the Roman Catholic shrine) and walking the mile into Little Walsingham, barefoot in the snow, to the Augustinian Priory that stood over the shrine of the replica Holy House of Nazareth built by the Lady Richeldis.

However, Henry went to the bad, seduced by the Enemy of human nature, Satan, and by the flesh, worldly wealth and the spirit of power which hates the sublime virtue of obedience.

After the Pope would not agree to his putting away Katherine of Aragon, his true Queen, he raged and fumed and in his lust-filled arrogance repudiated the Pope and instigated the English Protestant Reformation. He dismantled the monasteries of England which owned over 1/3rd of all land and were, among other things a huge private, religious welfare system for the poor, sick and elderly.

The system of social welfare built on the religious houses was a true "private finance intitiative" of the best sort but on a grand scale and built upon charity and love rather than self-interest and greed.

Indeed, it shews that private wealth can be used for public good without even the slightest hint of Socialism or Communism, those materialistic counterfeits of true love and charity. The essential ingredient is always religion, charity and love. These are things which the State cannot compel. They must come from the heart and from the Grace of God. Medieval men gave willingly and generously to the monasteries so that a huge welfare network existed all over the country based not upon tight-fisted, rule-obsessed, faceless, heartless bureaucracy but upon the sacrifice of Christians and of devout religious and upon the love of God and of our neighbour, just as the Gospel teaches us.

This was all smashed by the odious Henry.

He raided this enormous patrimony of the poor and gave it to himself and his friends who enriched themselves to a degree which, at that time, was beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.

So began the huge disparity between rich and poor in England and the establishment of a wide number of immensely rich and recently ennobled families, like the Russell Earls of Bedford and many others, whose descendants became the great Whigs and so-called "Liberals" of England. Whenever their position of monumental wealth and privilege was threatened, they clandestinely fomented anti-Catholic and "No Popery" riots to distract the people from the real causes for their grinding poverty and oppression.

These same Whigs and "Liberals" conspired against their true king and secured the exile of the Catholic Stuarts. They were responsible for the Penal Laws against Catholics, one of the most disgracefully oppressive codes ever introduced into law in any country of Europe. Their constant, and ill-founded, fear was that a Catholic government in England might re-take their ill-gotten wealth from them and restore it to the monasteries and the poor from whom these Whigs and "Liberals" had first stolen it. Actually, as Catholic Queen Mary and Catholic King James II had made clear, that was not going to happen becuase it was, by then, virtually impossible to restore everything. It is easy to destroy but to build is always more difficult, time-consuming and painstaking.

The only thing these supposed "Liberals" were liberal with was the money of the poor which they stole! Liberality for them meant grinding and crushing the poor so that they, the "Liberals", could pamper themselves!

They wanted "freedom" from the Pope so that they did not have to obey the laws of the Church forbidding them from killing, grinding, robbing and oppressing the poor. In return, they demanded the most slavish obedience from the poor and stole every ounce of freedom from them.

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Pharisees! Whited sepulchres! How can you be saved! So might our Lord have addressed these most hypocritical of "Christians".

Throughout this period, as William Cobbett, himself a Protestant author and Member of Parliament, shews in his book The History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, the people of England were impoverished to a degree unheard ever before or since. As he further shews, the Parliamentary Speenhamland reports evidence the fact that the poor were, in some parts of late 18th century England, living on nothing but cold water and potatoes!

William Cobbett MP, Farnham-born farmer, Anglican defender of the poor and of Catholic England

He contrasts this with the far greater wealth and comfort which their ancestors had enjoyed in medieval times under the Catholic monarchs, providing statistical evidence to prove the same.

Henry VIII's Commissioners went to Walsingham and its Priory and, as with all the other monasteries and religious houses, despoiled them, robbed and stole from them and threw the religious out, leaving the poor to starve.

The booty was, as ever, to go to the rich to make them richer at the expense of the poor. It was an unheard of thing in the whole of Christendom: shameless and diabolical to a simply incredible degree.

This was truly the "revolt of the rich" as Chesterton called it. It was as if the rich of today were to raid the Department of Work and Pensions and several other departments of state and keep all the money for themselves. This was made all the worse because they were robbing, in acts of unprecedented blasphemy, holy sanctuaries dedicated to God.

The robbing of the great shrine of Walsingham signified this total calamity for the people of England and Ireland.

This calamity became so acute that, by the end of the 18th century, the people were in a state of terror, misery or drunken stupefaction (to "drown their sorrows") and there were over 200 capital offences readily enforced by anti-Catholic tyrants like Lord Chancellor Eldon but mitigated by men of humanity like Lord Chancellor Mansfield. One might be transported to Australia merely for stealing 6d to feed one's starving family and in Ireland things were even worse. However, juries began to devalue stolen goods so that they fell below the capital offence value and good judges, like Mansfield, winked at this.

William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield had been raised a Jacobite, coming as he did from the famous Scottish Jacobite family of Murray, the men who provided Bonnie Prince Charlie with a whole brigade of men, the Athollmen under Lord George Murray and the Jacobite Duke of Atholl. After the failure of the Jacobite uprising, he was later associated with the Tories. He practically codified the English law of his time and famously founded English mercantile law using his wide knowledge of foreign and Roman law. He famously gave judgment in Somersett's case which declared slavery illegal in England.

Mansfield's house was burnt down by the anti-Catholic mob in the Gordon riots, egged on by the same anti-Catholic Whigs who always did so. But the mob went too far, as mobs often do. A priceless collection of Law Reports with Mansfield's detailed marginal notes was burned by the mob. Mansfield was attacked because a decision of his had prevented a Catholic priest from being unfairly persecuted.

Lord George Gordon, from the once Catholic Scots family of the Dukes of Huntly, who had fomented the riots, escaped but later came back to face trial where he was given only a jail sentence. In prison he abandoned Protestant Christianity and became a Jew.

John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon was of opposite character to Mansfield and much lampooned by Charles Dickens. No legislator — his one aim in politics was to keep in office, and maintain things as he found them, almost the only laws he helped to pass were laws for popular coercion. For nearly forty years he fought against every improvement in law or in the Constitution, calling God to witness, on the smallest proposal of reform, that he foresaw from it the downfall of his country. Without any political principles, properly so called, and without interest in or knowledge of foreign affairs, he maintained himself and his party in power for an unprecedented period in virtue of his two great political properties of zeal against every species of reform, and zeal against Roman Catholics. As a judge he was a by-word for delay and injustice. He is fittingly portrayed in Dicken's Bleak House in which the never-ending case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce ends with judgment having been so long delayed by Eldon that the estate is all eaten up by lawyers' fees with nothing left for the children of the estate.

Our Lady had her revenge, however, and, in a wonderful reversal, the present John Scott, 5th Earl of Eldon, is a convert to Roman Catholicism!

The calamity of England had, however, been further secured by the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1688/9 of the Protestant Whigs and "Liberals" when they finally excluded the Catholic king, James II and VII, from the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland because he had sought to relieve the sufferings of the people by easing the Penal Laws.

The "Revolution" had been achieved by the treachery of inviting the Dutch Stadhouder, Prince William of Orange, to invade. The so-called Bill of Rights which was said to secure the freedoms and rights of the English people only did so for the rich middle and upper classes. The poor were as destitute as ever. It was as hollow a piece of shameless hypocrisy as ever was devised by men of politics since it spoke of noble things whilst they were simultaneously being savagely denied to all but the rich and powerful. It was really designed to allow the rich Whigs and their allies to bolster their power against the King and the State so that they could go on enjoying their own personal wealth and freedoms and not be troubled by laws giving any rights to the poor and the people such as previous kings, like James II, had tried to obtain.

Such was the world of vile corruption, villainy, sin and oppression that was ushered in by the Protestant Reformation, the smashing of the monasteries, the murder of priests and religious and the sack and pillage of the great shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

But our Lady again had her just revenge and it was a representative of that same oppressive Church of England, now a virtual new creation following the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, one Fr Alfred Hope Patton, who, in the 1920s, restored the shrine creating a new statue based upon the old medieval seal of the old Priory.

In fact, the Catholic Church had acquired the old "Slipper chapel" and had re-established the shrine in 1897 but the Church of England itself, through Fr Hope Patton, re-built a replica of the Holy House and housed an Anglican shrine around it.

Now both Catholic and Anglican pilgrims visit the shrine in large numbers throughout the year.

The old seal of the former Priory of Walsingham

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us!


Sunday 23 September 2007

Henry IX and I, King and Cardinal: the Royal Stuart Bicentenary Requiem

Setting the standard for all future Requiems and Solemn Masses!

This was the Solemn Pontifical Requiem for Prince Henry Benedict Stuart, the Cardinal Duke of York and, by right, King Henry IX of England and I of Scotland and Ireland.

The pontificating bishop was Bishop Bernard Longley, titular Bishop of Zarna, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster supported by an all-star cast of clergy familiar with the traditional Roman rite, including the preacher and Subdeacon, Fr Nicholas Schofield, Honorary Chaplain to the Royal Stuart Society which sponsored the whole event.

On the right of the picture is Fr Bede Rowe who is such a superlative amateur milliner (hat-maker) that he made the Cardinal's galero that sits on top of the catafalque in the middle of the sanctuary. What an outstanding feat of hat-making!

Here is a close up of Fr Bede with his superb galero:

The galero was worn by cardinals in the Middle Ages and gradually added more and more tassels and then was no longer worn. It was worn at the creation of a cardinal by the Pope and, after the death of the recipient, it was hung over his tomb until it disintegrated to remind the people of the transitory nature of fame in this life.

The Requiem took place in the Conventual church of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta (founded in 1099 and later known as the Knights Hospitaller). This is not - as some wrongly call it - a "hospital chapel". This is the Conventual church of an ancient religious order, older than the Franciscans and Dominicans and most other religious orders in the Church - only the Benedictines and Augustinians are older.

Here, below, is the church prepared for the Requiem.

The catafalque is in the middle of the Sanctuary, standing on a black carpet. Black hangings are attached to a coronet suspended from the cupola windows to match the black altar frontal and black vestments used in the old rite for Requiems and funerals. Six candlesticks stand guard by the catafalque. The arms of the Cardinal-King are displayed attached to the altar pillars. In the Order flag-stand are seen the papal flag, the flag of the Order and the Union flag.

This latter has been, since 1801 and the union with Ireland, the flag of the United Kingdom and Great Britain. The Stuart monarchy did not use it but only the pre-1801 Union flag which did not have the red Saltire of St Patrick and looked like this:

Here below is the catafalque closer up. At the front of it, placed on a red cushion, are representations of the Order of the Garter regalia but of the type used by the Stuarts. The Stuart Garter star was diamond-encrusted which the Hanoverian Protestants replaced with cut metal only. The Stuart Garter sash was a lighter blue, the Hanoverians changing to a darker colour to distinguish themselves from the Catholic Stuarts. The Garter collar with the pendant image of St George killing the dragon, and the Garter itself with its famous motto, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense, are also represented.

The motto means "evil be to him who thinks evil of it" and refers to the chivalrous incident by which the Order of Knights of the Garter was initiated. King Edward III about 1348, whilst dancing at Eltham Palace, picked up the garter of the Countess of Salisbury which caused some sniggering as if there were some impropriety. The King, seeing this, said the words that are now the Order's motto, as if to mean "if you think ill of this lady's reputation assuming she lost her garter through improper behaviour, then evil be to you". So the Order was founded upon the chivalrous defence of a lady's honour by the King himself, a Catholic king.

Since St George had become the Protector of the English Realm, through his having inspired King Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades, King Edward dedicated his new order of Knighthood to that warrior saint.

Even today the Order of the Garter is still given by the Monarch in the way it has always been given, in the name of "God, our Lady and St George".

Draped on the catafalque is a representation of the Royal parliamentary mantle which is burgundy-coloured with an ermine cape. At the altar end is the galero sitting on top of the cappa magna of a cardinal, the long scarlet train that is worn on solemn occasions.

In the middle of the catafalque on a white cushion sits a mitra pretiosa or precious mitre. At a Requiem the pontificating bishop wears a simple white mitre, not a precious mitre.

Below, Fr Nicholas Schofield preaches the sermon about the Cardinal-King. The text of the sermon is on his website at

Below, in their stalls sit the Knights of Malta, praying and singing the Dies Irae alternately with the schola of some 23 singers. The schola sang from behind the altar which produced a wonderful effect as of hidden angels pouring forth chant and polyphony for the soul of the Cardinal-King and the deceased members of his family.

Here below the Bishop performs the Absolutions. As the schola sings the Libera Me the Bishop blesses the catafalque with lustral water and then incense.

The Bishop then processes out, preceded by the clergy and servers with his mitre-bearer and other servers behind, imparting his blessing as he goes.

Below is a representation of the funeral of Prince Henry's mother, Queen Maria Clementina, the daughter of King Jan III Sobieksi of Poland-Lithuania.
Finally, here is the portrait of the Cardinal-King hanging in the Scots College in Rome, where Scottish seminarians are trained for the priesthood.

Thus was appropriately celebrated the memory of the Head of the Royal House of Stuart and rightful King over the Dowry of Mary, England, the Crown of Mary, Scotland, and the blessed isle of St Patrick, Ireland, the last of the Royal name of Stuart that had ruled in Scotland for so long and which later came to be the ruling dynasty of the British isles, the last Catholic dynasty of these islands.

The Stuart line, happily, continues and, having passed down through various generations, now rests with HRH Prince Francis, Duke of Bavaria.

His brother, Duke Max Emmanuel in Bavaria, will succeed and thereafter the daughter of Duke Max, Princess Sophie of Bavaria, now Her Serene Highness, Princess of Liechtenstein after her marriage to HSH Prince Alois, the heir of the very Catholic princely line of Liechtenstein. Appropriately, Prince Alois was educated at the Royal Miltiary Academy Sandhurst, Britain's military academy, and his eldest child was, again appropriately, born in London.

Here is a portrait of the Princess with her husband at the 200th anniversary of the Principality of Liechtenstein which was acquired by the Liechtenstein family when they were a substantial land-owning noble family in Austria, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. They held Liechtenstein directly (unmittelbar) from the Holy Roman Emperor and so thereby qualified to sit independently in the Reichstag (Imperial Diet), the Parliament of the Holy Roman Empire (not to be confused with the later Parliament of the same name in the Protestant German Empire). They were great friends and honoured courtiers of the Habsburg Roman Emperors. However, all their lands, save Liechtenstein, were later seized by the Communists and they now head only the Principality which is still technically a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, the last such fief in Europe.

HSH Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein, lineal successor of the Royal Stuart line, and her husband, HSH Prince Alois, the heir apparent to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

St George, St Andrew, St David and St Patrick, pray for us!


Thursday 20 September 2007

The Feast of St Eustace, patron of hunters

Today, 20 September, is the Feast day of St Eustace the patron saint of hunters.

Scroll down to earlier post to see more detail about him and the other hunting saint, St Hubert.

St Eustace, pray for us!

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Bicentenary Pontifical Requiem for the Cardinal Duke of York

Henry Benedict Stuart
Prince and Duke of York
Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia and Velletri
Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati
Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church
Head of the Royal House of Stuart

Solemn Pontifical Requiem
for the Bicentenary of his death


Saturday, 22nd September 2007

Conventual Church of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta

The Ordinary of this Requiem Mass is sung in the traditional Roman rite and is set to music by Giovanni Francesco Anerio (1657-1630), a Renaissance composer of the Roman school.

The Sequence, Dies Irae, is sung in chant and polyphony, alternately with the Choir.

Celebrant: The Rt Revd Bernard Longley, Titular Bishop of Zarna, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster

Assistant Priest: The Revd Andrew Wadsworth, Magistral Chaplain, Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Deacon: The Revd Dr Laurence Hemming

Subdeacon: The Revd Nicholas Schofield

Preacher: The Revd Nicholas Schofield, Hon Roman Catholic Chaplain to the Royal Stuart Society

Master of Ceremonies: Mr Duncan Gallie, Vice-Chancellor, Grand Priory of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The Schola is directed by Mr Eoghain Murphy.

Sunday 16 September 2007

The Muslim Sack of Rome and St Peter's in 846 AD

Rome was sacked by Muslims in 846 AD during the great conquests of Islam after the time of Mohammed.

During the 8th and 9th centuries, the Muslim Arabs (then called Saracens in Europe) were rapaciously invading Christendom through Southern Italy which they succeeded in conquering by fire, murder, rapine and the sword. Sailing from newly acquired bases in North Africa which they had just stolen from the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire, the had conquered Sicily and were now bent upon seizing the rest of the peninsula.

They had earlier been rebuffed in France in 732 by King Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, but they had got as far as Tours in Nothern France. King Charles was the first to halt their seemingly inexorable advance. Thereafter they retired to Spain and parts of Southern France and settled. They retained their hold on what had once been Catholic Visigothic Spain for the next 800 years! They were not finally ejected from Christian Spain until 1491 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

Under Pope Paschal I (817-824), the relics of the holy martyrs were concealed in the walls of the city of Rome. When Rome was sacked, Paschal's careful precautions did not prevent the wholesale spoliation and robbery of Basilica of Saint Peter itself, nor, indeed, of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul's outside the Walls), because they both lay outside the walls of the city of Rome.

Later, a second wall was constructed on the other side of the Tiber from the main city area. It was constructed by order of Pope Leo IV and so this enclosure was called the Leonine City.

The Islamic conquest and domination of Sicily, as well as parts of southern Italy began in the 7th century after the foundation of Islam and the attempt by the Muslim leaders to conquer the world.

By Koranic tradition, Islam makes its attempts to re-conquer the world in the 7th or 8th decade of every century and does not stop until it is halted by force. When stopped it generally lies low until the 7th or 8th decade of the next century when it then makes another attempt at world domination.

How, then, can it call itself a religion of peace? It does so because it means by peace the eventual peace that will, it says, be the consequence of the conquest of the world for Islam. In the meantime, however, it is war.

Islam first attacked Sicily (then part of the Eastern Roman Empire) in 652 AD when Syrian Arabs under Mu’auia ibn-Hodeig invaded.

The Eastern Roman Imperial Exarch of Ravenna, Olympius, then took ship to oust the invaders but the invading Arabs managed to escape back to Syria with a huge treasure trove of pillaged riches.

Next, in 669, the invading Muslim Arabs came in 200 ships from Alexandria (once the greatest Christian city in the Middle East) and attacked Syracuse, once again escaping with a mountain of rich booty stripped from the churches, palaces and homes of the Christian people.

The invading Muslims, when they first attacked Alexandria, coming across the library of the University of Alexandria which was one of the greatest in the world, took no heed of the great wealth of learning contained therein, including priceless collections of ancient Greek, Roman and Hebrew texts, and burnt the whole library.

Thus it was that so many ancient Greek and Roman texts were lost to the world forever. And yet Western scholars continue to peddle the lie that Islam safely preserved the Greek and Roman texts. It is true that some were later preserved but a massive corpus was permanently destroyed by the burning of the Alexandrian library.

After the Umayyad conquest of Africa (completed by about 700), Muslim fleets repeatedly attacked the coast of Sicily in 703, 728, 729, 730, 731, 733 and 734, looting, sacking and pillaging at every turn.

The Christians of Roman Christendom were taken completely by surprise by these attacks since they had no contest with Islam at that time and had done nothing to merit such unwarranted and merciless attacks by the Muslim raiders.

An expeditionary force was launched in 740 with the aim of conquering Christendom for Islam. The Muslim princes Habib and his son, Abdurrahman, set out to conquer the whole Italian peninsula, having discovered the Christians unprepared for invasion, and they would probably have succeeded in doing so but for a revolt in Tunisia by the Berbers which they had to return and deal with.

A treaty was signed between the Eastern Empire and Ibrahim I ibn al-Aghlab, Emir of Ifriqiya in 805 but did not prevent attacks from continuing elsewhere in Italy. Ibrahim's son, Abdallah I, sent an invasion force to conquer Sicily in 812 and he, despite some reverses, managed to conquer Lampedusa.

Thereafter the conquest of Sicily by Al-Aghlab Abu Ibrahim proceeded with rapidity.

He was succeeded by Abbas ibn-Fadhl, a savage warrior who ravaged lands still under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire capturing Castrogiovanni in 859. All the Christian survivors from that fortress were executed, and women and children were sold as slaves in Palermo. The Eastern Roman Emperor tried to aid the stricken Christians but was defeated by Abbas. Further defeats followed successively for the Eastern Romans.

Syracuse finally fell in 877 AD to Jafar ibn-Muhammad who then went on to attack Greece and Malta and the death of the Eastern Roman Emperor, Basil I, in 886, was followed by attacks on Calabria and a further defeat for the imperial army. Reggio di Calabria fell in 901 and Taromina, the last Byzantine stronghold in Sicily fell in 902.

The whole of Southern Italy was now in Muslim hands and Islam was poised to invade the rest of Christendom.


Friday 14 September 2007

"Faithful Cross above all others, one and only noble tree": the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Grand Restoration of the Roman rite

CRUX fidelis, inter omnes, arbor una nobilis;
Nulla talem silva profert,
Flore, fronde, germine.
Dulce lignum, dulci clavos, dulce pondus sustinens!

FAITHFUL Cross! Above all other,
One and only noble Tree!
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thy peers may be;
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron!Sweetest Weight is hung on thee!

So for centuries has been sung the song composed by Venantius Forntunatus (530-609) extolling the Triumph of the Cross.

And never more so than today, the Feast which recalls the return of the True Cross to Jersualem following its recapture from the pagan Persians by the Roman Emperor in the East, Emperor Heraclius.

But today is also the triumphal day in which our Holy Father, Pope Benendict XVI, restored to the Roman Church the use of the ancient and noble Roman rite of our ancestors.

All hail Pope Benedict XVI, the restorer of the ancient Roman rites!

Yes, today is the day when, by his own motion - motu proprio - Pope Benedict XVI has restored to the Roman Church its ancient rites. In so doing he has placed himself in the same hallowed tradition of all those popes, among his predecessors, who always sought to preserve the ancient rites of the Church, as all popes until 1970, did.

For this alone, he will go down to history as a great pope. But he has many other great virtues which posterity will also recall and hallow.

He has chosen a very significant and memorable day to make his motu proprio, called Summorum Pontificum, become effective.

It is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross upon which day we sing the praises of the Holy Cross with such ancient hymns as Vexilla Regis and Crux Fidelis.

Venantius Fortunatus wrote both hymns, the latter for a procession that brought a part of the true Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570. This hymn is used on Good Friday during the Adoration of the Cross and in the Breviary during Holy Week and on feasts of the Cross like today.

Ancient legend is hinted at in the second verse of this hymn. According to this tradition, the wood of the Cross upon which Christ was crucified was taken from that tree which was the source of the fruit of the fall in the Garden of Eden. When Adam died, the legend states, Seth obtained from the Cherubim guarding the Garden a branch of the tree from which Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Seth planted this branch at Golgotha (the place of the skull), which is so named because Adam was buried there. As time went on, the Ark of the Covenant, the pole upon which the bronze serpent was lifted, and other items were made from this tree.

Eventually the Holy Cross was made from it and our Lord crucified thereon upon Golgotha directly over the tomb of Adam so that the Precious Blood of Christ, seeping through cracks, penetrated into the mausoleum of Adam beneath and fell upon the very skull of Adam to symbolise that the Sin of Adam had now been atoned for by the Crucifixion.

In the pre-1955 Roman Calendar, the Finding of the True Cross (Inventio Crucis) was celebrated on 3 May to commemorate that day when the Empress St Helena, daughter of a British king and mother of the Emperor Constantine, found the True Cross after long searching for it among the wells and cisterns of Jerusalem.

The British born Roman Empress St Helena finds the True Cross

The True Cross was set up and a Basilica built to house it for posterity.

3 centuries later, the pagan, fire-worshipping Persians (not yet Muslim), under King Chosroes II, attacked Jerusalem and took away the precious relic, the True Cross.

The Roman Emperor Heraclius, then regining, swore to recover it and warred against the Persians. He was on the point of being defeated himself when an internal dispute arose within Persia which threatened Chosroes II and the distraction gave Heraclius his chance. He soundly defeated Chosroes in 629 and recovered the True Cross.

This was seen as an answer to prayer by all at the time.

When Heraclius returned to Jerusalem to restore the True Cross he carried it himself, as had our Lord, intending to process along the Via Dolorosa in his gorgeous imperial robes. But when he arrived at the gate of Jerusalem he was frozen to the spot and could not move. All were puzzled and eventually the Patriarch of Jerusalem suggested that the Emperor divest himself of his imperial robes. The Emperor did more and stripped himself to little more than the seamless garment that Christ Himself had worn to carry His Cross.

At once the Emperor found himself able to proceed and so he continued until he was able to retored the Cross to its rightful place in the Basilica upon Golgotha, walking barefoot in a single shift all along the way to the great edification of the people of Jerusalem, his subjects.

Ever after that day, 14 September, was celebrated with great ceremony - nearly as much as Easter and Pentecost - as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Exaltatio Crucis).

The Roman Emperor Heraclius who restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in 629AD

Now our Holy Father has chosen this most memorable and triumphant of days to restore to us the glory of the ancient Roman rite which the Roman emperors of old fought and died to protect and preserve and which countless saints and martyrs gave their lives for.

Fulget Crucis mysterium,
Qua vita mortem pertulit,
Et morte vitam protulit.

Abroad the Regal Banners fly,
Now shines the Cross's mystery;
Upon it Life did death endure,
And yet by death did life procure.

In hac triumpha gloria
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.

Hail, Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
In this triumphant glorious time,
Improve religious souls in grace,
The sins of criminals efface.

On Good Friday the second line reads "Now in this mournful Passion time" but on the Feast of the Cross this is replaced by "in hac triumpha gloria" - in the glory of this triumph!

Triumph, indeed, thanks to our beloved Holy Father now gloriously reigning!

St Helena, pray for us!

True Cross, protect us!


Tuesday 11 September 2007

"I came, I saw, God conquered!": the Holy Name of Mary, the Battle of Vienna and the real significance of 9/11

After the loss of the Holy Land, the Eastern Roman Empire and control of the Mediterranean, Christendom was in constant danger of being overwhelmed by the Muslim Turks and the Protestant Reformation further weakened the defences.

Moreover, Catholic Christendom was fighting, now, on two fronts against both Muslim and Protestant and might, at any time, be swept away altogether. Particular determination, tenacity and courage were now needed more than ever from the defenders of Christendom.

Fortunately, courage was not lacking.

In September 1529, after defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs, the Ottoman Turks and their allies laid siege to Vienna – the famous “Siege of Vienna” of 1529. After a tremendous struggle the Austrians, under the 70-year-old Count Nicholas von Salm, were finally victorious, although Salm himself was killed during the siege.

On 7 October 1571, the Ottoman Turks had seized the opportunity to launch a vast fleet to conquer as much of Christendom as they could conquer. Almost miraculously, they were defeated at Lepanto by the combined Christian fleets under the command of Grand Admiral Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of the Roman Emperor, Charles V.

To these were added the prayers of Christendom since the pope, St Pius V, had ordered a Christendom-wide Rosary prayer campaign for victory.

Moreover, the miraculous image of our Lady of Guadalupe sat in the cabin of Don John throughout the battle. The victory of Lepanto was commemorated by a new Feast, that of our Lady of Victory (or Victories) which was later made universal and later still re-named the Feast of our Lady of the Rosary. In 1716, Clement XI inscribed the Feast of our Lady of the Holy Rosary on the universal calendar in gratitude for the victory gained by Prince Eugene of Savoy, commander of the Imperial forces of the Habsburg Roman Emperor, on 5 August at Peterwardein in Vojvodina, in Serbia.

Later, however, on 11 September 1683 – 9/11 no less – came the “Battle of Vienna” of 1683, when King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland-Lithuania, also accompanied by Christendom-wide praying of the Rosary, delivered Vienna and Christendom once again from the Muslim Ottoman Turks and protected the Holy Roman Empire of Emperor Leopold I from imminent destruction.

Emperor Leopold I in the traditional vestments and regalia of the Holy Roman Emperor, including the crown of Charlemagne (Reichskrone), the Sceptre and Orb (Reichszepter and Reichssapfel)

After the victory of Sobieski over the Turks, Ven. Pope Innocent XI, extended the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary to the whole Church to be celebrated on 12 September in memory of the deliverance of Christendom. The feast was extended to the universal Church and assigned to the Sunday after the Nativity of Mary by a Decree of 25 November 1683, or, if that was not possible, then it had to be kept on 12 September.

12 September had also been the day of the Battle of Muret 1213, when Count Simon de Montfort (father of the founder of the English parliament) and 700 knights had defeated the Albigensian army of some 50,000, whilst St Dominic and his friars were praying the Rosary in the church of Muret.

But 9/11 was the day that the battles began in each case.

The Battle of Vienna took place on 11 September and 12 September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by the Ottoman Empire for two months. The battle broke the advance of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, and marked the political hegemony of the Habsburg dynasty and the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Muslim Empire.The battle was won by Polish-Austrian-German forces led by King Jan against the Ottoman Empire army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha.

King Jan III Sobieski of Poland -Lithuania

The siege itself began on 14 July 1683 with an the Ottoman Empire army of approximately 138,000 men. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of 70,000 men had arrived, pitted against the Ottoman army.

The battle marked the turning point in the 300-year struggle between Roman Christendom and the Ottoman Empire.

The siege before the Battle of Vienna (1683)

The capture of the city of Vienna had long been a strategic aspiration of the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire had even been providing military assistance to dissident Hungarians and to anti-Catholic minorities in Habsburg-occupied portions of Hungary. There, in the years preceding the siege, widespread unrest had become open rebellion upon Leopold I's pursuit of Catholic Counter-Reformation principles.

King Jan Sobieski salutes the Roman Emperor Leopold I

In 1681, Protestants and other anti-Habsburg forces, led by Imre Thököly, were reinforced with a significant force from the Ottoman Muslims, who recognized Imre as King of "Upper Hungary". This support went so far as explicitly promising the "Kingdom of Vienna" to the disloyal and treacherous Hungarians if it fell into Ottoman hands.

In 1681 and 1682, clashes between the forces of Imre Thököly and the Habsburgs' military frontier forces intensified, which was used as a casus belli by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha in convincing the Sultan, Mehmet IV and his Divan, to allow the movement of the Ottoman Army. Mehmet IV authorized Kara Mustafa Pasha to operate as far as Győr and Komarom castles, both in northwestern Hungary, and to besiege them. The Ottoman Army was mobilized on 21 January 1682, and war was declared on 6 August 1682.

Sultan Mehmet IV

The wording of this declaration left no room for doubt what would be in store after a Turkish success. Mehmet IV wrote to Leopold I thus, verbatim:

"We order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate you... (...) We will exterminate You and all Your followers... (...) Children and adults will be equally exposed to the most atrocious tortures before being finished off in the most ignominious way imaginable..."

During the winter, the Habsburgs and Poland concluded a treaty in which Leopold would support Sobieski if the Turks attacked Kraków; in return, the Polish Army would come to the relief of Vienna, if attacked.

The King of Poland prepared a relief expedition to Vienna during the summer of 1683, honouring his obligations to the treaty. He went so far as to leave his own nation virtually undefended when departing from Kraków on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady. Sobieski covered this with a stern warning to Imre Thököly, the rebellious Hungarian Protestant leader, whom he threatened with severity if he tried to take advantage of the situation — which, nevertheless, the treacherous Thököly did.

The main Turkish army finally invested Vienna on 14 July. Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, leader of the remaining 11,000 troops and 5,000 citizens and volunteers, refused to capitulate.

The Turks dug tunnels under the massive city walls to blow them up with explosives, using sapping mines.

The Ottoman siege cut virtually every means of food supply into Vienna, and the garrison and civilian volunteers suffered extreme casualties. Fatigue became such a problem that Count von Starhemberg ordered any soldier found asleep on watch to be shot. Increasingly desperate, the forces holding Vienna were on their last legs when in August, Imperial forces under Charles, Duke of Lorraine, beat Imre Thököly of Hungary at Bisamberg, 5km northeast of Vienna.

On 6 September, the Poles crossed the Danube 30km north west of Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial forces and additional troops from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia who had answered the call for a Holy League that was supported by Pope Innocent XI.

The devious Louis XIV of France declined to help and instead used the opportunity to attack cities in Alsace and other parts of southern Germany. Anyone who thinks Louis XIV a good Catholic king really needs to think again.

During early September, the experienced 5,000 Turkish sappers repeatedly blew up large portions of the walls, the Burg bastion, the Löbel bastion and the Burg ravelin in between, creating gaps of about 12m in width. The Austrians tried to counter by digging their own tunnels, to intercept the depositing of large amounts of gunpowder in subterranean caverns. The Turks finally managed to occupy the Burg ravelin and the Nieder wall in that area on 8 September. Anticipating a breach in the city walls, the remaining Austrians prepared to fight in Vienna itself.

The relief army had to act quickly to save the city from the Turks and to prevent another long siege in case they would take it. Despite the international composition of the Army and the short time of only six days in which to organise, an effective leadership structure was established. This was largely the work of the extraordinary and holy Austrian Chaplain-General, Blessed Marco d'Aviano, Emperor Leopold's privy counsellor.

Blessed Marco d'Aviano, OFMCap, Imperial Chaplain-General

The Holy League forces arrived on the Kahlenberg (bare hill) above Vienna, signalling their arrival with bonfires. In the early morning hours of 12 September, before the battle, King Jan heard a Solemn Mass.

While the Turks hastily finished their mining work and sealed the tunnel to make the explosion more effective, the Austrian "moles" detected the cavern in the afternoon and one brave man entered and defused the mines just in time.

At the same time, the Polish infantry had launched a massive assault upon the Turkish right flank.

After 12 hours of fighting, Sobieski's Polish force held the high ground on the right. At about 5pm, after watching the ongoing infantry battle from the hills for the whole day, four cavalry groups, one of them Austrian-German, and the other three Polish, totalling 20,000 men, charged down the hills. The attack was led by the Polish king himself in front of a spearhead of 3000 heavily wing-armoured Polish hussars. This charge thoroughly broke the lines of the Ottoman troops. Seizing the initiative, Starhemberg led the Vienna garrison in sallying out of its defences to join the assault.

Massive charge of the Polish winged lancer-hussars which decided the Battle of Vienna

In less than three hours after the cavalry attack, the Christian Imperial forces had won the battle, saved Vienna from capture and rescued Christendom from the Turks.

One may recall the decisive charge of the Rohirrim from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, to get a flavour of what it must have been like, King Jan Sobieski leading his Polish hussars just as King Theoden led his Riders of Rohan.

After the battle, Sobieski paraphrased Julius Caesar's famous quote by saying "veni, vidi, Deus vicit" - "I came, I saw, God conquered".

King Jan Sobieski receives the standards of the fallen Turks

The Turks lost about 15,000 men in the fighting, compared to approximately 4,000 for the Habsburg-Polish forces. Though routed and in full retreat, the Turkish troops had found time to slaughter all their Austrian prisoners, with the exception of those few of nobility which they took with them for ransoming.

King Jan vividly described events in a letter to his wife a few days after the battle:

“Ours are treasures unheard of ... tents, sheep, cattle and no small number of camels ... it is victory as nobody ever knew of, the enemy now completely ruined, everything lost for them. They must run for their sheer lives ... Commander Starhemberg hugged and kissed me and called me his saviour.”

The victory at Vienna set the stage for Prince Eugene of Savoy's reconquest of Hungary and the Balkans within the following years.

Long before that, the Turkish Sultan had disposed of his defeated commander. On 25 December 1683, Kara Mustafa Pasha was executed in Belgrade.

However, it was the end for the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans fought on for another 16 years but lost control of Hungary and Transylvania and capitulated finally by the Treaty of Karlowitz.

Christendom was once again safe.

Because Sobieski had entrusted his kingdom to the protection of the our Lady of Czestochowa before the battle, Pope Innocent XI commemorated his victory by extending the feast of the Holy Name of Mary to the universal Church.

The Battle of Vienna was marked by culinary inventions:

1. The croissant was invented in Vienna to celebrate the defeat as a reference to the crescents on the Turkish flags.

2. The first bagel was made as a gift to King Jan Sobieski to commemorate the victory, being fashioned in the form of a stirrup, to commemorate the victorious charge by the Polish cavalry.

3. After the battle, the Austrians discovered many bags of coffee in the abandoned Turkish encampment. Using this captured stock, Franciszek Jerzy Kulczycki opened the third coffeehouse in Europe and the first in Vienna, where, Kulczycki and Marco d'Aviano adding milk and honey to sweeten the bitter coffee, thereby invented the cappuccino, so named after Blessed Marco because of the Capuchin’s brown hood.

Our Lady of Czestochowa, pray for us!
Blessed Marco d'Aviano, pray for us!
Holy Name of Mary, protect us!


Saturday 8 September 2007

Our Lady's Nativity and the Great Siege of Malta of 1565: "Victoria Day" of the Knights of Malta

Today is the Feast of our Lady's nativity but it is also Victoria Day for the Knights of Malta, the day when, with our Lady's help, they defeated the Ottoman Turkish invasion of their home and headquarters on the island of Malta.

Today is also "Malta Day" for the same reason.

The Knights Hospitaller (also known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta; the Knights of Malta; the Knights of Rhodes; and Les Chevaliers de Malte) is an organization that began as an Amalfitan hospital founded in Jerusalem in 1080 to provide care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land.

After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade it became a religious/military order under its own charter, and was charged with the care and defence of pilgrims to the Holy Land. Following the loss of Christian territory in the Holy Land, the Order operated from Rhodes, over which it was sovereign, and later from Malta under the grand magistry of the renowned religious, soldier and defender of Malta from the Turks, Prince and Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, after whom Valetta in Malta is named.

After the loss of the Holy Land and years of moving from place to place in Europe, the Knights were established on Malta in 1530, when the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, as King of Sicily, gave them Malta, Gozo and the North African port of Tripoli in perpetual fiefdom in exchange for an annual fee of a single Maltese falcon, which they were to send on All Souls Day to the Viceroy of Sicily, who acted as the King's representative. (This historical fact was used in Dashiell Hammett's famous book The Maltese Falcon.

It was from here that the Hospitallers continued their actions against the marauding Muslims and especially the savage Barbary pirates.

Although they had only a small number of ships, the Muslim Ottomans were less than happy to see the order resettled. Accordingly, Sultan Suleiman assembled another massive invasion force in order to dislodge the Knights from Malta, and in 1565 invaded, starting the Great Siege of Malta.This siege proved one of the great victories of history for an undermanned and vastly outnumbered defence force, numbering some 700 knights and about 8000 soldiers.

At first the battle looked to be a repeat of the earlier defeat of the Knights at Rhodes. Most of the cities were destroyed and about half the Knights died in battle. On 18 August the position of the besieged was becoming desperate: dwindling daily in numbers, they were becoming too feeble to hold the long line of fortifications. But when his council suggested the abandonment of Il Borgo and Senglea and withdrawal to Fort St. Angelo, Grand Master La Valette remained obdurate.

The Viceroy of Sicily had not brought help. Possibly the orders of his master, Philip II of Spain, were so obscurely worded as to put on his own shoulders the burden of a decision – a responsibility which he was unwilling to discharge because defeat would mean exposing Sicily to the Turks. Whatever may have been the cause of his delay, the Viceroy hesitated until the indignation of his own officers forced him to move, and then the battle had almost been won by the unaided efforts of the Knights.

On 23 August came yet another grand assault, the last serious effort, as it proved, of the besiegers. It was thrown back with the greatest difficulty, even the wounded taking part in the defence. The plight of the Turkish forces, however, was now desperate. With the exception of Fort St Elmo, the fortifications were still intact. Working night and day, the garrison had repaired the breaches, and the capture of Malta seemed more and more impossible. The terrible summer months had laid many of the troops low with sickness in their crowded quarters. Ammunition and food were beginning to run short, and the Turkish troops were becoming more and more dispirited at the failure of their numerous attacks and the unending toll of lives.

The death of Dragut, a corsair and admiral of the Ottoman fleet and skilled commander, on 23 June, had proved an incalculable loss. The Turkish commanders, Piyale Pasha and Mustafa Pasha, took few precautions, and, though they had a huge fleet, they never used it with any effect except on one solitary occasion. They neglected their communications with the African coast and made no attempt to watch and intercept Sicilian reinforcements.

On 1 September they made their last effort, but all threats and cajoleries had little effect on dispirited Turkish troops, who refused any longer to believe in the possibility of capturing those terrible fortresses. The feebleness of the attack was a great encouragement to the besieged, who now began to see hopes of deliverance. Perplexity and indecision of the Turks were cut short by the news of the arrival of Sicilian reinforcements in Mellieħa Bay. Unaware of the small size of this new force, they hastily evacuated and sailed away on 8 September, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, ever after celebrated by the Order of Malta as "Victoria Day".

At the moment of the Turkish departure the Order had left 600 men capable of bearing arms, but the losses of the Ottomans had been yet more fearful. The most reliable estimate puts the number of the Turkish army at its height at some 40,000 men, of which but 15,000 returned to Constantinople. The siege is portrayed vividly in the frescoes of Matteo Perez d'Aleccio in the Hall of St. Michael and St. George, also known as the Throne Room, in the Grand Master's Palace in Valletta. Four of the original modellos, painted in oils by Perez d'Aleccio between 1576 and 1581, can be found in the Cube Room of the Queen's House at Greenwich, London. After the siege a new city had to be built – the present city of Valletta, so named in memory of the Grand Master who had sustained this siege.

In 1607, the Head of the Order, the Grand Master, was granted the rank of Reichsfürst (Prince of the Holy Roman Empire). In 1630 the Grand Master was awarded ecclesiastic equality with the Cardinals and the uniquely hybrid style "His Most Eminent Highness", reflecting both qualities qualifying him as a true prince of the Church.

Following the Christian victory over the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Knights continued to defend Christendom from Barbary pirates and Muslim raiders.

The Patron Saint of the Order is our Lady of Philermo whose image was first acquired when the Knights were still settled on the island of Rhodes. The icon, depicted below, is ancient and famous.

Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us!

St Eustace and St Hubert: the patron saints of hunting

St Eustace, prior to his conversion to Christianity, was a Roman general named Placidus, who served the Emperor Trajan. While hunting a stag in Tivoli near Rome, Placidus saw a vision of our Lord on the Cross between the stag's antlers. He was converted, had himself and his family baptized, and changed his name to Eustachius (Eustace - meaning "good fortune" or "fruitful"). A series of calamities followed to test his faith: his wealth was stolen; his servants died of a plague; when the family took a sea voyage, the ship's captain kidnapped Eustace's wife; and as Eustace crossed a river with his two sons, the children were taken away by a wolf and a lion. Like Job, Eustace lamented but did not lose his faith. He was then quickly restored to his former prestige and reunited with his family; but when he demonstrated his new faith by refusing to make a pagan sacrifice, the pagan Roman Emperor, Hadrian, condemned Eustace, his wife, and his sons to be roasted to death inside a bronze statue of a bull or an ox, in the year AD 118.

St Eustace became known as a patron saint of hunters, and also of anyone facing adversity; he was traditionally included among the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

His Feast Day is 20 September.

He is one of the patron saints of Madrid, Spain. Scenes from the story, especially Eustace kneeling before the stag, became a popular subject of medieval religious art. Early artistic depictions of the legend include a wall painting at Canterbury Cathedral and stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres. There is a Church of Saint Eustace in Paris, and the island of Sint Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles is named after him.

St Hubert or Saint Hubertus (born c. 656 to 658, probably in Toulouse; died 30 May, 727 or 728 in Tervuren near Brussels, Belgium), called the "Apostle of the Ardennes" was the first Bishop of Liège. Hubertus is another patron saint of hunters, but also of mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers, and used to be invoked to cure rabies. Saint Hubert was widely venerated in the Middle Ages. The iconography of his legend is associated with the legend of St Eustace.

As a youth, Hubert was sent to the Neustrian court of Theuderic III at Paris, where his charm and agreeable address led to his investment with the dignity of "count of the palace". Like all nobles of the time, Hubert loved the pleasures of "the chase" i.e. hunting.

Meanwhile, the tyrannical conduct of Ebroin, mayor of the Neustrian palace, caused a general emigration of the nobles and others to the court of Austrasia at Metz. Hubert soon followed them and was warmly welcomed by Pippin of Heristal, mayor of the palace, who created him almost immediately grand-master of the household. About this time (682) Hubert married Floribanne, daughter of Dagobert, Count of Leuven, a great and suitable match. Their son Floribert would later become bishop of Liège.

Unfortunately, his wife died giving birth to their son, and Hubert retreated from the court, withdrew into the forested Ardennes, and gave himself up entirely to hunting. But a great spiritual revolution was imminent. On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the story narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell".

Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?" He received the answer, "Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you".

Hubert set out immediately for Maastricht, for there Lambert was bishop. Saint Lambert received Hubert kindly, and became his spiritual director. Hubert now renounced all his very considerable honours, and gave up his birthright to Aquitaine to his younger brother Odo, whom he made guardian of his infant son, Floribert. Having distributed all his personal wealth among the poor, he studied for the priesthood, was soon ordained, and shortly afterwards became one of St. Lambert's chief associates in the administration of his diocese.

By the advice of St. Lambert, Hubert made a pilgrimage to Rome in 708, but during his absence, Lambert was assassinated by the followers of Pippin. According to the hagiographies of Hubert, this act was simultaneously revealed to the Pope in a vision, together with an injunction to appoint Hubert Bishop of Maastricht.

He distributed his episcopal revenues among the poor, was diligent in fasting and prayer, and became famous for his eloquence in the pulpit. In 720, in obedience to a vision, Hubert translated St. Lambert's remains from Maastrict to Liège with great pomp and ceremonial, several neighbouring bishops assisting. A basilica for the relics was built upon the site of St Lambert's martyrdom, and was made a cathedral the following year, the see being removed from Maastricht to Liège, then only a small village. This laid the foundation of the future greatness of Liège, of which Saint Lambert is honoured as patron, and Saint Hubert as founder and first bishop. Hubert actively evangelised among the pagans in the extensive Ardennes forests and in Brabant.

Hubert died peacefully in Fura, Brabant, 30 May, 727 or 728. He was first buried in the collegiate church of St. Peter, Liège, but his bones were exhumed and translated to the Benedictine Abbey of Amdain ("Andagium", in French "Andage", the present-day Saint-Hubert, Belgium) in the Ardennes in 825. The abbey became a focus for pilgrimages, until the coffin disappeared during the Reformation.

Saint Hubert was widely venerated in the Middle Ages and several military orders were named after him: the Bavarian, the Bohemian and that of the Archbishop Prince-Elector of Cologne.

His Feast Day is 3 November.

Sculptural depiction of the miracle of the stag of St Hubert at the Chateau d'Amboise

The unnatural and entirely artificial world of the Blairite secularists and bogus spiritualism has decreed that hunting shall be banned in the United Kingdom. They think that food comes out of refrigerators and not from nature, so febrile and plastic is their grip upon reality.

In fact, food grown in factory farms is the least healthy and food that has been chased in the wild is the most healthy. Man was meant by God to subdue nature and turn it to his use. But the atheists and secularists of "NuLayba" are in thrall to the animal liberationist loonies who seem to think that snails have souls and microbes have equal rights with rational human beings.

As G K Chesterton said, when man ceases to believe in God he does not them believe in nothing but rather in anything!


Sts Eustace and Hubert, pray for us and for our benighted government who have banned all hunting and think food is manufactured in supermarkets!


Wednesday 5 September 2007

Saint Maurice: martyr, black saint and Knight Commander of the martyred Theban Legion...

Saint Maurice (Moritz or Mauritius), pictured here with St Elmo, was the Knight Commander of the famous Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century.

The legion, entirely composed of Christians, was ordered from Thebes in Egypt to Gaul to assist Maximian. However, when Maximian ordered them to attack local Christians, they refused and Maximian ordered them punished with savage executions.

More such orders followed but they still refused, encouraged by Maurice, and were further punished. In response to their refusal to use violence against fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all the remaining members of the 6,600 strong legion to be executed. This took place in Agaunum, which is now Saint Maurice-en-Valais, site of the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais, in Switzerland.

This account was given publicly by Eucherius, bishop of Lyon (c. 434 – 450), addressed to his fellow bishop Salvius.

The abbey was begun in 515 ordered by Sigismund, the first Catholic king of the Burgundians.

St Maurice became a patron saint of the Holy Roman Emperors. In 926, Henry I (919–936), ceded the present Swiss canton of Aargau to the abbey, in return for Maurice's lance, sword and spurs. Aargau is the region in which is found the original seat of the Habsburgs, later the most famous of the emperors.

St Maurice as a mounted Knight

The sword and spurs of Saint Maurice was part of the regalia used at coronations of the Holy Roman Emperors (and later Austro-Hungarian Emperors), and were among the most important insignia of the imperial throne. Moreover, many emperors were anointed before the altar of Saint Maurice in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion

In 929 Emperor Henry I the Fowler held a royal court gathering (Reichsversammlung) at Magdeburg. At the same time the Mauritius Kloster in honour of St Maurice was founded. In 961, Emperor Otto the Great built and enriched the cathedral at Magdeburg in preparation for his own tomb. In that year, in the presence of all of the nobility, on the vigil of Christmas, the body of St. Maurice was conveyed to Emperor Otto at Regensburg along with the bodies of some of the saint's companion legionaries. They were then conveyed to Magdeburg, received with great honour and are still venerated there.

Maurice is traditionally depicted in full armour, in Italy emblazoned with a red cross. In folk culture he has become connected with the legend of the "Spear of Destiny", which he is supposed to have carried into battle; his name is engraved on the Holy Lance of Vienna, one of several relics claimed as the spear that pierced the side of our Lord upon the Cross.

Hundreds of religious houses are dedicated to him as well as chivalric orders, including the famous Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece which later became the heirloom of the Holy Roman Emperors, and the Order of Saint Maurice. Many towns have been named after him, also.

The images of Saint Maurice in the Cathedral of Magdeburg show him as a black man and there is evidence to indicate that Maurice was Egyptian. Thus it is that one of the greatest patron saints of the Holy Roman Empire is, in fact, a black man, indeed a black Roman Knight Commander (or Legatus) of the great Roman Legion called “The Theban Legion” celebrated in the Roman Martyrology as the martyrs of the Theban Legion.

Medieval statue of St Maurice in Magdeburg Cathedral

All Catholics, and especially Black African Catholics, may be justly be proud of this great soldier-saint and martyr of the Church.

St Maurice, Knight Commander of the Theban Legion, pray for us!


Blessed Pierre Toussaint, the voluntary slave who confounded the worldly...

Venerable Pierre Toussaint was a Catholic black slave born in Haiti in 1766. His parents raised him as a Catholic and his master, Jean Berard, taught him to read and write. In 1787 his master moved to New York City to escape the social unrest among the Haitian slaves after the French Revolution. He thought that Pierre should have a profession in New York so he apprenticed him to a hairdresser. Pierre became a very successful hairdresser for the beau monde of New York and made a good living from it, although he remained a slave.

Toussaint was also appreciated for his quiet wit and discretion. These qualities led his clients to confide in him and seek his advice. Pierre heard all of these women’s problems of errant husbands and children, sickness and financial problems. When people tried to pry some gossip from him, he said, “Toussaint dresses hair; he is no news journal”. He frequently quoted the Beatitudes and The Imitation of Christ in the spiritual guidance that he gave to his clients and he encouraged them to pray and patiently trust in God. In turn, they also supported Pierre in his charitable works. For 60 years, he attended daily Mass at six in the morning at the same church where Mother Elizabeth Seton later worshipped. Later he co-operated with her new order and established one of the first orphanages in New York.

Pierre’s master died and a slave rebellion on Haiti destroyed his widow’s support and left her in a deep depression. Pierre then supported the Berard household while still their slave. He refused to let the widow Berard lose her dignity or be burdened with the concerns of running a household so he took over all the household expenses. He bought his sister's freedom but - with heroic virtue - decided to remain a slave himself so that he could care for Madame Berard. Often he put on great parties for Madame, paid for everything yet dressed as a butler and served the guests. He even postponed his own wedding to care for Madame. When his sister criticized him for supporting Madame while still her slave, Pierre answered, "He never felt enslaved but felt compassion for a lonely woman who was considered his owner".

Madame Berard finally gave Pierre his freedom on her deathbed. Pierre “thanked God he was able to keep this woman from knowing want and thanked God for giving her the courage to set him free".

At last, at the age of 41, Pierre was legally free. He bought the freedom of his sister, Rosalie, and her best friend Juliette whom he married. Together, they continued the charitable works that Pierre had begun. They helped refugees find jobs, cared for orphans and opened a school to teach black children a trade. They also provided financial help to the Oblate Sisters of Providence. When a plague struck the city, Pierre personally cared for the victims. When Pierre's sister Rosalie died leaving a young daughter, Pierre and Juliette welcomed her into their home. They had no children of their own but took abandoned boys into their home, educated them and found them employment.

When New York was hit with the plague, Pierre risked his life and nursed the sick and dying without regard to his own safety. His sister Rosalie said, "You think of everyone but yourself. Now that you are free, you are still acting like a white man's slave".

Pierre answered, "I have never felt I am a slave to any man or woman but I am a servant of the Almighty God who made us all. When one of His children is in need, I am glad to be His slave".

O great Toussaint! How you so exactly captured the essence of our God - the God who humbled Himself to become a slave for our sake.

Pierre walked to his hair appointments with his rheumatic knee rather than invite any trouble through the discrimination that was practised on public transport. He kept on working and gave a substantial part of his considerable income to the poor, telling a friend who urged him to retire, "I have enough for myself, but if I stop working I have not enough for others".

Pierre’s wife died in 1851 and two years later he died on June 30, 1853 at age 87. His last words were “God is with me” and then, when asked if he wanted anything, “Nothing on earth". General Schuyler said of him, "I have known Christians who were not gentlemen or gentlemen who were not Christians, but one man I know who is both, and that man is black ”.

At Pierre’s funeral Mass, attended by an overflowing crowd, he was eulogized from the pulpit by the pastor, Father William Quinn, saying "A stranger would not have suspected that a black man of his humble calling lay in the midst of us. Though no relative was left to mourn him, yet many present would feel they had lost one who always had wise counsel for the rich, words of encouragement for the poor, and all would be grateful for having known him. There are few left among the clergy superior in devotion and zeal for the Church and the glory of God, among laymen, none".

Pope John Paul II visited St Patrick’s Cathedral where Pierre is buried in October 1995, and said, "Beneath the high altar of this Cathedral, together with the former Cardinals and archbishops of New York there is buried the Servant of God, Pierre Toussaint, a married man, a one-time slave from Haiti. What is so extraordinary about this man? He radiated a most serene and joyful faith, nourished daily by the Eucharist and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. In the face of constant, painful discrimination he understood, as few have understood, the meaning of the words, 'Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing' ”. Pope John Paul II made Pierre "venerable" on March 22, 1998.

The story of Toussaint confounds the worldly who, seeing that he could have gained his freedom, cannot understand why he would want to serve as a slave to the widow of his master whilst at the same time maintaining her out of his own pocket. To the worldly this is foolishness.

But to God, Himself a servant king, it is holy. Indeed, those who do not understand Toussaint cannot understand God.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint, pray for us!