Monday 29 September 2008

Michaelmas: the Feast of St Michael the Archangel

Michaelmas is the Feast Day of St Michael the Archangel, the Captain and leader of all the Angel hosts.

There are 7 Archangels in all, but only the three mentioned in Sacred Scripture are commemorated liturgically; St Gabriel's Feast is on 24 March, and St Raphael's Feast is on 24 October (the Guardian Angels are remembered on 2 October). The other archangels, whom we know from the Book of Enoch, are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeramiel.

The name of St Michael the Archangel, in Hebrew, means, "Who is Like God" or Quis ut Deus, in Latin.

The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, written in 1275, says this of him:

"For like as Daniel witnesseth, he shall arise and address in the time of Antichrist against him, and shall stand as a defender and keeper for them that be chosen. [Daniel 10:12-13]

He also fought with the dragon and his angels, and casting them out of heaven, had a great victory. [Apocalypse 12:7-9]

He also had a great plea and altercation with the devil for the body of Moses, because he would not show it; for the children of Israel should have adored and worshipped it. [Jude 1]

He received the souls of saints and brought them into the paradise of exultation and joy.

He was prince of the synagogue of the Jews, but now he is established of our Lord, prince of the church of Jesu Christ.

And as it is said, he made the plagues of Egypt, he departed and divided the Red Sea, he led the people of Israel by the desert and set them in the land of promission, he is had among the company of holy angels as bannerer. And bearing the sign of our Lord, he shall slay by the commandment of God, right puissantly, Antichrist that shall be in the Mount of Olivet. And dead men shall arise at the voice of this same archangel. And he shall show at the day of judgment the Cross, the spear, the nails and the crown of thorns of Jesu Christ.

As to the final victory of St Michael over Antichrist, it continues:

The fourth victory is that the archangel Michael shall have of Antichrist when he shall slay him. Then Michael, the great prince, shall arise, as it is said Danielis xii.: “He shall arise for them that be chosen as a helper and a protector, and shall strongly stand against Antichrist”. And after, as the Gloss saith: “Antichrist shall feign him to be dead, and shall hide him three days,” and after, he shall appear saying that he is risen from death to life, and the devils shall bear him by art magic, and shall mount up into the air, and all the people shall marvel and worship him. And at the last he shall mount up on the Mount of Olivet, and when he shall be in a pavilion, in his siege [seat - ed], entered into that place where our Lord ascended, Michael shall come and shall slay him. Of which victory is understood, after St. Gregory, that which is said in the Apocalypse, the battle is made in heaven.

This word of the treble battle in heaven is expounded of the battle that he had with Lucifer when he expulsed him out of heaven, and of the battle that he had with the devils that torment us.”

There is a great devotion to St Michael in the Eastern Church.

St. Michael is the great warrior against Satan, and ought to be invoked in times of temptation, particularly by use of the famous Prayer to St. Michael:

SANCTE MICHAELE ARCHANGELE, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperit illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen

"ST MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, defend us in battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast down into Hell, Satan, and all the other evil spirits, who wander throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen".

This great champion of Israel has made many important appearances throughout the years. In A.D. 590, during the reign of Pope Gregory, a great pestilence swept through Rome. During a procession and litanies led by the Holy Father there, St. Michael appeared over the Castel Sant'Angelo - a building which was formerly Hadrian's tomb, but which was converted to papal use, connected to the Vatican by a long tunnel.

A statue of St. Michael sits atop the Castle to this day.

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome

Mont St. Michel was built off the coast of Normandy, France, in honour of St. Michael and stands gloriously, to this day. Pious tradition tells us that St Michael appeared there in 708 to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.

Mount St Michael lies of the coast of Cornwall and is a smaller version of Mont St Michel.

St Michael also appeared, together with Sts Margaret and Catherine, to St Joan of Arc (d.1431) when she was thirteen years old, encouraging her to assist King Charles VII of France to defeat the English who were usurping part of the Kingdom of France. When she was later put on trial for sorcery by the Burgundians (who were allies of the English), she told her judges, “I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you”.

St. Michael is usually depicted in Roman armour as a Roman knight-at-arms with spear, slaying the Devil. He is patron of knights and soldiers, for the sick, and for a holy death.

His feast day gives the name to the season of Michaelmas (St Michael’s Mass) which is a season of the year starting on his Feast Day. It is still used in the Law as the name of a Law Term, the Autumn term.

The Michaelmas Daisy is named so because it blooms at this time of the year. Geese used to be plentiful at this time, too, as the hunting season started at this time and so they were often eaten – hence the name “Michaelmas goose”.

Michaelhouse at Cambridge University was once a great College and St John Fisher was once its head and made it famous for learning. Part of the old buildings are now a cafe and church centre attached to the Anglican Church of Great St Marys.

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us in the day of battle!


The Protestant Reformers themselves believed most of the Roman Marian dogmas...

It is a simple historical fact that the original Protestant Reformers accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith.

Many modern Protestants object to devotion to the Virgin Mary, or at least, to such devotion as is shown in such feasts as that of our Lady of Sorrows or the Seven Sorrows of our Lady. They claim to find it "disturbing" and seem unable to understand it.

Well, they had better have it out with the founders of their Protestant movement because the founders believed in the special position of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The evidence is not far to seek. Let us examine some of it.

Martin Luther

The Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God

Luther maintained this belief throughout the whole of his life.

"She is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God ... It is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God."1

The Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Martin Luther dressed in priestly garb

He also believed in and taught that Mary's perpetual virginity ought to be held by all Bible-believing Christians and, tellingly, he interpreted Galatians 4:4 to mean that Christ was “born of a woman” without the seed of a husband.

"It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a Virgin."2

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luther defended this doctrine, now seen by most to be a specifically Roman Catholic doctrine, until his death. Like St Augustine, he believed that Mary's divine maternity necessarily implied her perpetual virginity and conception without Original Sin.

"But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul, it is piously and suitably believed, was without any sin, so that while the soul was being infused, she would at the same time be cleansed from original sin and adorned with the gifts of God to receive the holy soul thus infused. And thus, in the very moment in which she began to live, she was without all sin..."3

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven

Luther said of this doctrine:

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know."4

Due reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luther opposed the idea of human mediation and intercession but nevertheless continued to proclaim that Mary should be revered and made a point of preaching on her feast days.

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."5

In his last sermon at Wittenberg, Luther preached:

"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing."6

John Calvin

Calvin always referred to the Blessed Virgin Mary as La Sainte Vierge, the “Holy Virgin”.

He wrote of her:

“Elizabeth called Mary Mother of the Lord, because the unity of the person in the two natures of Christ was such that she could have said that the mortal man engendered in the womb of Mary was at the same time the eternal God.”7

“Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages of the brothers of Christ.”8

John Calvin dressed in priestly garb

Calvin translated “brothers” just as the Catholic Church does, to mean cousins and other relatives.

“It cannot be denied that God in choosing and destining Mary to be the Mother of his Son, granted her the highest honour.”9

“To this day we cannot enjoy the blessing brought to us in Christ without thinking at the same time of that which God gave as adornment and honour to Mary, in willing her to be the mother of his only-begotten Son.”10

Ulrich Zwingli

Even Ulrich Zwingli, had this to say about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

“It was given to her what belongs to no creature, that in the flesh she should bring forth the Son of God.”11

"I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the Gospel, as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.”12

Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity.

“I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary.”13

“Christ ... was born of a most undefiled Virgin.”14

“It was fitting that such a holy Son should have a holy Mother.”15

“The more the honour and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honour given to Mary should grow.”16

Ulrich Zwingli dressed in priestly garb

The Protestant Reformers rejected Marian mediation because of their rejection of all human mediation but they did not reject most of the other Marian dogmas which were then taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

The simple reason for this is that they could not avoid the fact that the honour and reverence due to the Blessed Virgin is plainly evident, to any objective eye, from Scripture.

1 Pelikan, J (ed), The Works of Martin Luther, Concordia: St. Louis, volume 24, 107.
2 Ibid, Volume 11, 319-320.
3 Ibid, Volume 4, 694.
4 Cole, William J, The Works of Martin Luther, 10, p. 268.
5 Ibid, 10, III, p.313.
6 Pelikan, J, Op. Cit., Volume 51, 128-129.
7 Calvin, J, Opera, Braunshweig-Berlin, 1863-1900, Volume 45, 35.
8 Leeming, Bernard, “Protestants and Our Lady”, Marian Library Studies, January 1967, p.9.
9 Calvin, J, Op. Cit., Volume 45, 348.
10 Calvin, J, A Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Edinburgh: St Andrew’s Press, 1972, p.32.
11 Zwingli, U, In Evangelii Lucae, Opera Completa, Zurich, 1828-42, Volume 6, I, 639.
12 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volum 1, 424.
13 Stakemeier, E, in De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, Balic, K (ed), Rome, 1962, p.456.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Zwingli, U, Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.

Gaude Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses tu sola interemisti in universo mundo

Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, to thou only has it been given to destroy all heresies in the whole world

[From The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]


Friday 26 September 2008

Saint Maurice: martyr, black saint, Knight Commander of the Theban Legion and Patron Saint of the Holy Roman Empire

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

His Feast Day is 22 September.

The Legion, almost entirely composed of Christians, was ordered from Thebes in Egypt to Gaul to assist Maximian.

Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius (c.250-c.310), commonly referred to as Maximian, was Caesar (junior Roman Emperor) from July 285 and Augustus (senior Roman Emperor) from 1 April 286 to 1 May 305. He shared the latter title with his senior co-emperor, Diocletian, and they made a formidable duo in persecuting Christians.

Maximian established his residence at Trier but spent most of his time on campaign. He spent the late summer of 285 suppressing the Bagaudae, rebels in Gaul. From 285 to 288 he fought against Germanic tribes along the Rhine frontier. Together with Diocletian, he ran a scorched earth campaign deep into the territory of the Alamanni tribes in 288, temporarily relieving the Rhenish provinces from the threat of Germanic invasion.

Bust of the Christian-persecuting Roman Emperor Diocletian

However, when Maximian ordered the Theban Legion to attack local Christians, they refused and Maximian ordered them to be punished with the savage punishment of decimation, whereby every tenth man was randomly executed.

More such orders followed but they still refused, encouraged by Maurice, and they were further punished. Finally, 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.

In the East of Switzerland is another St Moritz, the famous skiing resort, also named after St Maurice of Agaunum.

Near Agaunum, in a place still identifiable as a former temple to Mercury, god of travellers, a revelation led to the discovery of the bones of the Agaunum martyrs during the time of Theodore, Bishop of Octodurus (now Martigny), who was in office in 350 AD.

Their martyrology was written by Eucherius, Bishop of Lyon, who died in 494 AD.

He wrote:

"We often hear, do we not, a particular locality or city is held in high honour because of one single martyr who died there, and quite rightly, because in each case the saint gave his precious soul to the most high God. How much more should this sacred place, Agaunum, be reverenced, where so many thousands of martyrs have been slain, with the sword, for the sake of Christ."

The actual site of the martyrdom (or of the cache of bones) was pointed out to pilgrims as the "true place" the vrai lieu, a name it still carries, as Verroliez.

In 515, the basilica on the site became the centre of a monastery built on land donated by Sigismund of Burgundy, the first king of the Burgundians to convert from Arianism to Catholic Christianity.

The Bell tower of the Abbey of St Maurice in St Maurice-en-Valais, Switzerland

The liturgy at the Abbey, known as the laus perennis, "perpetual praise", of relays of choirs, was an innovation for Western Europe, imported from Constantinople. It was distinctive to the Abbey of St. Maurice and the practice spread widely from there.

St. Maurice's Abbey at Agaunum was the chief abbey of the Burgundian kingdom.

St Maurice became a patron saint of the Holy Roman Emperors.

In 926, Roman Emperor Henry I (919–936), ceded the present Swiss canton of Aargau to the Abbey, in return for St 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 Holy Roman Emperors.

St Maurice as a mounted Knight

The sword and spurs of Saint Maurice formed 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, the Holy Roman Emperors were traditionally anointed before the altar of Saint Maurice in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome.

The Martyrdom of St Maurice and the Theban Legion

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, often 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.

The Holy Lance of Vienna.
It is said to be the spear by which Longinus pierced the side of Christ.
Longinus soon converted to Christianity and was later venerated as a saint

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.

Emperor Franz Joseph
in the robes of the Grand Master of the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece,
one of the grandest orders of chivalry in the Empire and dedicated to St Maurice

The Order of St Maurice was founded in 1434 by Amadeus VIII, Duke of Savoy, who became Antipope Felix V. The Order declined, but in 1572 was re-established by Pope St Pius V at the instigation on the then Duke of Savoy.

In 1572 Pope Gregory XIII merged the Order of Saint Lazarus, a crusading order of leper-knights who tended other lepers as well as defended the Holy Land, with the Order of St Maurice.

The Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus.
The white cross is a cross botonny (the cross of St Maurice). The green Maltese cross is that of St Lazarus.

The new Order of St Maurice and St Lazarus was charged to defend the Holy See as well as to continue to assist lepers. The war galleys of the Order fought against the Turks and the Barbary pirates. When leprosy again broke out the Order founded, in 1773, a hospital in Aosta in Savoy.

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 the patron saint 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, not least black 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


Wednesday 24 September 2008

Stabat Mater: a meditation

Imagine your own most beloved daughter or sister, imagine her as perfect as you could ever imagine any woman to be, and imagine that she has suffered the loss of a most beloved child and in a manner that none but the most strong-minded person could ever bear. Imagine, too, that she loved her child more than can be imagined and that you knew and had seen this.

You will still not have any more than but one small inkling of the ocean of pain and suffering caused to the all-loving and all-compassionate Virgin Mother of God at seeing her Son crucified upon the Cross - a Son Whom she knew to be truly her own Son and, at the same time, the very God Himself - innocent, pure, holy and perfect.

From the moment of the Annunciation until the Crucifixion and Resurrection, Mary lived every moment of her life for, and in compassion with, her Son. Her devotion was total and all-absorbing.

We know from our own experience the intense devotion of mothers for their children, a devotion so intense that they can sometimes even sense the suffering of their child from a distance.

Yet there never was a mother who had the same degree of intense devotion for her child as the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We can hardly imagine the suffering of a mother who sees her child suffer and die.

How much the less, then, can we even begin to imagine the intense suffering of the Blessed Virgin as she saw her own Son suffer and die, albeit He was the very perfection and personification of innocence. So great was her suffering that most other mortals could not endure it and would run from it or die of it.

She did neither - although she suffered pain as grim and dire as death itself. Yet she lived. For not only did she suffer more intensely than any other mother, or human being, but she also endured that suffering, uncomplaining and without flinching or resiling, to the end, tasting every bitter morsel for the sake of her Son and for the Redemption of mankind from sin.

In this way she truly was a Co-redemptrix with her Son, not in the sense that she could redeem mankind by any power of her own, but, to the exact contrary, solely by the sovereign command of God Himself, Who asked of her to suffer and compassionate with Him to the bitter end, for the sake of the salvation of all mankind. And so she did, obedient to her Son, Who was also her Lord, Master and God.

The mystery of the suffering of the Blessed Virgin is great indeed - unfathomable - and it is so because that is what God Himself desired and ordained.

In this mystery we see many things but above all we see the extraordinary and limitless humility of God, the God who chose to allow His own creation to participate in His own redemptive sufferings and to share in the sacrifice which only God could provide the grace to achieve.

See that? The Supreme Creator says to a mere created being "I desire that you should suffer with Me and so share in the Redemption that only I, God, could ever have provided for".

He let us do what only He, God, could otherwise do! See the remarkable humility of God so to humble Himself before His own creation, mere man?

This, indeed, is how God has arranged for us to become one with Him and to share eternal life with Him, for He has provided that we - mere mortals and creatures - should partake of the extraordinary act that is required to redeem us from the aboriginal act of defiance and sin that severed the first man from God.

That extraordinary act is the suffering of God upon a Cross to redeem us. Now He allows us to participate in that redemptive act and to add our own sufferings to His in payment of the debt of sin. This is compassion - to suffer with another from the Latin cum ("with") and passio ("passion" meaning suffering).

Only one creature could suffer with Him to the full and that was the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, our Lady St Mary. And she, with meekness and humility, accepted this terrible burden when she responded to the Holy Spirit with the words fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum - "let it be done unto me according to Thy word" - although, of course, she would have uttered it in a dialect of Aramaic. Her fiat shows that she is the utter antithesis of a Feminist.

We, however, are given the opportunity to share some of that redemptive suffering, if we are willing to take it on. We do so by offering up our own weak sufferings to be joined with His and hers.

We do this best when we offer our daily sufferings up at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass when the sacrifice of the Cross on Calvary is re-enacted in an unbloody manner.

We do this by living the Christian year which is but the annual re-commemoration of the life of Christ from Advent to Nativity, from Cross and Resurrection to the Advent of the Holy Ghost.

This, too, is what our Lady did in her own life, at every instant, as she lived, with perfect compassion and devotion, the life of her Son from the Annunciation to the Cross and Resurrection, unto the very last.

This she did with the greatest intensity at the Crucifixion when, as the ancient Sequence has it:

Stabat mater dolorosa
iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti!

Quae maerebat et dolebat,
pia Mater, dum videbat
nati poenas inclyti.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

We must stand in awe of such a mother, second to none in courage, devotion, patience, strength, grace and love.

If we pray to her and ask her for help, she will ask her Son to give us some of that immense strength which the Lord Himself gave to her.

We can, too, meditate upon her silent, quiet, enduring, powerful but always womanly, strength of will, character and integrity and thank God for it.

I find that I can sometimes do this a little better when I hear the Stabat Mater of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, especially those opening bars which seem to speak, in their solemn beating as of a suffering human heart, so eloquently of the constancy and loyalty of the suffering Mother of God, standing beneath the Cross. Prepared for the worst and ready to endure it to the bitter end, this greatest of women shows a more perfect long-suffering than even the toughest of soldiers ever exhibited - yet she never loses even the tiniest portion of her complete femininity.

Listen to Pergolesi's great work here, in the powerful voices of soprano, Emma Kirkby, and countertenor, James Bowman:


Tuesday 23 September 2008

When Mary weeps - Our Lady of Sorrows and the Seven Dolours

Our Lady of Sorrows

15 September

The great feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Holy Cross is followed, very appropriately, by the Feast of our Lady of Sorrows, on 15 September. In Latin this feast is sometimes called Beatae Mariae Virginis Perdolentis.

This is the Feast that the enemies of God run scared of and cannot get their heads round. Satan is positively terrified of it and flees in an instant. He cannot bear the idea that God should so allow mere man, so much less than an angel, to share in His Redemption in this way. Satan's minions are of a like mind and simply flee from this devotion. They cannot bear it. It is the devotion which separates the men from the boys and the sheep from the goats.

The Seven Sorrows (or Dolours) are the following events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus. (Luke 2:34)
  2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)
  4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)
  5. The Crucifixion where Mary stands at the foot of the Cross. (John 19:25)
  6. The Descent from the Cross where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57)
  7. The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40)

The first altar to the Mater Dolorosa was set up in 1221 at the monastery of Schönau.

The object of the feast is to meditate upon the spiritual martyrdom of the most blessed Mother of God and her compassion with the sufferings of her Divine Son.

The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, in 1239, five years after they established themselves on Monte Senario, took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order.

The corresponding feast was first enacted by a provincial synod of Cologne (1413) to expiate the crimes of the iconoclast Hussites. It was to be kept on the Friday after the third Sunday after Easter under the title Commemoratio angusta et doloris BMV, to meditate on the sorrow of our Lady during the Crucifixion and Death of Christ.

Before the sixteenth century this feast was limited to the dioceses of North Germany, Scandinavia, and Scotland. Being termed Compassio, Transfixio, Commendatio, or Lamentatio BMV.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century the feast spread over part of the south of Europe.

After 1600 it became popular in France and was termed Domina N. de Pietate, for the Friday before Palm Sunday. To this latter date the feast was, in 1674, assigned for the whole Holy Roman Empire.

By a Decree of 22 April 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended it to the entire Latin Church, under the title Septem dolorum BMV, and at both Mass and Office the Stabat Mater of Giacopone da Todi (1306) used to be sung.

The suffering Queen and Mother of the Seven Sorrows.
By the sovereign desire and design of God Himself, she was made our Co-redemptrix,
though a mortal creature
. By this God showed His humility and man, through a woman,
his willing submission to the Will of God. By this concatenation, God chose to redeem us.

The second feast, today's feast, was granted to the Servites on 9 June and 15 September, 1668, being double with an octave for the third Sunday in September, its object being meditation of the seven dolours of Mary.

After his return from his exile in revolutionary France Pope Pius VII extended the feast to the Latin Church (18 September, 1814), major double) and it was raised to the rank of a double of the second class on 13 May, 1908, by Pope St Pius X.

A special form of devotion is practised in Spanish-speaking countries under the term of N.S. de la Soledad, to commemorate the solitude of Mary on Holy Saturday. Its origin goes back to Queen Juana, lamenting the early death of her husband Philip I, King of Spain (1506).

La Macarena: our Lady of Sorrows in Spain

To the oriental churches these feasts are unknown but the Ukrainians keep a feast of the sorrowful Mother on Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi.

The first feast was a Major Double until Bugnini demoted it, first in 1955, then again in 1962, finally abolishing it in 1969, leaving only today's feast.


Monday 22 September 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to return to the Blogosphere...

- he's baaaaaaack!

Yes, folks. It's Fred.

Back with more dumb-ass attacks on the Catholic Church.

This time, I'm afraid I can't protect him from himself any longer.

I am reluctant to expose his folly to the world but, if I do not, I may be accused of over-stating the case.

So I shall have to let him make an ass of himself, all by himself, with a free hand.

Here's his latest out-pouring [numbering added]:

"1. Read anything by David Kertzer on Pius IX if you want to learn some home truths about a pointlessly reactionary figure mostly admired outside Italy.

2. He had to hire mercenaries from outside his own lands to defend him-even the backwards King of Naples didn't have to do that.

3. Only those who didn't have to live under your church defended it, only those (the Belgians, Croats, Irish, Quebeckers) accurately described as being more papist than the pope.

4. If you enjoy dressing up in fancy medieval costumes, that's your business.
If your clergy molest children or adolescents,or try to take away a woman's right to choose, that's our business.

Theology has gone from being the queen of the sciences to being the science of queens.

And we Protestants are the biggest hypocrites?"

Not all Protestants by any means, Fred. Only the hypocritical ones. Does that include you, Fred?

A few corrections of his above errors:

1. False. No home truths at all. David I. Kertzer is one of a number of secular Jewish writers who seek to blame the Catholic Church for most of the evils that have happened to Jews. Kertzer was given wide access to the archives in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and, like the odious lapsed Catholic John Cornwell, he repaid the generosity of the CDF and the Pope by making up grotesque exaggerations, distortions and inventions about the Church to further an unworthy cause (and perhaps line his own pockets?).

If Fred really had any evidence of misconduct by Pope Pius IX he would cite the original sources but he can't, so he doesn't. He turns to a polemicist, instead. It's a frequently abused technique much favoured by those with no arguments or evidence.

Bong! Wrong, again, Fred!

2. False. In a remarkable show of international solidarity for the Pope and the Papacy, Pope Pius IX was defended by Catholic volunteers from all over the world, many of them the descendants of families, both noble and peasant, who had fought against the French Revolution. He was also defended by the Austrians and by the French alternatively, often for political reasons. The French President/Emperor, Napoleon III, did so for purely political motives since, in his youth, he had himself thrown bombs at previous popes. Because of his peace-loving nature, Pius IX did not maintain much of a standing army and so, when he came under attack from the Italian anti-Catholics and Freemasons, funded and supported by Yank and British Protestants, he needed aid. He got it - from volunteers!

Oh, and by the way, Fred, the Kingdom of Naples was set up by Bonaparte, given to his underling, Murat, and disappeared with both.

The haughty Joachim Murat, Bonapartist King of Naples, was, in fact, the son of an innkeeper and both anti-Catholic, revolutionary scoffer and pompous, self-obsessed dandy, although also a capable soldier. An early supporter of Jean-Paul Marat, the fanatical and bloodthirsty Jacobin revolutionary, Murat was ousted after the fall of Bonaparte and executed.

After Bonaparte's defeat in 1814, Murat reached an agreement with Austria and was allowed to retain the throne of Naples. When Bonaparte returned to France for the Hundred Days in 1815, Murat once again sided with him. Murat issued the Rimini Proclamation in the hope of saving himself by allying with the anti-Catholic Italian nationalists. The ensuing Neapolitan War between Murat and the Austrians was short, ending with a decisive victory for the Austrian forces at the Battle of Tolentino. Murat fled, and Ferdinand III of Sicily, IV of Naples, the rightful king, was restored to the throne.

King Ferdinand I and Queen Maria Carolina of the Two-Sicilies and their family. Maria Carolina was the daughter of the Empress Maria Teresa and sister to Emperor Joseph II. They were restored to the throne after the fall of Bonaparte and Murat.

Murat attempted to overthrow him but was quickly captured. Murat was then given a taste of his own medicine and executed by firing squad in Pizzo, Calabria. The next year, 1816, finally saw the formal union of the Kingdom of Naples with the Kingdom of Sicily into the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies with Ferdinand as King Ferdinand I.

Blessed Pope Pius IX was not raised to the Pontifical throne until 1847.

So, Fred, by the time of Pius IX, there was no Kingdom of Naples.

Bong! Wrong, again, Fred!

3. False. The Church was most ably defended by those who lived in traditionally Catholic countries. As I have already also said, Pius IX was defended by French troops - a country that had destroyed its Catholic government and was now headed by a man who used to throw bombs at the Pope. Fred is laughably wrong in his assertion that it would be hard to imagine anything further from the truth.

Further, the Austrians also defended the Pope and the Emperor had his own issues with the Pope so that no-one would ever describe Austria as "more papist than the Pope" - except a know-nothing like Fred.

As for the Quebecois, they were once among the most loyal of British subjects since Britain had defended Catholic Quebec from the rapacious Yankee Catholic-haters in 1812. The Irish, on the other hand, often put rebellion against the British above loyalty to the Church and the Pope. You might as well compare chalk and cheese, Fred.

Bong! Wrong, again, Fred!

4. False. More Protestant clergy have been charged, arraigned and convicted of child and adolescent abuse than Catholic clergy.

Protestant clergy "dress up" in medieval costume as much as Catholic. Catholic clergy do it to honour God and show devotion

It is not a woman's, or anyone's, right to choose to kill another innocent human being, however much some Protestants think they can try to get round the Commandment not to murder.

That's "our" business, Fred, just as much as it is yours and the other thugs and heavies to whom you seem to want this "business" to be entrusted.

I'm sorry to see Fred defending killing of the innocent.

As you can see, Fred, we Catholics are willing and able to defend the innocent from people like you!

Bong! Wrong, again, Fred!

5. False. Theology remains the Queen of Sciences as the better Protestants will also tell you. On the other hand, if by the "science of queens" you mean promoting homosexual practices, that was done by Protestants long before any Catholics began to copy them.

Bong! Wrong, again, Fred!

6. False. It looks like you have scored an own goal, again, Fred!

Give up, Freddy. You're onto a sure-fire loser.


Monday 15 September 2008

The Triumph of the Cross

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

14 September 2008

The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross falls on 14 September.

This feast is called in Greek Ὕψωσις τοῦ Τιμίου Σταυροῦ (literally, "Raising Aloft of the Precious Cross"). In Latin it is called Exaltatio Sanctae Crucis (literally, "Raising Aloft of the Holy Cross". The word "Exaltatio" is anglicized as "Exaltation" or "Triumph".

The cognate feast, that of Inventio Crucis (literally “Finding of the Cross” or sometimes, the “Invention of the Cross”) on 3 May was removed to be joined with that of the Feast of the Exaltation in 1955, once more engineered by the palsied hand of Annibale Bugnini.

The Invention commemorates the finding of the True Cross in Jerusalem in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I (venerated in the Eastern Church as Saint Constantine and whose image appears in the left hand corner of this Blog gazing up at the Cross in the sky that presaged his victory at the Battle of Ponte Milvio).

However, the feast day of the Finding of the Holy Cross is still commemorated exactly as was in the past by a significant minority of Traditional Roman Catholic parishes.

Roman Empress St Helena, the founder of the lost True Cross

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the Holy Cross placed inside it. In 614, that portion of the Hoy Cross was carried away from the church by the pagan, fire-worshipping Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Roman Emperor Heraclius in 628.

The Holy Cross was returned to the church the following year after initially having been taken to Constantinople by Emperor Heraclius.

The date used for the feast marks the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335 when the Holy Cross was brought outside the church on 14 September so that the clergy and faithful could pray before it and venerate it.

In the Western liturgical observance, red vestments are worn at services conducted on this day, and if the day falls on a Sunday, it takes precedence.

In the traditional Roman rite, the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the calendar week after the one in which 14 September falls are designated as one of the four sets of Ember days by the Church in the West.

In Byzantine Catholic practice, the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-creating Cross commemorates both the finding of the True Cross in 326 and its recovery from the Persians in 628, and is considered to be one of the Great Feasts of the year.

During the All-Night Vigil on the Eve of the Feast, a cross is placed on the Holy Table (altar) where it reposes during the Vigil. The cross is placed on a tray that has been covered with an Aër (liturgical veil) and decorated with fresh basil leaves and flowers, and a candle burns before it. Elaborate ceremonies take place in veneration of the Holy Cross which were once largely common to both East and West. During the veneration, stichera attributed to the Emperor Leo are chanted by the choir.

In the Gallican usages, beginning about the seventh century, the Feast of the Cross was celebrated on May 3, and, in England, was called "Crouchmas" (for "Cross Mass").

When the Gallican and Roman practices were combined, the September date was used to commemorate the rescue from the Sassanid Persians and the May date was kept as the Finding of the Holy Cross or Invention of the True Cross to commemorate the finding.

For at least one thousand years, the Feast was celebrated with a solemnity only surpassed by Easter and Pentecost. It is – or should be – one of the great feasts of Holy Church.

It is undoubtedly for this reason that our Holy Father - now gloriously reigning - Pope Benedict XIV, chose this day to signal the official release of that most ancient rite of the Church, the beautiful Roman rite, from the bondage which ungrateful and unfaithful men had placed it in.

This day, then, becomes yet greater still thanks to the knowledge and foresight of our great Holy Father.

Adoramus Te Christe, et benedicimus Tibi:
quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum


Many Protestants are good and decent people but some, sadly, prefer ill-informed bigotry

One of the latter, it seems, is Mr Fred Preuss.

I do not think he is in the same category as the fraudulent televangelist phoney and billionaire Jimmy Swaggart (pictured left) and his ilk.

However, he does seem to be just about as anti-Catholic as these Protestant Fundamentalist money-makers.

He seems to be ideologically-driven - even hard-wired - to hate the Catholic Church. No amount of information, evidence or fact will change his blinkered, ignorant bigotry against the Catholic Church.

So there is little point in pretending that he will take any cognizance of what I write below.

Nevertheless, I write it for the benefit of others, more open-minded, and to demonstrate that the Catholic Church can defend itself from all false charges.

I list his errors below, which were presented to me in a recent correspondence, and I rebut them seriatim.

1. Pope Pius IX did not have to deal with Fascism.

Wrong. Fascism arose from the Fasci movements of the 19th century whose members were the very anti-clericals who had overthrown the Papal States and imprisoned Pope Pius IX.

The word fascio came, in modern Italian political usage, to mean group, union, band or league. It was first used in this sense in the 1870s by groups of revolutionaries and socialists in Sicily to describe themselves. This made them a favourite with nationalists and anti-Catholic revolutionaries. The fasci they formed were scattered over Italy, and it was to one of these groups that Benito Mussolini belonged. They were war-mongers who wanted to force Italy into World War I. For example, on 18 August 1914, Alceste de Ambris, speaking at the Milanese Syndical Union, a labour union grouping, ferociously attacked neutrality and equated joining the war with the French Revolution. The Fascist movement, eventually united in 1915, came from Socialist revolutionary, labour union roots and was bitterly hostile to the Catholic Church.

Fascism and Liberty crows this false motto.
The Fasces -
a Roman symbol stolen by Fascism- a bundle of sticks and an axe originally carried by the Roman lictors to symbolise that what may be weak separately is strong tied together. Fascism began as a Socialist revolutionary, anti-Catholic, labour union movement. It was at first supported by many British and American Protestants but condemned by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter entitled Non Abbiamo Bisogno.

They were supported by many Anglo-American Protestants and secularists purely because they had opposed the Catholic Church and their members had been the "Pope's gaolers". That changed in 1929 when Mussolini signed a concordat with the Vatican to save his own political skin.

2. The "Communist Manifesto" had been published, but I don't think that any serious political forces were communist in the lifetime of Pius IX.

Wrong. Fred has plainly never heard of the Paris Commune, the Communards of 1870, nor the numerous other groups who took their inspiration from Marx and other 19th century Communists.

3. If your church has contributed so much to literacy, why was Puritan Massachusetts literate earlier than Catholic Spain, Portugal or Italy?

Wrong. Fred now descends into pure farce at this point. Anyone who believes this nonsense really does have a serious problem. Firstly, upon what objective evidence or statistics does he base his case? Certainly none are provided!

In reality, the history of the Catholic Church has seen one of the greatest contributions to education ever made by a single body. It is simply a commonplace fact of history that whole religious orders and communities of the Catholic Church, since the very beginning of Christianity, have been committed to educating the poor and not only in matters of Faith and culture but also for a trade or profession. Conversely, it is another simple fact of history that Protestantism destroyed these free education services for the poor and replaced them with schools for the new, rich, money-grabbing and selfish elite.

Fred, go and read A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland to see what damage was wrought by Protestants and Protestantism. It crushed the poor in all areas of life. And by the way - the book was written by William Cobbett who was a Protestant himself!

Read it - if you dare to have your prejudices demolished.

As for Massachusetts, so steeped in ignorance and superstition was that colony that it gave the world the Salem witch trials and, in 1625, the first legalization of the slave trade in all of the Americas. Puritan clergyman, Cotton Mather, even referred to the black races as "Adam's degenerate seed" saying that slavery was their just due, accordingly!

Puritan "literacy": the Salem witch Trials.
The appallingly superstitious Salem witch trials which took place between February 1692 and May 1693 in Puritan Massachusetts were a farcical and utterly bigoted set of proceedings with the most tragic consequences. Here a woman is publicly and shamefully stripped to demonstrate the supposed "mark of the Devil" on her body whilst two alleged victims and witnesses dishonestly writhe in false and perjured toils upon the floor. This was what passed for "literacy", religion and law in the bigoted, fanatical Puritan colony.

Puritan "justice": an innocent woman shamefully hanged.
Ann Bellingham Hibbens was shamefully executed as a supposed witch by fanatical, Puritan Massachusetts, despite her brother having been one-time Governor of the colony. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned during the Salem witch craze. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, fourteen women and five men, were hanged.

Puritan "tolerance": a man pressed to death by stones for refusing to plead.
Giles Corey was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to plead to charges he considered ridiculous and so as to avoid his family losing their farm to the state. So much for Protestant tolerance, liberty of conscience and private judgement!

How much literacy was there among the poor, the Negroes and the Indians living in Massachusetts compared with those in Catholic states? Even today the poor of once Protestant nations like the USA are often notoriously badly educated and semi-literate. Even today, many supposedly "literate" American citizens are often woefully ill-educated, ignorant and even semi-literate.

Catholic Jesuits, on the other hand, had taught Indians living in the Paraguayan forests not only to read but to make and play orchestral instruments, to play and sing great choral works, and even to compose themselves works of music, literature, poetry and art. Their musical instruments were so well made that they commanded higher prices in Europe than violins made by Stradivarius and Amati. Yet, a generation or two before, these Indians had been semi-naked tree-dwellers living a brutalised existence worshipping pagan gods and practising human sacrifice and cannibalism.

The Jesuit Reductions in Paraguay

This clip from the film The Mission of a Jesuit Superior, played by Jeremy Irons, follows his climbing a huge, steep, rushing cataract to re-start their mission to the human-sacrificing Indians in the certain knowledge that he may be crucified and send over the cataract, as his Jesuit brother was, is entirely based upon the truth.

Indeed, the film, if anything, under-states the monumental and astonishing achievement of the Jesuits in teaching the Indians to build a truly free and Christian civilisation. The Jesuits were later treacherously betrayed at the hands of greedy, grubby, venal, anti-Catholic Freemasons like the Marquis de Pombal, then Prime Minister of Portugal and a hater of both the Pope and the Jesuits.

He and his like even forced the Pope to dissolve the whole Jesuit Order in 1773. It is doubtful that the world has ever seen a more heroic company of Christian men than the early Jesuits.

One of the many churches built, astonishingly, in the middle of the jungle, by the native Guarani Indians, who had been taught by Jesuits in the Reductions. They were destroyed by God-hating secularists.

What Protestant mission has produced anything like such magnificent results?

In the USA today, fully 58% of the population, after leaving school, never again read a book. Fred thinks this is "literacy", apparently.

The ignorance of some Americans has become a by-word in the rest of the world. One regularly sees some dumb-bunnies advertising their ignorance in the public media, some being so astonishingly badly educated as not even to know where the continent of Europe is.

Is this mass literacy? Or the kind of ignorance that even exceeds that of famed Yankee icon, doughnut-chomping Homer Simpson?

But who cares about the facts, eh?

4. Here in the US, we have immigrants from Portugal and Latin America who have trouble writing and reading their own native languages. There were schools, true, but they were for a small minority. Mass literacy was not a achieved until recently in these Catholic countries.

Wrong. There are far more immigrants to the US who can read and write better than many a bigoted, red-neck, trailer park dummy. These immigrants can speak not only their own language but also English and other languages. Mass literacy has still not been achieved in America, let alone mass education. A surprising number of Yanks do not read much more besides newspapers and comic books. They are, all too often, deeply ignorant even of their own country, let alone other countries. Fred, for example, demonstrates his own deep ignorance of Latin American history.

An increasingly common view of "Protestant" America

As we have demonstrated in this Blog on numerous occasions, ever since the infamous Monroe doctrine, US governments have been intent upon turning Latin America into a US economic colony, crushing its people under successive anti-Catholic tyrannies funded and supported by the US government and delivering them into deep poverty and servitude chiefly for the benefit of Yankee Capitalist exploiters. This system of tyranny and corruption Fred thinks is an example of Catholic government.

Well, folks, it's a point of view - just not a very literate one.

5. Indulgences are given for periods of time, people get out of Purgatory. If you pray for them after they've gone out of Purgatory, it's a waste of time. How does prayer for those who don't need it do anything useful? Again, it's like giving medicine to healthy people.

Wrong. Indulgences are no longer given for periods of time and, in any case, they never represented "periods of time" in the next life since there is no time in the next life. They represented reductions in the stipulated periods of time given by Church courts for doing penance for sins and offences. In that respect they were no different from modern courts who give time off for good behaviour. Indeed, that is precisely where courts got the idea from, Fred, which you might have known if only you were better informed. Penance given by such courts for malefactors and offenders is precisely the origin of the word "Penitentiary" which is now part of the US judicial and penal system.

Penance simply means making up for your sins and offences to others and to God by sincere sorrow and by trying to repair the harm done. There is no magic about it - every system of justice and fair play requires it.

No prayer or penance made in the right spirit is ever wasted. Prayer is not material like a bank full of money. Prayer that is directed for the benefit of a person already in heaven is made use of by that same soul, and accepted by God, for the benefit of other souls who need it. A soul in heaven lives in perfect charity and so will always strive to do good for others, especially by prayer. This is what the Catholic Church means by the Communion of Saints. Prayer is a spiritual lifting of the heart and mind to God and the saints and so is beyond time, matter and the purely material. To think of it as a bank of money or a chest of medicine is to miss the point utterly - which, true to form, Fred, is exactly what you do.

Go to the bottom of the class, again, Fred!

6. An anti-aristocratic ideology didn't stop duelling immediately in the USA, but officials in France, people with education and position, were still challenging each other to duels at the conference ending World War I; Americans visiting the conference found this bizarre.

Wrong. Whatever ideology has ruled in the USA has not, even today, stopped duelling. Fights over personal honour are fought in the streets of America more frequently now than ever. Some Yanks can be notoriously touchy over their supposed "honour" and are all too willing to fight over it. The fact that such fights are often done by those who think that some other person has slighted them (or, as they often put it, "dissed" them) proves this beyond a peradventure. As I have already pointed out to you, the Catholic Church has always , and still does, condemn this and any other sort of duelling whether in America or anywhere else. That is simply a matter of very clear record - a long stream of statements from the Holy See roundly condemns any form of duelling or honour-fighting, particularly so if any lethal force is likely to be used.

Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Anyone who thinks that Puritan America or anti-aristocratic and democratic America got rid of duelling is plainly living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Duelling flourished in America like almost nowhere else and was a national scandal.

Americans visiting the Versailles conference after WWI were in no position to condemn France for its duellers - if indeed there really were any - since the practice was still a common feature of life in America, whether in the Wild West or in the seedy streets of her cities. In France, on the other hand, it was illegal. That did not, it must be said, stop atheists, like George Clemenceau, from duelling (for which he was prosecuted and imprisoned for 2 weeks).

However, the real problem Fred has is simply that he cannot comprehend the historical fact that France, save for a brief period under King Charles X in the 1830s, has not been a Catholic country for some 200 years.

Frenchmen still duelling in 1918 - if indeed there were any - would not have had the slightest regard for the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and would be much more likely to have been Protestant-born atheists like Georges Clemenceau or secularists like the majority of men in public office at that time.

Ridiculously Fred overlooks the fact that the very French politicians who settled the Versailles treaty had, for a large part, been those who had passed the laws at the turn of the century which had suppressed all the Catholic contemplative religious orders in France and exiled their members at the point of a gun.

Not very Catholic, then, hey Freddy?

7. People can certainly think of mid-18th century Spain, Portugal and Italy as Catholic. Compare literacy rates in those places with literacy rates in Protestant England, Scotland, New England and Holland and see what the differences were.

Wrong. Yes, let's do that! The Catholic countries win hands down. And that is even given the fact that during the mid-18th century the governments and Prime Ministers of Spain, France, Portugal, the Empire and much of Italy were anti-clerical, anti-papal secularists and/or Freemasons just as the future leaders of the United States were. Moreover, Europe was locked in a series of wars. Nevertheless, religious orders like the Jesuits were able to build an highly successful system of Catholic education for rich and poor alike.

Go and read Cobbett and your whole world outlook will be radically challenged. That's if you dare...

8. As soon as transportation became cheap enough, people started leaving these Catholic places for wealthier Protestant ones by the tens of thousands. A nation that can't feed what it breeds is a failure; a faith that condemns them to overpopulation and ignorance is contemptible.

The era of mass emigration was in the 19th century when political revolution was rife across Europe. This was caused almost exclusively by anti-Catholic terrorists and revolutionaries - often supported by Protestant money from America and Britain. Not surprisingly many wished to escape it. Poverty was the result of anti-Catholic wars and revolutions fomented and run by anti-Catholics, revolutionaries and Protestants often with foreign money - in short, the very gangsters you would have us salute and approve.

One of the best-known examples of emigration was from places like Ireland where Roman Catholics were brutally and grotesquely persecuted by Protestant bullies and thugs and a Protestant government. Roman Catholics became poor in Ireland by virtue of a deliberate policy of persecution and starvation. A similar policy was followed in other parts of Europe thereby also impoverishing the Catholic poor. This was a policy invariably supported by the Protestant American governments you tell us were so great. These mercilessly corrupt policies were not put in place by Catholic governments but by anti-Catholic governments made up of Protestants, Liberal revolutionaries and Pope-haters.

In short, Freddy, the people you want us to be like.

You are, however, right in your last sentences. A nation and faith that cannot feed their people, and condemns them to over-population and ignorance - or indeed to any other vices - is contemptible and a failure. But since those nations and that faith were anti-Catholic, not least the Protestant and secularist nations and faiths, what, then, you are clearly saying is that Protestant and anti-Catholic nations and the Protestant faith and anti-Catholicism are contemptible and a failure.

Own goal, perhaps, Fred?

The dire poverty, ignorance, superstition and misery created by the greed, stupidity and bigotry permitted by Protestant England, for example, has been well-documented by Protestant author, Charles Dickens. Truly and rightly did G K Chesterton call the Protestant Reformation the "Revolt of the Rich" for so it was - and at the expense of the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalised.

The dire and grinding poverty which is the legacy of the Protestant Reformation is one of the blackest marks upon humanity in all of history. It was a foul disgrace and every Protestant should hang his head in shame at the memory of it.

What a blight upon mankind has been the Protestant Revolt! A diabolical rebellion against God and neighbour by the greedy, the selfish and the cruel.

It allowed the return of slavery and slave-trading (long after the Catholic Church had finally persuaded men to end them), the oppression of the poor, peculation, corruption and swindling on a grand scale and a freedom for cruel and evil men to flourish. One is reminded of some of the odiously evil characters depicted by Charles Dickens in his novels - they were based upon real-life models in a supposedly "tolerant" and "literate" Protestant society.

Wackford Squeers and Mrs Sliderskew conspire, unaware that they are observed.
The odious Wackford Squeers of Dotheboys (i.e. Do-the-boys) Hall and his even more odious wife terrorise their pupils and administer brimstone to them, all for filthy lucre, in Dickens' novel Nicholas Nickleby. Even worse is Nicholas' uncle, Ralph, who initially sends poor Nicholas to Dotheboys to get him out of the way and is revealed as a monster of iniquity. Such evil men all too often flourished in Protestant countries.

As I said in my post to you: it is really the views you ask us to champion that are a failure and are contemptible. They are predicated upon prejudice, bigotry, superstition, ignorance, and contempt for the truth, for decency and for ordinary humanity.

I hope with time, reading and reflection, you may perhaps revisit them.


Monday 8 September 2008

Mourning: to comfort the bereaved and to pray for the dead

Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo. 1666. Empress Doña Margarita de Austria in Mourning Dress.

This portrait of Margaret of Spain, the Holy Roman Empress, in mourning black in 1666, recalls to us that mourning was a solemn duty in times past as a way of reminding Christians to pray for the recently dead.

Praying for the dead is, for those who have forgotten it, a grave duty for all Catholic Christians and one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

The purpose is to deliver one's loved ones out of the painful, suffering process of purgation that all but the most perfect must endure after death before they are sufficiently pure and holy to be ushered into the presence of Almighty God who is all love. No taint of self-love must remain to those who come before God.

Consider an analogy: when one awakes, or has been in a dark place, it takes a little while for the eyes to adjust to the light which is painful to behold until the adjustment is made. So with us sinners who are being prepared to enjoy the supreme joy of the presence of God - we have to adjust to the brilliance of His perfect light before we can see Him clearly.

Now this process can, by reason of the Communion of all the Faithful with the Saints in heaven, be hastened by the prayers of the Faithful here below where we are still ourselves suffering and gaining grace for ourselves and for others. Once we are in Purgatory we are being purged and can no longer merit grace for others. So we must do so here below whilst we have the time.

Now this duty is easily forgotten in a busy world and so we wear mourning to remind us to pray regularly throughout the day and night for our dead.

We do this by wearing black (called Grand Deuil by the French) - save for some Catholic Queens who wear Deuil Blanc, that is, white. Queen Fabiola did so at the Funeral of her late husband, King Baudouin of Belgium.

The length of mourning depended on your relationship to the deceased. The different periods of mourning dictated by society were expected to reflect your natural period of grief.

"It is a holy and wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins."
[2 Macab. 12:46]

Friends, acquaintances, servants and employees wore mourning to a greater or lesser degree depending on the length of their connection to the deceased.

No lady or gentleman in mourning was supposed to attend balls. The wearing of a black arm band was appropriate for military men (or others compelled to wear uniform in the course of their duties) but otherwise wearing only a black arm band instead of proper mourning was a degradation to be avoided.

Mourning customs were usually these (with exceptions from country to country):

  • for a widow, 2 to 2 and a half years and a widow did not enter society for a year (although she could re-marry after 1 year and 1 day if financially necessary);
  • for a widower, 2 years;
  • for a parent, 2 years;
  • for children (if above ten years old), 2 years;
  • for children below that age, 3 to 6 months;
  • for an infant, 6 weeks and upward;
  • for siblings, 6 to 8 months;
  • for grandparents, 6 months;
  • for uncles and aunts, 3 to 6 months;
  • for cousins, great aunts and uncles, or aunts and uncles related by marriage, from 6 weeks to 3 months;
  • for more distant relatives or friends, from 3 weeks upward.

Full or deep mourning, a period of a year and one day, was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. The most recognizable portion of this stage was the weeping veil of black crepe. If a women had no means of income and small children to support, marriage was allowed after this period. She would return to black mourning on the day after marrying again.

Second mourning, a period of 9 months, allowed for minor ornamentation by implementing fabric trim and mourning jewellery. The main dress was still made from a lustreless cloth. The veil was lifted and worn back over the head. Some widows, through age or piety, frequently remained in this mourning for the rest of their lives.

Half mourning lasted from 3 to 6 months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into colour was expected when coming out of half mourning.

The standard mourning time for a widower was 2 years but it was up to his discretion if he wished to re-marry. Typically young unmarried men stayed in mourning for as long as the women in the household did.

Mourning for parents ranked next to that of widows; children mourning for their parents or parents for children being identical. This usually meant 1 year in deep or full mourning, 6 months in crepe, 3 in second, and 3 in half mourning. Second mourning, without full mourning, was suitable for parents-in-law. After 1 month in black, lilac should follow.

Young children were never kept more than 1 year in mourning. No female under the age of 17 was to wear creped full mourning.

The ancient Order of Widows, like the ancient Order of Virgins, dates from Apostolic and Scriptural times and is the real origin of widows wearing mourning black or similar dark colour for the rest of their lives.

"I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day"
[John 11:24]

It is a pious and commendable religious practice and is done for the same reason that priests and religious wear black. It is a sign of witness and of mortification in this life in preparation for the heavenly banquet that is to come.

Only ignorant revilers, scoffers and the grossly impious sneer at mourning. It is now recognised as one of the great ailments of our modern society that no time is allowed the bereaved to grieve and mourn their loss. The result can be the most terrible psychological suffering, distress and disease.

Women who have had abortions are particularly prone to such psychological illness which is sometimes called "post-abortion syndrome". Once they recognise the wrongness of abortion, they should be encouraged to enter into mourning even if discreetly avoiding mention of the potential scandal of the abortion by simply referring to the death of a child or relative. This will help them to grieve and mourn the loss of their infant and help them overcome the spiritual and psychological suffering they are under-going, which can often be grave and debilitating.

Friends, relatives and clergy can assist them by encouraging them not to be afraid to grieve and mourn.

When we mourn we should remember that our Lord Himself mourned and grieved at the loss of His friend, Lazarus, who, as a foretaste of the Resurrection, He caused to rise from the dead.

So, too, we must pray for the dead so that they, also, will be resurrected into the glorious light of heaven.

Carl Heinrich Bloch. The Raising of Lazarus.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.