Saturday 18 December 2010

Infallibility - how do we explain it?

It is not unfamiliar to hear some Catholics these days throwing doubt on the doctrine of infallibility.

What should we say to such people?

I could mention Matt 16:18 ("thou are Peter...etc) and I could mention the Church's own claim to infallibility (Lumen Gentium 25 of Vatican II and Pastor Aeturnus of Vatican I) but I think the point can be answered more simply.

In fact every serious belief system considers itself possessed of a principle of "infallibility" in the sense that it considers its own principal doctrines to be absolutely true. Even Secularists consider it self-evidently true that there is no God or at least that God should have no part in the public affairs of men.

The difference is simply that the Catholic Church defines the scope of its own view of its capacity to teach infallibly rather more scientifically than any other belief system. It thus sets out the boundaries of its own infallibility with some precision, unlike all other belief systems which more or less expect their disciples to "take it as read" that the principal teachings of their belief system are absolutely true.

The circularity involved in saying that doctrine "X" is true because it is true, is so obviously unsatisfactory to any real searcher after truth that the Catholic Church, following the lead of its Founder, took steps to set out clear parameters as to when - and more importantly why - some of its teachings were taught as infallibly true and beyond question.

The advantage that theists have over atheists is that we can appeal to God as a final authority (provided, of course, that He has given His view which, in the case of Christianity, He has, through Revelation).

Atheists are thus only able to say on any matter not clearly knowable by deductive or inductive logic, in effect, "I am right and you better believe me". That is because they do not believe in any higher authority than man and, indeed, often do not much believe in higher authorities even among men. They therefore have no higher authority to which they can appeal in the event of dispute.

Or, as Gilbert and Sullivan put it more succinctly, "when everybody's somebody then no-one's anybody".

In short, one man's view is as good as another's and so, absent respect for logic, truth boils down to having more people on your side than the other guy. In short, might becomes right.

To be fair, many atheists do respect logic. But on any matter that transcends logic alone, such as the existence of God, of spirits, of an after life, of the cause and origin of virtue, vice and free-will, they have no answer other than their own unaided opinions.

Theists have God.

But that is not enough. After all, who knows the mind of God?

We need to know what God says, at least, to us and we need to know with certainty and precision.

God the Father: Creator and Teacher

Step forward the principle of infallibility.

This principle is a logical extension of the idea that there is right and there is wrong, that there is truth and there is falsehood.

Those who deny that truth exists are self-defeating since the very statement "nothing is true", is, itself, being asserted as true, but, if it is true, then there is such a thing as truth and the statement is false anyway.

It is like Bernard Shaw's self-contradictory rule that "The Golden Rule is that there are no Golden Rules". One merely replies to him "including your own Golden Rule?".

Given that there is truth, then, it follows that some things must be true. We can arrive at truth by the use of logic but, as I said above, some ideas transcend logic and cannot be knowable by the same.

How then do we know whether they are true or not?

The only answer can be that someone with greater knowledge than ourselves - greater than all of humanity - must be able to tell us (and, once told, we may then be able to apply our skills in logic to what we have been told). That must mean either a being superior to men, such as a spirit of some sort, or perhaps a being from another part of the Universe or perhaps even from another Universe.

Of the latter two, scientists have only been able to speculate since no human has ever met such a being.

As to the first, we have more concrete scientific knowledge.

We have various religions which claim to have had metaphysical knowledge communicated to them from spirits of one kind or another. So far as I am aware only two claim that such knowledge can be taught and mediated infallibly - the Mormon Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Thus, the majority of religions are nearly in the same difficulty as the Secularist in that they do not have any mechanism by which they can, with certainty or even precision, confirm that any of the teachings taught them by their spirit guides are absolutely true. One is more or less driven back to "they are true because I say they are true".

The difficulty with the infallible organ of the Mormon teaching office is that it freely contradicts itself. "X" is true today but tomorrow it isn't. A more obvious self-contradiction cannot be.

For a truth to be absolutely true, it must always, everywhere and forever, be true. That is logically self-evident.

Thus, as Newman reminds us, doctrine cannot be true if it is not consistent with itself here and now, in the past and in the future.

The Catholic Church claims this consistency and not only invites others to put it to the test, scientifically, but puts itself to such test with regularity and rigour. It also applies the other tests that Newman adumbrates in his Development of Christian Doctrine, viz., preservation of type, continuity of principles, logical sequence, conservation of past principle etc.

Thus, the Catholic Church is among the first to admit that truth not knowable by logic requires a higher teacher than humanity, posits such a teacher in God, admits that His teaching is of no use unless communicated to mankind, witnesses to the fact of His having done so, teaches that it happened by means of God assuming human form and so teaching men, His teachings later being partially collected in writings called "The Books" (ta Biblia in the Greek of its time) and the power to interpret "The Books" being imparted by this God-in-assumed-human-form to His formally-appointed successors, particularly the chief of them, St Peter, and his successors, the chief bishops of the Catholic Church.

The bishops of the Catholic world gathered together in General Council at the Vatican

This arrangement appears to be almost unique in the annals of human history. That gives it a claim upon our attention, if nothing more.

Of course, Catholics will claim, like most other belief-systems, that our system is absolutely true. But we have an added advantage. We can show how we arrive at such absolute truth, with precision and with certainty. They cannot - at least nothing like to the same degree.

The Chief Bishop (Father or "Pope") has been appointed by God, when God visited men, as the authentic interpreter of The Books. In interpreting The Books, he can, logically, also interpret what it means when it records the moment when God appointed him and his successors as its interpreters.

The chief bishops and their advisers (or councils of bishops) have done precisely that.

They have done so in very precise, scientific and legal language so as to provide the very certainty and precision that I mentioned was lacking from most other belief systems.

Not only that but they have done so in a manner that leaves no room for doubt or uncertainty, knowing that men are entitled to know exactly what the God-appointed interpreters mean by particular teachings. They have used legal formulae to "define" and to "exclude", to say "we define" and to say "let the opposite view be anathema". This provides clarity and certainty of the most consummate kind.

Any fool can bumble, guess, procrastinate or prevaricate. A real teacher must be able to teach clearly, precisely and with authority.

Such the God-appointed Catholic "interpreters" have done and continue to do.

We can access and read their clear teachings at our choice and at our leisure.

The more recent include Pastor Aeturnus of the First Vatican Council and Lumen Gentium 25 of the Second Vatican Council.

The first of these even uses the same precise, clear and defining formula to set out the bounds of the same certainty. It teaches thus:

"It is a divinely revealed dogma that the Roman Pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is:

1. when acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians;

2. he defines;

3. by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority;

4. a doctrine concerning faith and/or morals;

5. to be held by the universal Church

possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of Blessed Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith and/or morals, and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable of themselves and not because of the consent of the Church (ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae). But if anyone presumes to contradict this our definition – which God forbid! - anathema sit."

[Conc. Vat. I, Const. dogm. Pastor Aeternus, Ch.4, Denzinger-Schoenmetzer 1839 (3074)]

This is admirably clear and scientifically precise.

No other belief-system has this admirable degree of clarity and scientific precision in setting out the limits of its own teaching authority.

Note that the Council teaches that it is a "divinely revealed dogma" and that those who contradict the definition are to be held anathema.

It is, indeed, a high degree of precision which is here displayed. No-one need be in any doubt about this teaching. Any man can quite readily say to himself that he does or not believe this teaching and thus is - or is not - a believer in the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Pope St Gregory the Great writing depicted with a white dove representing the Holy Spirit inspiring him
(the popes wore red until Pope St Pius V, a Dominican, continued to wear his white Dominican soutane, establishing the tradition of popes in white soutane)

Any man can apply this yardstick to any teaching emanating from any Catholic source and can readily see whether or not it is taught infallibly and thus is (or is not) an integral part of the Catholic faith.

For instance, the Catholic Church has infallibly taught that the Virgin Mary, the Jewish and human mother of God-in-assumed-human-form (whom we call Jesus Christ, from the Greek Iesous Christos, and the Hebrew, Y'shua Moshiach, meaning "anointed saviour"), was taken up to heaven, body and soul, upon her death.

Equally, for instance, the Catholic Church has never taught, let alone infallibly, the doctrine that some races are inferior to others.

One can thus readily apply the relevant criteria to any idea, teaching or proposition.

Those who seek to deprive the Catholic Church of its charism of infallibility thus do a tremendous disservice not only to the Church but also to human civilisation as a whole by eliminating the admirable clarity and scientific precision which the Church applies to itself, unlike any other belief system.

Even if the Catholic Church were not the true religion (which it is) it would be a retreat into obscurity to prefer it to deprive itself of such admirable clarity and precision and would set at defiance the efforts of men to reach truth with as much clarity and certainty as we can.

Far from being the approach of a scientist it would rather be the retreat by an obscurantist who preferred muddle to precision, opacity to clarity, something which no real scholar, scientist or philosopher, worthy of the name could possibly prefer.

Yet there are some Catholics who would prefer a retreat into obscurity than an advance into clarity. Not liking the clarity that they see, they retreat from it.

Note also that the criteria provided infallibly by Pastor Aeturnus does not restrict an exercise of the ex cathedra teaching authority to any time, place or method, beyond the 5 criteria.

Thus it is an unwarranted restriction upon the application of Pastor Aeturnus to aver, as some do, that the two Marian dogmas promulgated in the last 200 years are the only examples of infallibly taught doctrine over that time.

Pastor Aeturnus provides no such restriction.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Cardinal Newman himself believed that the papal encyclical Quanta Cura of Blessed Pope Pius IX taught doctrine infallibly.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman believed that the encyclical Quanta Cura was taught infallibly

Others say that the Pope cannot teach infallibly on his own but only by consent of a General Council.

Such a "conciliarist" view was infallibly condemned by the 4th Lateran Council (1215), the Council of Lyon (1274), the Council of Vienne (1311) and - in the most express terms - by the 5th Lateran Council (1512).

The teaching contained in the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae occasioned much controversy as many thought that it would teach that artificial contraception is morally licit. It taught the opposite, in fact.

Whether it taught so infallibly becomes of lesser importance when we acknowledge that such teaching was already infallibly taught as true by virtue of the ordinary infallible teaching of the bishops dispersed throughout the world.

The infallibility of this so-called "ordinary" infallible teaching office has been taught since the days of the Apostles but was most recently and conveniently re-affirmed in Lumen Gentium 25 of the Second Vatican Council which taught:

"Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held".

There can be no doubt that a moral unanimity of bishops throughout the world always taught, consistently, against the licitness of artificial contraception. This was thus the infallible teaching of the ordinary teaching office long, long before the encyclical Humanae Vitae was issued.

G K Chesterton, defender of infallibility

Many Catholics, however, would rather throw out the baby of clarity of teaching with the bathwater of the teaching on contraception because they have found it inconvenient in their own personal lives. They love vice more than truth.

I need hardly add that the inconvenience of some individual persons cannot be a basis for over-throwing the teaching office of the Catholic Church established, as we saw above, by God himself when he formally appointed his followers to be authentic interpreters of His own teachings.

If God is anything at all, He must surely be forgiving of creatures whom He knows to be prone to sin. Therefore, there is simply no need to re-write His teachings to suit our vices. It is simpler and better just to say sorry for not reaching the set goals.

As G K Chesterton once memorably put it, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried".

More importantly, we do not advance into clarity by retreating into obscurity.

Let us, then, thank God for the gift or charism of infallibility, the guarantor of clarity in teaching or doctrine.

Ecclesia docens
The living voice of the teaching Church


Saturday 11 December 2010

Christian street preacher wins award against the police for false arrest and assault

An autistic Christian street preacher who was handcuffed and arrested for speaking out against homosexuality and many other sins has been awarded £4,250 in damages following a court case against West Midlands Police.

Birmingham County Court ruled on Wednesday that PC Adrian Bill committed assault and battery against Mr Anthony Rollins when he handcuffed him unnecessarily.

The court also ruled that Mr Rollins was wrongfully arrested, unlawfully detained and his human rights to free speech and religious liberty were infringed. The court ordered the police to pay Mr Rollins' legal costs.

Doh! I fink wee boobed, boys.....

Do you remember the story about a Christian Street preacher who was arrested for saying "Homosexuality is a sin"?

In fact, there is no such thing as "hate crime" in English law. It is not a phrase that is used by the law.

The actual facts of the arrest of the case were recorded on video and make disturbing viewing.

Among the the first words of the police when they arrive is:

"Hello sir. What have you been saying, homophobic wise ?"

This is barely English, let alone a question that can be answered by someone about to be arrested. Matters got worse:

"Preacher: I spoke to your officer earlier and he was upset that I was saying homosexuality was a sin – which is what the Bible says. And I affirm that’s what I say because that’s in the Bible. And there’s no law, there’s no law…

Policeman: Well there is.

Preacher: No there isn’t.

Policeman: There is. Unfortunately, mate, it’s a breach of Section 5 of the Public Order Act"

Well, actually, constable, it is just isn't and you are an ignoramus for knowing so little about the law that you were claiming to arrest someone for!

And to cap it all the arresting officer actually arrests him for a "racially aggravated public order offence". Yep - racially aggravated!


You just can't make this stuff up!

Nevertheless, the preacher was arrested, taken to a police station, made to give his DNA and fingerprints and eventually charged.

What then happened?

Err...well.... all the charges were dropped.

Straight away.

Like that.

Poof - gone - out the door.


Once the facts of the case were examined by Crown Prosecutors, lawyers and police officers who were capable of using more than one brain cell at a time, it became blatantly obvious that there was no such law as the heavy-handed officers of the law had falsely claimed.

How could this be contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act? It has never been any part of the Public Order Act to decide what is or is not "a sin" and it is not illegal to say that any form of behaviour is "a sin".

So - were the 3 police officers and 2 PCSOs involved in this situation just plain stupid or is there a problem with the wording of the law itself?

Section 5 actually reads as follows:

"Public Order Act 1986, s. 5 Harassment, alarm and distress

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he–

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(2) An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3) It is a defence for the accused to prove–
(a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b) that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c) that his conduct was reasonable.


S6(4)Mental element: miscellaneous)

A person is guilty of an offence under section 5 only if he intends his words or behaviour, or the writing, sign or other visible representation, to be threatening, abusive or insulting, or is aware that it may be threatening, abusive or insulting or (as the case may be) he intends his behaviour to be or is aware that it may be disorderly"

Sothe Police had to decide that Mr Mcalpine was using "threatening, abusive or insulting words" when he said that "homosexuality was a sin".

There is no legal definition of "threatening, abusive or insulting" and the words are to be taken in their normal and natural meaning.

Clearly, the phrase "homosexuality is a sin" is not "threatening", nor "abusive".

Someone might, conceivably, consider it "insulting". But should it be an offence to use words that are merely subjectively insulting?

Where does that end? Is it criminal?

In fact the judge in the Rollins case used his commons sense and came to the conclusion that Mr Rollins had been wrongly arrested and had been assaulted.

The question has but to be stated for its answer to be obvious. Of course, it cannot and should not be criminal. In fact, it is simply not criminal. The police officers were simply off on a crazy frolic of their own.

The proper view must be that the words "threatening, abusive or insulting" ought to be taken together, that the preacher could not be said to have caused "alarm, harassment or distress" and/or his conduct was perfectly reasonable (per s.5(3)(c)).

Doubtless, the CPS came to their conclusion for these or similar reasons and the charges had to be dropped.

There have been numerous similar incidents of police over-reaction to complaints of Homophobia, Islamaphobia, racism etc and the reason for this is the abysmally low standard of training of police officers regarding the dubious concept of "hate crime".

Common sense and the right to freedom of speech seem to have been left on the shelf at the police station.

Now view the video and see what I mean. The uniformed official grinning vacantly in the background is apparently the PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) who had actually called the police to report the preacher for "Homophobia" (which is not an offence known to the law).

Stop arresting the innocent....!

Advent: O Dayspring! Brightness of eternal Light ...

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: vei, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra.

O Dayspring! Brightness of eternal Light and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

~~~~~ " ~~~~~

This is the 5th of the 7 great "O" Antiphons of Advent that are sung at Vespers up until Christmas Eve.

These are beautiful prayers that tell of the coming of our God in the flesh using the words of the Old Testament that predict the coming of the Messias.

There are 7 of them. 7 is a sacred number - 7 days of the week, 7 Sacraments, 7 deadly sins and contrary virtues, 7 ages of man, 7 ranks of Holy Orders (Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon, Acolyte, Lector, Exorcist and Porter), 7 ranks of the Christian nobility, 7 diurnal hours of the Divine Office (Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline - Matins being the Night Office) and so on. 7 is the Biblical number of perfection whereas 6 is the number of sin.

The 7 "O" Antiphons are a most wonderful and ancient way to usher the Christian people into the Holy Presence that comes to us in the depth of the night on Christmas Eve as a tiny babe.

Who but God could think of such a marvellous way to come down from on high to visit His people.

Anton Raphael Mengs. The Adoration of the Shepherds.

NOLITE timere: quinta enim die veniet ad vos Dominus noster!

FEAR not: on the fifth day our Lord shall come to you!

[Antiphon of 21 December, 5 days before Christmas]


RIP Colonel Tommy Pace OBE MD RAMC, late the Royal Ulster Rifles, Knight of Magistral Grace of the Order of Malta

Of your charity,

pray for the soul of


late RMO the Royal Ulster Rifles

Knight of Magistral Grace

of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

30 years Sacristan of the Conventual Church
of the Order

who died on 22 November 2010

aged 96 years


Colonel Tommy, in the choir dress of the Order of Malta, with his niece and other friends

The Funeral Requiem Mass and Exequies for Colonel Tommy Pace were held at Saint James's Spanish Place, George Street, London W1U 3QY, at 10 am on Friday 3 December 2010, preceded, the night before, by reception of the body at 5pm and Solemn Vespers of the Dead.

The Requiem was followed by a private Reception at the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers (Sister Agnes' Foundation), and a private cremation at Golders Green cemetery.

A Mass, for the Feast of Our Lady of Liesse (whose shrine is in Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta), and whose devotion was a favourite of the late Colonel, and which occurs on the same day, was also sung in the Conventual Church of St John of Jerusalem of the Knights of Malta, St John's Wood, for the Colonel's intention at 6.30pm, by Father John Hemer MHM.

This mass was followed by the Advent Recollection.

Colonel Tommy - a recollection...

Colonel "Tommy" Pace was born in Malta, where he studied medicine before the War, was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and served with distinction during the War in India and in Burma where he won a military OBE.

After the war, he served in Singapore, Kenya and Cyprus before going to Paris as Chief of NATO Medical Services. His last posting was to Brussels where he served at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) as chairman of the NATO Emergency War Surgery Handbook Revision Committee.

After retirement he moved to St John's Wood, to be close to Lord's Cricket Ground, and was a life-long member of the MCC. He was also a keen follower of rugby. He had been Sacristan of the Conventual Church for thirty years and continued regularly to attend Mass there until a few weeks before his death.

He was immensely proud to have been invested a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in June 2009 and described himself as the newest, oldest member.

The last few months of his life were a valiant struggle with advancing cancer, during which time he was an example to all his friends of patient forbearance and piety. His wife predeceased him by about fifteen years. He is survived by his four nieces.

All who knew him loved him for his charity and impeccable manners and gentility. He was a delightful man, very witty and amusing but also wonderfully humble and patient and was always a marvellous advertisement for his native Malta. It is no exaggeration to say that those who knew him were able to see in him something of Christ Himself.

He was, in every sense, worthy of Chaucer's famous words "a verray, parfit gentle Knight".

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord...

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Their name liveth for evermore...

Their name liveth for evermore...

O Valiant Hearts!

O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

Still stands His Cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

These were His servants, in His steps they trod,
Following through death the martyred Son of God:
Victor, He rose; victorious too shall rise
They who have drunk His cup of sacrifice.

O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and Whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.

The Next War

by Wilfred Owen

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death, —
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland, —
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, —
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorussed when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.

We are in the season of Remembrance Day - Martinmas, the Feast of St Martin, the Roman imperial officer who became a bishop.

Let us remember those who are serving in Afghanistan and other theatres of war and let us especially remember the dead and pray for them.

Let us also remember those who died in the two world wars and wars since.

Tyne Cot cemetery near Passchendaele, Flanders
where my grandfather and others of my family fought in battle

Once again, I would like especially to remember the officers and men from that most forgotten Division of all the regiments of the British Army at any time, anywhere, ever.

I mean the 10th and 16th Irish Divisions and their respective regiments.

These brave and dutiful soldiers are little remembered today because the Ireland from which they enlisted to fight for the freedom of small nations had, by 1918, undergone a radical sea-change in national aspirations because of the Rebellion of 1916, the reaction to it and the War of Independence of 1919-20 and the Civil War of 1920-21.

These most noble and brave Irish Divisions vanished into limbo, without honour, lying in an unquiet grave, forgotten by their own country and their own countrymen, save the brave and loyal families of the dead themselves, who were left to grieve alone, forgotten, even reviled, though their sons had faithfully answered the call of the Irish parliamentary leaders, John Redmond MP and John Dillon MP.

It is a little known fact that more Irishmen from the South served in the British Army and fought – in BOTH World Wars – than did those from the so-called “Loyalist” North.

Let us also remember the very young men from other parts of the British isles, too, who died in that terrible war that served to decimate Europe.

I can never help but think of the young lives lost in the First World War - that useless, pointless war brought about by the enemies of civilisation, of peace and - above all - of Christianity. Having started the war, the enemies of Christianity then did their level best to prevent it ending until every Christian nation had either toppled (like Austria-Hungary) or else had been bled half to death.

I think of young men like 19-year-old Roland Leighton, the poet and fiancée of Vera Brittain, who died of wounds on the Western Front.

"Goodnight, though life and all take flight, never goodbye..."
Inscription on the grave of Roland Leighton, the 19-year-old English poet.

God grant them all eternal rest...

In Flanders Fields
by Lt Col John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

At a Calvary near the Ancre
by Wilfred Owen

One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Let us remember, too, the men of the Burma Star Association who fought - and especially those who died - in the great Burma campaign in the 14th Army - the "forgotten army" - against the savage power of the Japanese Imperial Army.

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

(John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958), 1916)

The Kohima memorial

St Martin of Tours, pray for all our brave boys who gave their lives...

Their name, indeed, liveth for evermore...


Sunday 31 October 2010

Ave Christus Rex! Hail Christ the King!

Ave Christus Rex!

The Feast of Christ the King

Munkácsy Mihály. Ecce Homo. 1896.

Ecce Homo!

"Behold the Man!"

"Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him. And the soldiers platting a crown of thorns, put it upon his head; and they put on him a purple garment. And they came to him, and said:

Hail, King of the Jews;

and they gave him blows. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith to them: Behold, I bring him forth unto you, that you may know that I find no cause in him. (Jesus therefore came forth, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment.) And he saith to them:

Behold the Man!"

[John 19:1-5]

Diego Velazquez. The Crucifixion or Christ of San Placido. 1630.

Regnavit a ligno Deus

"God hath ruled us from a tree"

[Vexilla Regis, Venantius Fortunatus]

Christos Pantokratoros (Christ, ruler of all), ancient Byzantine ikon.

Rex regum et Dominus dominantium

"King of kings and Lord of lords"

[Revelation 19:16]

Dignus est Agnus qui occisus est, accipere virtutem, et divinitatem, et sapientem, et fortiudinem, et honorem. Ipsi gloria et imperium in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

[Revelation 5: 12, 13, Introit for the Mass of Christ the King]

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing...Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."

Dixit itaque ei Pilatus: ergo Rex es tu? Respondit Jesus: tu dicis quia Rex sum ego. Ego in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni in mundum, ut testimonium perhibeam veritati: omnis qui est ex veritate, audit vocem meam.
[John 18, Gospel for the Mass of Christ the King]

"Pilate therefore said to Him: art Thou a king then? Jesus answered: thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice".

"And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth."
[Revelation 19:6]

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever."
[Revelation 11:15]

"And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, LORD OF LORDS."
[Revelation 19:16]

"For unto Us a Child is born, unto Us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace".
[Isaiah 9:6]

Jusepe de Ribera. Christ in the Crown of Thorns.

The Kingship of Christ is not like the kingship of pagans, heathens, unbelievers and gentiles. The Kingship of Christ is the kingship of a God-King-Priest Who suffers for the sake of his subjects whom He considers to be His very own children.

His crown is the Crown of Thorns, His sceptre is the Reed of humility, His royal cloak is the Purple Robe of suffering, for a royal girdle He is bound with the Bonds of servitude, His white Seamless Garment of purity and integrity is stripped from Him in public, His subjects mock Him, His servants desert Him, His people for whom He suffers and dies reject Him, His path is a Way of the Cross and His greatest work is Crucifixion as a common criminal.

Behold the King Who is a servant to the meanest of His people!

In so suffering, this great King gives us a model for all Christian leadership - paternal, royal, priestly, loving, unselfish, all-suffering, all-giving and all-sacrificing.

This is how all Christian kings and fathers must conduct themselves. For kings are fathers and fathers are kings, their subjects are children and their children are subjects - to be loved, not oppressed; to be formed, not neglected; to be nourished, not abused.

For these little ones, a king and a father sacrifices all he has and, above all, himself.

That is the meaning of Christian kingship, fatherhood and leadership.

"He saith to them: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father. And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister:

And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant.

Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many."
[Matt 20:23-28]

But how few among us - even among us Christians - understands this meaning of Christian leadership? So few. They still think - like pagans - either that leadership and earthly power are useful means to enrich oneself and lord it over others or else, equally falsely, they think they are merely evil, which is to say the same thing.

It is false.

Others foolishly think that it is degrading to be a servant and better to be rich, powerful, and influential, not so as to be a servant, but so as to serve oneself and oppress and humiliate others.

In fact, kingship or leadership is given by God to men to serve others and to sacrifice oneself for the good of others, as Christ the King did for us. The role of Christian leader is one of suffering and self-sacrifice - not selfishness and self-aggrandisement. It is a most noble and holy calling and we must re-learn to regard it as such.

Woe betide those who use power and rule for themselves and not for others!

The Face of JESUS CHRIST on the Shroud of Turin - the face of love.

And so we must return to the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ...

"19. When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.

Our Lord's regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience. It is for this reason that St. Paul, while bidding wives revere Christ in their husbands, and slaves respect Christ in their masters, warns them to give obedience to them not as men, but as the vicegerents of Christ; for it is not meet that men redeemed by Christ should serve their fellow-men.

'You are bought with a price; be not made the bond-slaves of men'.

If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent.

Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man.

Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the Kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.
28. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Our predecessor of saintly memory, Pope Pius X, commanded to be renewed yearly, be made annually on that day."

[Pope Pius IX, Quas Primas, Encyclical letter establishing the Feast of Christ the King, 1925.]

Hail Christ the King!


Wednesday 13 October 2010

13 October: Feasts of King St Edward the Confessor and Blessed Gerard of the Knights Hospitaller of St John and Fatima anniversary

King St Edward the Confessor was born in 1003 and died 5 January, 1066. He was the son of Ethelred II and Emma, daughter of Duke Richard of Normandy, being thus half-brother to King Edmund Ironside, Ethelred's son by his first wife, and to King Hardicanute, Emma's son by her second marriage with Canute.

He was also nephew to St Edward the Martyr.

When hardly ten years old he was sent with his brother Alfred into Normandy to be brought up at the court of the duke his uncle, the Danes having gained the mastery in England. Thus he spent the best years of his life in exile, the crown having been settled by Canute, with Emma's consent, upon his own offspring by her. Early misfortune thus taught Edward the folly of ambition, and he grew up in innocence, delighting chiefly in assisting at Mass and the church offices, and in association with religious, whilst not disdaining the pleasures of the chase (hunting) or recreations suited to his station.

Upon Canute's death in 1035 his illegitimate son, Harold, seized the throne, Hardicanute being then in Denmark, and Edward and his brother Alfred were persuaded to make an attempt to gain the crown, which resulted in the cruel death of Alfred who had fallen into Harold's hands, whilst Edward was obliged to return to Normandy.

On Hardicanute's sudden death in 1042, Edward was called by acclamation to the throne at the age of about forty, being welcomed even by the Danish settlers owing to his gentle saintly character. His reign was one of almost unbroken peace, the threatened invasion of Canute's son, Sweyn of Norway, being averted by the opportune attack on him by Sweyn of Denmark; and the internal difficulties occasioned by the ambition of Earl Godwin and his sons being settled without bloodshed by Edward's own gentleness and prudence.

He undertook no wars except to repel an inroad of the Welsh, and to assist Malcolm III of Scotland against Macbeth, the usurper of his throne.

Being devoid of personal ambition, Edward's one aim was the welfare of his people. He remitted the odious "Danegelt", which had needlessly continued to be levied; and though profuse in alms to the poor and for religious purposes, he made his own royal patrimony suffice without imposing taxes. Such was the contentment caused by "the good St. Edward's laws", that their enactment was repeatedly demanded by later generations, when they felt themselves oppressed and they formed the basis of the English Constitution.

The carved head of St Edward the Martyr, the uncle of St Edward the Confessor

Yielding to the entreaty of his nobles, he accepted as his consort the virtuous Editha, Earl Godwin's daughter. Having, however, made a vow of chastity, he first required her agreement to live with him only as a sister. As he could not leave his kingdom without injury to his people, the making of a pilgrimage to St Peter's tomb, to which he had bound himself, was commuted by the pope into the rebuilding at Westminster of St Peter's Abbey, the dedication of which took place but a week before his death, and in which he was buried.

St. Edward was the first King of England to touch for the "king's evil" (scrofula), many sufferers from the disease were cured by him. He was canonized by Pope Alexander III in 1161. His feast is kept on the 13th of October, his incorrupt and sweet-smelling body having been solemnly translated on that day in 1163 by St Thomas of Canterbury in the presence of King Henry II.

St Edward's Crown is one of the British Crown Jewels. It is the official coronation crown used exclusively in the coronation of a new monarch. It was made in 1661 for the coronation of the restored King Charles II, as the original crown was destroyed by order of the viciously anti-Catholic extreme Protestant republican, Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.

The crown made for King Charles II is reputed to contain gold from the Crown of St Edward the Confessor.

St. Edward's Crown has been used as a symbol of royal authority since 1953 in the Commonwealth Realms, and can be seen on coats-of-arms.

St Edward's Crown, used at all English coronations

St Edward the Confessor, pray for us!

Blessed Gerard of Jerusalem

This day is also the Feast day of Blessed Gerard the founder of the world's oldest order of chivalry, the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, more commonly known as the Order of Malta, originally the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem.

The Order has its origins in a hospice and confraternity in Jerusalem founded some time before the First Crusade (1099).

According to most accounts, this was undertaken with the financial assistance of some wealthy merchants of the Italian port city of Amalfi to aid European pilgrims to the Holy Land. (The Amalfitans still commemorate their support of the Order in an annual observance.) The original Christian hospice may have been founded as early as circa 1020.

The first rector of what was to become known as the "Order of the Hospital" was the Blessed Gerard. With his Bull of 15 February 1113, Pope Paschal II sanctioned the establishment of the Hospitallers' order, dedicated to its patron, Saint John the Baptist. The Pontiff placed the Order under the direct protection and ecclesiastical authority of the Holy See. Pope Callixtus and subsequent Pontiffs granted the Order additional privileges over the next century. Gerard himself died in 1120 but the work of the hospice, which at one point was said to house two thousand patients, continued and continues even today world-wide.

Blessed Gerard, pray for us!

The Miracle of the Sun...

Today is also the anniversary of the last day of the apparitions at Fatima, Portugal and the day of the "miracle of the sun" when the sun "danced" before an astonished crowd which included unbelieving secularists who were converted by the miracle.

The people come to watch the miracle of the Sun at Fatima, 13 October 1917

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!


Sunday 12 September 2010

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 Ottoman 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 the Battle of 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, a copy of 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, Holy Roman Emperor at the Battle of Vienna

After the victory of Sobieski over the Turks, Venerable 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.

Count Ernst Rudiger von Starhemberg, commander of the Vienna garrison

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 King 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 served a Solemn High 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 lancer-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.

The massive charge of the Polish winged lancer-hussars which terrified the Ottoman troops and decided the Battle of Vienna. The wings made a terrifying sound as the Polish hussars came charging down the mountainside.

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, Blessed Pope Innocent XI commemorated his victory by extending the feast of the Holy Name of Mary to the universal Church.

The croissants signify the Turkish crescent

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 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 coffee house 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!


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

8 September 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.

8 September 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.

The Muslim Ottomans were less than happy to see the Order resettled, even though they had only a small number of ships.

Accordingly, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent 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 defeated a far greater Ottoman invasion force.

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 fiercely obdurate.

The Viceroy of Sicily had not brought help. Possibly the orders of his master, King 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.

Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the Turkish sovereign

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 to it only 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.

Fort Sant' Angelo, seen from Valetta, with Birgu in the background, where the battle was nearly lost but then, with extraordinary courage, finally won

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 the qualities of ruling temporal prince and religious, on the one hand, and cardinal prince of the Church, on the other, expresses his dignity well.

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 and the Turks began to think again of trying to invade Christendom by land.

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!