Friday, April 21, 2017

Servant of God and Marine

Vincent Robert Capodanno was born in 1929 in Staten Island, New York and was awarded the Medal of Honor for “...conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as a Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces.” (Medal of Honor Citation for Fr. Capodanno) 

Vincent Capodanno was the 10th son of Vincent and Rachel Capodanno, Italian immigrants in New York. He had three brothers who served in World War II and this experience instilled in him a strong sense of patriotism that complimented his deep faith in God and love of his Catholic faith, a faith demonstrated by daily mass attendance before high school classes and during his short time at Fordham University. 

After little over a year at Fordham University, Vincent Capodanno followed the call of God and entered the Maryknoll Missionary Seminary in Ossining, New York. After nine years of vigorous formation, he was ordained a priest on June 14, 1958, by Cardinal Spellman, then Archbishop of New York. From there he would travel to Taiwan to minister to the native Taiwanese by administering the sacraments, teaching native catechists and providing food and medicine to those in need. After his missionary assignments in Hong Kong and Taiwan, he petitioned his Maryknoll superiors to be released for a vocation as a military chaplain. In 1965 they granted his request and he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on December 28, 1965. 

His first assignment was to the 1st Battalion 7th Marines in Vietnam, an assignment he began on Holy Week in 1966. During this assignment, he focused on the young enlisted troops and was their constant companion. He spent his days reassuring them, consoling them and giving them spiritual guidance and grace. He loved this work and upon completion of his first tour of duty in April 1967 he requested an extension. His extension was granted and in June of 1967, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. 

It was in this division that Father Capodanno would follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and give his life for others. On September 4, 1967, Father Capodanno and his fellow Marines encountered the enemy at 0430 in the morning near the village of Dong Son in the Que Son Valley. By 0915 26 marines had been confirmed dead and their commander was requesting reinforcements. Throughout the devastating battle Fr. Capodanno valiantly moved among the battle lines both helping injured Marines to safety and providing last rites and comfort to the wounded and dying. After having been wounded by an exploded mortar round and losing a portion of his right hand Fr. Capodanno refused medical treatment and instead continued to serve his Marines. He encountered a wounded medic and despite his position 15 yards from an enemy machine gunner, Fr. Capodanno rushed to provide aid to the mortally wounded medic and was killed by 27 bullets from the enemy machine gunner. Fr. Capodanno died in the service of God and his fellow Marines not only upholding the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service but bringing the light of Christ to his fellow Marines in times of great darkness. 
Father Capodanno was awarded the Medal of Honor on January 7, 1969, and was declared a Servant of God by the Catholic Church on May 21, 2006. A Sainthood cause has been opened for Father Capodanno.

God of peace, You who weep
at the violence and wars between your children,
help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son.
In our darkest hour be our light
and show us the way to help those in greatest need.
Draw to Yourself those innocent victims who
find themselves surrounded by danger and destruction.
Hear the prayers of all who cry out to you for deliverance.
Through the intercession of Vincent Capodanno, Servant of God,
grant strength to the weak, courage to the fearful
and hope to those who mourn.
Above all, direct our hands this day to reach out and comfort
all who yearn for the coming of Your kingdom on earth.
Amen.


Fr. Capodanno, Pray for us.


Ref:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLR-rJYPlQo


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

Peter Julian Eymard was born in 1811 in LaMure, France and is known for his deep devotion to Jesus in the Eucharist, a devotion which was manifested itself in his early childhood years. When he was 5 years old he vanished from his home only to be found by his sisters in the local parish church standing in front of the tabernacle of the high altar. When asked what he was doing, he told his sisters, “I am here listening to Jesus” 

As a teenager, he worked for his father’ business making cutlery. Peter Julian wanted to become a priest but his father, having lost 8 children, did not want his only remaining son to become a priest. Following his father's death at age 18 he answered the call of God and joined the seminary at age 18. On July 20, 1834, after completing his training in the seminary he, was ordained a priest in the diocese of Grenoble at age 23. He served in this capacity until August 20, 1839, at which time he entered the religious life and professed vows in the Society of Mary, an order popularly known as the Marists. It was as a Marist priest that the devotion to the Eucharist he had since youth would flourish. 

Although he was naturally drawn to contemplation, he was known as a devoted and energetic priest who was an educator and an exceptional preacher. In his journeys around France, he would encounter various manifestations of eucharistic piety that were popular at that time in France. Although he had a busy schedule supporting lay organizations, preaching extensively and educating the laity, the eucharistic devotions he encountered allowed him to express his contemplative nature. Being drawn closer and closer to the Eucharist his primary calling from God became clear in May of 1845. During a Eucharistic Procession in Lyons, he had an intense encounter with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament that would resolve him to “bring all the world to the knowledge and love of our Lord; to preach nothing but Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ eucharistic.” This devotion to the Eucharist and promoting what the Second Vatican Council would eventually call the “source and summit” of the Catholic Faith, eventually led Peter Julian to leave the Marist Order with the intent of founding a religious congregation dedicated to the Eucharist.

In May of 1856, after having proposed a Eucharistic community focused on evangelizing those estranged from the Church to the Bishop of Paris, Father Eymard was granted approval for his order. Peter Julian focused on the working class men of Paris and attracted many followers. Working with the poor laborers of Paris presented Peter Julian the unique challenge of not being able to provide food or shelter for the members of his community. By God’s blessing, they were supported by a neighboring convent and he was able to continue his mission. In 1858 in collaboration with Marguerite Guillot he founded a congregation for women known as the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament. His work continued until his death in 1868. Peter Julian Eymard was canonized a saint in 1962.

Gracious God of our ancestors,
you led Peter Julian Eymard, 
like Jacob in times past,
on a journey of faith.
Under the guidance of your gentle Spirit,
Peter Julian discovered the gift of love in the Eucharist
which your son Jesus offered for the hungers of humanity.
Grant that we may celebrate this mystery worthily, adore it profoundly,
and proclaim it prophetically for your greater glory. Amen.


Ref: 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Good Philip

In Florence, on the 22nd of July in the year 1515 Philip Neri, the eldest of four children was born into a family of modest wealth but of Tuscan nobility. His father, Francesco was a notary and had a friendship with the Dominicans of Florence. It was this early relationship with the Dominicans that would set the foundation for Philips religious inclinations. At the age of 16, a wealthy uncle hired him into his business at S. Germano near monte Cassino. He worked hard and his uncle promised to make Philip and heir but Philip had other plans. 

After working for his uncle for two years Philip sold all his possessions, cut himself off from any of his family's patronages and moved to Rome in 1533 to do charitable works and to study. Arriving in Rome without a penny to his name he took up residence in the house of Galeotto Caccia, who gave him a room in his home in exchange for acting as a tutor to Galeotto’s two sons. During his time in Rome as a layman, Philip Neri made a living as a tutor and did all he could to win souls for God by visiting people in the hospitals, shops, warehouses, banks and public places and exhorting them to follow Jesus. Over the next 17 years, he would attract many followers, especially young men who were attracted to his deep spirituality and joyous nature. In 1550 he considered ending his active wok and retire into solitude but God had other plans for him. 

In 1551 at the behest of his spiritual director and confessor, Philip Neri was ordained a priest and expanded his ministry and focused on promoting the frequent reception of the sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. He would spend the hours from dawn until noon in the confessional and then celebrate mass. In his afternoons he would dedicate his time to the spiritual development of the young men of Rome. Through this ministry to young men, he attracted many men, both priests, and layman. Many of these priests worked with him to develop the spiritual life of those they encountered but though they lived and worked together they had no yet taken any vows. This band of priestly brothers worked out of Saint Girolamo Church in Rome, until in 1575, having grown in size, we recognized by Gregory XIII as the Congregation of the Oratory and were given the Church Saint Maria in Vallicella. This newly found order was founded with the intention of sanctifying themselves through the accomplishment of their priestly duties and to work for the sanctification of their neighbors.

Saint Philip Neri died in 1595 on the 26th of May after having spent the day in the confessional. He was beatified in 1615 by Paul V and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. 


Saint Philip Neri, pray for us.

The Madonna Appearing to Saint Philip Neri
Sebastiano Conca

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Was King Henry VIII A Willing Reformer?

We’ve all, at one time or another heard the story. Henry VIII, the King of England, split from the Catholic Church and divorced or killed his wives so he could have a male heir. While there is truth behind this picture of Henry VIII it might not be the full picture.

Portrait of Henry VIII
by Hans Holbein the Younger

The Defender of the Faith


On the 11th of October in 1521, Pope Leo X declared King Henry VIII the Fidei Defensor (a.k.a. Defender of the Faith) This was done in response to Henry’s writing of a book titled Defence of the Seven Sacraments. In Defence of the Seven Sacraments, Henry defends the teaching of the Catholic faith against the heresies promoted by Martin Luther. Regarding marriage, he defends the indissolubility of marriage based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 19. He also dedicates the book to Pope Leo X and in a letter to the Pope states...

“As We Catholic sovereigns should uphold religion, when We saw Luther’s heresy running wild, for the sake of Germany, and still more love of the Holy Apostolic See, We tried to weed out this heresy.” 

Henry goes on further to subject the contents of his work to the approval of Pope Leo X.

How could a man declared the Defender of the Faith, a staunch defender of the indissolubility of marriage, and a dedicated supporter of the Holy See turn around and become a tyrant who broke from Rome, divorced numerous wives and execute countless Catholics in his country? 

The Rest of the Story


Some say he was a capricious tyrant who defended the faith so long as it suited him and his political gain. But is there another possibility? Could something have happened that led to the downfall of the Defender of the Faith? Three Researchers from the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine think so.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, Ikram, Sajjad and Slardini delve into the medical history, biographies and personal letters of King Henry VIII to evaluate this question. What they found was a man who was “vigorous, generous and intelligent in his youth” who turned into “a cruel and petty tyrant in his old age.” This transition happened after Henry received two successive head injuries one during jousting and one during hawking, the practice of pole vaulting over ditches filled with water. These occurred in 1524 and 1525 respectively. It was after these injuries that Henry would begin his acts of tyranny. He then suffered another severe head injury while jousting in January of 1536 and in May of 1536 he would condemn Anne Boleyn to death. She would not be the only wife executed on the orders of the King, Katherine Howard, wife number five, was executed in 1542. 

Is it possible that King Henry VIII was not culpable for his actions separating the Church in England from the Church in Rome? Should we end this blog with, “King Henry VIII, pray for us?” 

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us.




Ref:

Ikram, Muhammad Qaiser, Fazle Hakim Sajjad, and Arash Salardini. "The head that wears the crown: Henry VIII and traumatic brain injury." Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 28, no. 1, 2016, pp. 16-19.

Henry VIII, King of England, Assertio septem sacramentorum, Defence of the Seven Sacraments, translated O’Donovan, Louis. https://archive.org/details/cu31924029398223


Monday, March 13, 2017

Saint Catherine of Sienna

Saint Catherine of Sienna

The holy virgin Catherine steadfastly begged the Lord to restore peace to his holy Church, alleluia.
- Antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah, April 29th, Liturgy of the Hours

Saint Catherine was born the youngest of 23 children in the year 1347 to parents Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa. Her father was a dyer and her mother was the daughter of a local poet. Catherine was a holy child having consecrated her virginity to Christ at the age seven. At the age of sixteen, she entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic and her father gave her her own room for prayer and meditation in which she spent three years in prayer, seclusion, and meditation. About the age of 20, Catherine experienced what hagiographers call, a “spiritual espousal” in which she received a vision of Christ taking her for Hid Bride in a personal way, bestowing upon this spouse a spiritual grace that gives the recipient an augmentation of charity and familiarity with God. Other saints such as Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Colette, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Ricci, Venerable Marina d'Escobar, St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, St. Veronica Giuliani, and Venerable Maria de Agreda, have been said to have received similar visions.

This grace manifested itself in Catherine’s life when in 1366 she left her life of seclusion and began to tend to the sick, serve the poor and work to convert sinners. It is said that Saint Catherine of Sienna had a deep devotion to the Eucharist subsisting on the Eucharist alone for long intervals of time. She attracted many followers due to her holiness. As she grew older she began to preach more and with the candor and authority of a person deeply committed to Jesus. This on some occasions led to opposition by both secular authorities and members of the clergy. Despite her extreme fasting and the opposition, she experienced Catherine was known for her radiant happiness and practical wisdom. 

Jesus’ grace continued to manifest itself in her life and she began to work on behalf of the Church in public affairs helping to start a crusade to the Holy Land, worked for peace between Florence and the Pope, helped to heal the Great Schism of 1378 and was key in persuading the Pope in Avignon to return to Rome. She died on April 29th in 1380, was canonized a saint in 1461 and declared, along with Saint Theresa of Avila, a doctor of the church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. 

Father,
in meditating on the sufferings of your Son
and serving your Church,
Saint Catherine was filled with the fervor of your love.
By her prayers,
may we share in the mystery of Christ’s death
and rejoice in the revelation of his glory,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
on God, for ever and ever.
- Prayer from the Proper of Saint for the 29th of April, Liturgy of the Hours.


Saint Catherine of Sienna Pray for us.

A reliquary containing
the head of Saint Catherine of Sienna
in the Basilica of San Domenico in Sienna



























Ref:

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-catherine-of-siena/

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=9

Gardner, E. (1908). St. Catherine of Siena. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03447a.htm

Monday, March 6, 2017

Saint Rose of Viterbo

Saint Rose of Viterbo

Saint Rose was born around the year 1233 to parents John and Catherine, a devout family that worked for the Poor Clare’s monastery in Viterbo, a commune of the Papal States. As a young child, she had a deep devotion to the poor which manifested itself through prayer and acts of aid.  After receiving what was reported to be a visitation from the Blessed Virgin Mary, Rose became a Third Order Franciscan at the age of ten and began preaching against heresies that were being spread in the region of Viterbo. Through her preaching, she attracted many followers. She became what we today would refer to as a community organizer. In her late teenage years, she organized marches and protests in favor of Pope Innocent IV against the secular authorities of led by Fredrick II. Due to this action, the governor of Viterbo banished Rose and her family from their home city of Viterbo. Moving to Soriano, Rose and her family continued to preach in favor of the Church and Pope. Legend has it that in early December of 1250, Saint Rose predicted the death of Fredrick II and the Pope would be victorious in the struggles. Later that month on the 13th Fredrick II died and the pope regained control of the papal states. Her family would move back to Viterbo in 1251 and Saint Rose would attempt to join the Poor Clare’s convent that her parents worked in but because her family did not have the means to support her she was not accepted into the convent. Saint Rose died on March 6th in 1252 and was interred in that convent five years later on September 4th. She was canonized 200 years later by Pope Callixtus III. 

There are two stories of miracles that accompany the life of Saint Rose. At a very young age, a favorite aunt of hers took ill and died from the sickness. It was said that, when her aunt was laid in the coffin, the three-year-old Rose knelt down, lifted her hands in prayer and upon praying the name of her aunt she rose from the coffin and from the dead. 

The second miraculous story of Saint Rose, came later in her life when her family was exiled from Viterbo. Before returning to Viterbo they had settled in the town of Vitorchiano. A sorceress was gaining renown and Rose would preach against her. Through her preaching, Rose was able to convert the sorceress’ followers but the sorceress remained unrepentant. To convert the sorceress Rose built a wooden pyre in the town square, climbed atop and had it lit. She stood amidst the flames unaffected for three hours. This miraculous event demonstrated the power of God and converted the sorceress.

Miracles surrounding Saint Rose of Viterbo continue to this day. Saint Rose of Viterbo is one of the incorruptibles. Her skin has darkened but remains flexible and her internal organs, having been evaluated in 2010, remain in good condition. 

Saint Rose of Viterbo, Pray for us.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI prays at the body of Saint Rose of Viterbo

References:
1. https://americaneedsfatima.org/Saints-Heroes/st-rose-of-viterbo.html

2. Cleary, G. (1912). St. Rose of Viterbo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 6, 2017: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13193a.htm

3. Miller, Fr. Don O.F.M, Saint of the Day: Saint Rose of Viterbo. Retrieved March 6, 2017: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-rose-of-viterbo/

4. Swaim, Colleen. Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints. Liguori Press, Missouri (2012)

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Battle of Poiters and Charles Martel the Hammer


Charles de Steuben's Bataille de Poitiers en October732 depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing 'Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours. The Celtic Cross in the background is an anachronism, such crosses being unknown at the time in the environs of Tours.
With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Europe fell into disarray. Due to this vacuum of power, Islam was able to spread. Beginning with the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in 622, Islam would expand to control Arabia, North Africa, Palestine, Persia, Spain, and parts of India. It was a rise of power unseen before in history. In merely one hundred years a small group of Muhammad’s followers would become one, if not the most dominant force surrounding the Mediterranean and beyond. 

Uniting the tribes of Arabia under a common monotheistic religion, Muhammad was able to conquer Syria by 636, Alexandria by 642, Carthage by 697 and finally crossing the Straight of Gibralter in 711 they moved into Spain. To all observers it appeared that Islam would become the dominant religion of Europe, surpassing Christianity. Having established control of the Iberian Peninsula, the Muslim general Abd ar-Rahman departed his base in Pamplona and crossed the Pyrenees into the territory controlled by the Franks. He would make it across the Garonne River, pass the city of Bordeaux and reach all the way to the town of Poitiers with little resistance by local forces. It was not until he encountered Charles Martel, known by historians as “the Hammer”, that the advance of Islam would be checked. 

One of the main contributing factors to the rapid rise and movement of Islam throughout Norther Africa and the Iberian peninsula was a use of mounted soldiers. This was to serve as the Achilles heel of Abd ar-Rahmans forces when they encountered Charles Martel on the road from Poitiers to Tours. In what is known as the Battle of Tours, the Battle of Poiters and the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs by Arab sources, Charles Martel controlling Frankish and Burgundian forces would defeat the advancing Muslims be relying on military tactics used by the Romans and Greeks for centuries. Rather than relying on the maneuver warfare of knights on horseback so often seen in popular depictions of Middle Ages warfare, Charles Martel’s forces, an assortment of spearman, light infantry and aristocratic nobles formed up on foot to hold firm the road from Poitiers to Tours.  Here they would encounter and defeat the advancing Islamic invaders. They would methodically beat back the advancing horseman in what was described by the historian Isadore as “the men of Europe, an immovable sea, stood close to another and stiffened like a wall, as a mass of ice they stood firm together.” And “with great blows of their swords, they beat down the Arabs.” With fortitude and strength, the men of Europe had preserved Christianity in Europe on that fateful day in October 732. If not for them Europe would likely have been praying to Mecca five times a day.

Ref: 
Curtis, Lang and Petersen, The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History. Flemming H. Revell, Grand Rapids MI. 1991.

Hanson, Victor Davis, Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. Anchor Books, New York. 2001.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Stylites

The rise of Monasticism in the 4th century continued in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the Christian east, this monasticism and attraction to asceticism manifested itself in many bizarre and extreme forms. One of these odd forms of hermetic asceticism can be seen in the Stylites, or “pillar-hermits”. 

The Stylites were Christian ascetics that chose to live atop a column or pillar (Greek: stylos). These rare examples of asceticism were known for their great holiness and could be found throughout eastern Christendom. Stylites lived for extended periods atop pillars typically with an area of four square yards. They were exposed to the elements, though sometimes they had a roof, and received sustenance from disciples that brought meager amounts of food to them by climbing up ladders. They spent most of their time in prayer but were also known to perform pastoral work among those who gathered around their columns. 

Ruins of the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites,
located 30km northwest of Aleppo Syria
The first known Stylite was Saint Simeon the Elder who mounted his column in Syria in 423 AD. He was born in Sisan about 388 and took up work as a shepherd before joining a monastery at age 16. due to his extreme asceticism and austerity, he was deemed unfit for communal life and was forced to quit the monastery. He became a hermit and lived a reclusive life in a hut in Telanissos in Syria. After three years he moved outdoors to a hill near one of Syria's main thoroughfares and was visited by travelers wanting to see the famous ascetic and ask his counsel. In order to escape this disturbance, he decided to live atop a pillar the first of which was 9 feet and finally, legend has it that, he ended up on a pillar 50 feet high. Atop his pillar, he conversed via letter with many people including the Emperor Theodosius, the Empress Eudocia and the Emperor Leo to whom Simeon wrote in favor of the Council of Chalcedon. He died in 459, having spent 37 years on his pillar. A church was built over his grave in the late 400s and his column was placed in the central court. 


Wellcome Library, London

Saint Simeon the Elder inspired many others to follow in his footsteps and his imitators include, Saint Daniel in Constantinople, Saint Simeon the Younger near Antioch, Saint Alypius near Adrianopolis, Saint Luke at Chalcedon and Saint Lazarus near Ephesus. Various other stylites lived throughout Greece and the Middle East and the only known stylite in the West was Saint Wulfaicus, a deacon near Yvoi, France who was forced by church authorities to descend. The longest reported period any Stylite spent atop their pillar was Saint Alypius who remained atop his pillar for, as legend has it, 67 years. 





Ref:

Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1976

Thurston, Herbert. "St. Simeon Stylites the Elder." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 12 Feb. 2017 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13795a.htm>.

Crocker, H.W. Triumph:The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church. Three Rivers Press, New York.2001.

Encyclopedia Britanica, Saint Simeon Stylites, www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Simeon-Stylites

Encyclopedia Britanica, Stylites 
https://www.britannica.com/topic/stylite

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Rise and Condemnation of Arius

Arius was a layman from Alexandria who was ordained a priest by Achillas the Bishop of Alexandria. By all accounts, he was an eloquent, learned and holy man with a skill in disputation that surpassed many of his contemporaries. He likely could have been a father or doctor of the church except for his flawed belief about the divinity of Jesus. He promoted a theological position that viewed Jesus as a created and not eternal being, separate from the father. Alexander, the successor to Achillas demanded that Arius retract his position and Arius refused.(1) This was the beginning of the first great theological controversy in the history of the Church.

In response to the censorship of Alexander, Arius wrote to Eusebius, bishop of Nicomedia and kinsman of Constantine. In his letter to Eusebius sent via Ammonius he declares his opposition to Bishop Alexanders statements that there was, “always a God, always a Son;” “as soon as the Father, so soon the Son [existed];” “with the Father co-exists the Son unbegotten, ever-begotten, begotten without begetting;” “God neither precedes the Son in aspect or in a moment of time;” “always a God, always a Son, the Son being from God himself.”(2)

With the help of Eusebius, Arius continued his promotion of what many western bishops knew to be a heretical doctrine. Writing to many bishops throughout the eastern portions of the Roman Empire using scripture texts from Matthew 27, Mark 13 and John 14 Arius won many converts.(3) Tensions rose as more an more bishops sided with Arius. In 320 AD Bishop Alexander gathered all the bishops in his region to a synod in which they universally condemned Arius. Arius persisted and Alexander excommunicated him. It was a battle of wills.(4)

Arius left Egypt and headed East to Palestine then to the Nicomedia obtaining converts all along his path. In many cases disagreements turned to violence and Constantine, having just taken control of the entire Roman Empire by defeating the Eastern augustus Licinius took notice of the problems being cause in Alexandria and throughout the Eastern portions of his Empire. Taking an unprecedented step, Constantine convoked a council of all the bishops of the Roman Empire. Previously smaller councils would be convoked by local or regional bishops. This was the first universal council and it was declared by the Emperor himself.(5)

16th-century fresco depicting the Council of Nicaea
The council convened in the City of Nicaea in 325 AD so Constantine himself could participate.(6) Bishops from all over the Christian world we invited and attended. Notably absent was the Bishop of Rome, Sylvester, struggling from illness he sent two emissaries.(7) Somewhere between two and three hundred Bishops attended and all but two voted for what is known as the Nicene Creed, vindicating Alexander and condemning Arius and his followers. Their declaration read...

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten (γεννηθέντα), not made, being of one substance (ὁμοούσιον, consubstantialem) with the Father. By whom all things were made, both which be in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Ghost


And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not (ἤν ποτε ὅτε οὐκ ἦν), or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.(8)



(1) Laux, Fr John. Church History. Rockford:Tan Books and Publishers, Inc, 1989. p107
(2) Letter of Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia, http://www.fourthcentury.com/urkunde-1/
(3) Schreck, Alan. The Compact History of the Catholic Church Cincinnati:Servant Books 2009 p25
(4) Laux p108
(5) Wilken, Robert L. The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press 2012. p91
(6) ibid
(7) ibid, and Laux p109

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch

The year was 107 AD and Theophorus (“Bearing God” in greek(1)) stood calmly and joyfully at the entrance to the floor of the Flavian Amphitheater. He was about to fulfill a desire held deep in his heart for more than 20 years. He was not only about to demonstrate to the citizens of Rome his undying love for his Lord and savior Jesus Christ, but he was about enter into “...a more deep and intimate relationship with the Lord.”(2) Theophorus, known today as Ignatius of Antioch, was about to be martyred in the Roman Colosseum on account of his unbreakable love for Jesus.

He came close before during the persecution of Christians by emperor Domitian, the self-proclaimed “Lord and God”(3) who compelled citizens to recognize him as such. Christians, Ignatius being one of them, were willing to die rather than place the emperor on par with Jesus, who they knew to be the one true God and many earned the crown of martyrdom. The Domitian persecution ended, but for Ignatius, it was a bittersweet victory. As the successor of Bishop Evodius, Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch. As Bishop and shepherd, Ignatius was joyful and relieved that God’s sheep, entrusted to him by Peter the Apostle(4), would no longer suffer persecution. Yet he still longed for the crown of martyrdom and the intimate relationship with his Lord and Savior that accompanied it.

It appeared now to Ignatius that Jesus’ words, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7) were going to be demonstrated. Before he left on his journey to Rome and martyrdom, the Emperor Trajan visited the city of Antioch and discovered Christians refusing to offer sacrifice to the pagan Gods. The emperor called their leader, Bishop Ignatius, to answer for these transgressions. Trajan seeing the resolute nature of the Antiochan Christian leader declared,

“We command that Ignatius, who affirms that he carries about within him Him that was crucified, be bound by soldiers, and carried to the great [city] Rome, there to be devoured by the beasts, for the gratification of the people.” 

To which Ignatius cried out to God,

“I thank you, O Lord, that You have vouchsafed to honour me with a perfect love towards You, and have made me to be bound with iron chains, like Your Apostle Paul.”(5) 

From there he began his travels to Rome to fulfill his utmost desire. The journey was long, but he had the opportunity along the way to minister to Christians throughout the Empire. From the port of Seleucia in Syria, he headed to either Tarsus or Attalia. From there he traveled overland through Asia Minor and through Philadelphia, Sardis, and Smyrna, home to Polycarp, a fellow auditor Saint John the Apostle. From there he sent letters to the congregations of Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles encouraging them to follow their Bishop and avoid heresy. He also wrote to the citizens of Rome asking them not to act to prevent his martyrdom. Leaving there his party passed through Troas where he sent letters to the Christians of Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Polycarp. From here they continued on by sea and land until they arrived in Rome where soon after his arrival Ignatius won his long-coveted crown of martyrdom in the Flavian amphitheater.(6)


Almighty ever-living God,
who adorn the sacred body of your Church
with the confessions of holy Martyrs,
grant, we pray,
that, just as the glorious passion of Saint Ignatius of Antioch,
which we celebrate today,
brought him eternal splendor,
so it may be for us unending protection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.(7)

Painting of Ignatius of Antioch from
the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD)

________________________________________________________


(1) Church History, Fr. John Laux p 49
(2) The Martyrdom of Ignatius. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0123.htm. Ch 1.
(3) Scannell, Thomas. "Domitian." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 22 Jan. 2017. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05114b.htm.
(4) O'Connor, John Bonaventure. "St. Ignatius of Antioch." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 22 Jan. 2017. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07644a.htm. 
(5) The Martyrdom of Ignatius, Ch 2
(6) “St. Ignatius of Antioch”, The Catholic Encyclopedia
(7) Liturgy of the Hours, Collect for the feast of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, October 17th.