Tenebrae

-“Tenebrae Factae Sunt”, There was darkness, is the eighth responsorio for Holy Week and the fifth responsorio of Matins for Good Friday.

-from https://www.sistersofcarmel.com/tenebrae.php?mc_cid=3ff5951ea0&mc_eid=c72ad7923a

“All that You have done to us, O Lord, You have done in true judgment, because we have sinned against You, and have not obeyed Your commandments. But give glory to Your name, and deal with us according to the multitude of Your mercy.”
– Daniel, 3:31, from the Mass of Thursday in Passion Week

“Tenebrae”, means shadows, and is the name given to the service of Matins and Lauds belonging to the last three days of Holy Week. It differs, in many things, from the Office of the rest of the year. All is sad and mournful, as though it were a funeral service; nothing could more emphatically express the grief that now weighs down the heart of our holy Mother the Church. Throughout all the Office of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, she forbids herself the use of those formulas of joy and hope wherewith, on all other days, she begins her praise of God. Nothing is left but what is essential to the form of the Divine Office: psalms, lessons and chants expressive of grief. The tone of the whole Office is most noticeably mournful: the lessons taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias, the omission of the Gloria Patri, of the Te Deum, and of blessings etc., so the darkness of these services seems to have been designedly chosen to mark the Church’s desolation. The lessons from Jeremias in the first Nocturn, those from the Commentaries of St. Augustine upon the Psalms in the second, and those from the Epistles of St. Paul in the third remain now as when we first hear of them in the eighth century.

The name “Tenebrae” has been given because this Office is celebrated in the hours of darkness, formerly in the evening or just after midnight, now the early morning hours. There is an impressive ceremony, peculiar to this Office, which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick holding fifteen candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished, but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. During the singing of the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zachary at the end of Lauds), six other candles on the altar are also put out. Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle and holds it upon the altar while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle, after which she hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Christus antiphon and final prayer. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.

Let us now learn the meaning of these ceremonies. The glory of the Son of God was obscured and, so to say, eclipsed, by the ignominies He endured during His Passion. He, the Light of the world, powerful in word and work, Who but a few days ago was proclaimed King by the citizens of Jerusalem, is now robbed of all his honors. He is, says Isaias, the Man of sorrows, a leper (Isaias 53:3,4). He is, says the royal prophet, a worm of the earth, and no man (Psalm 21:7). He is, as He says of himself, an object of shame even to his own disciples, for they are all scandalized in Him (Mark 14:27) and abandon Him; yea, even Peter protests that he never knew Him. This desertion on the part of His apostles and disciples is expressed by the candles being extinguished, one after the other, not only on the triangle, but on the altar itself. But Jesus, our Light, though despised and hidden, is not extinguished. This is signified by the candle which is momentarily placed on the altar; it symbolizes our Redeemer suffering and dying on Calvary. In order to express His burial, the candle is hidden behind the altar; its light disappears. A confused noise is heard in the house of God, where all is now darkness. This noise and gloom express the convulsions of nature when Jesus expired on the cross: the earth shook, the rocks were split, the dead came forth from their tombs. But the candle suddenly reappears; its light is as fair as ever. The noise is hushed, and homage is paid to the Conqueror of death.”

– Excerpted from the revered Liturgical Year by Abbot Gueranger, the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources

Love & Resurrection,
Matthew

The Last Rites

When I learned my seven sacraments, it was called Extreme Unction. We were tested on it. Important test in catechetical class, the seven sacraments; important test.

You can always tell a fellow Catholic. We have a language and an understanding all our own, we do. Having volunteered to keep vigil with the dying in hospice, any flavor, we keep the focus on the dying and do what is most appropriate for the person. Their tradition’s prayers, reading from the Bible, or just calming music from my ipad if an atheist, watching tv with them, talking with a Jewish woman.  It was then I learned the term “actively dying” which is a medical condition determined by a doctor.

Whatever the sojourner or their family dictates or prefers. We are there to serve. I have served in both Catholic and secular hospices. One hospice nurse said to me, as we approached each other in the dark, “Thank God you’re here!!” The nicest greeting I ever received. Imagine if work greeted you that way!! Hospice nurses are grateful for vigil volunteers to keep the sojourner company when there is no family, when the family is exhausted, whatever and whenever the reason, usually at night when the family is unavailable, but any time of the day. The vigil volunteer frees the hospice nurse to tend to the others, of which there are too many per hospice nurse; too many. Our commitment is that no one should die alone. It is one of my favorite ministries, anticipating the joy and blessedness that follow the sojourner, and soon myself. Blessed be God in His Most Holy Name!!!

In my childhood home, hanging on the wall was a “sick call set” very much like the one below. The front slides off. Two candles and holy water are revealed. The crucifix can by made to stand by sliding the bottom of it onto the cross base where all the materials were contained. I suppose the idea, without instantaneous communication, the priest may be making his rounds across remote terrains, or be near enough by to summon, but may not happen to have the required materials, hence, the “sick call set” in every Catholic home. I recall when the Last Rites were the Last Rites, and the Anointing of the Sick emerged out of Vatican II as a separate practice.

What are Sick Call Sets?
These sets usually consist of a crucifix, two candles, a vessel for holding holy water, and a stand. They are used by priests to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick when they come to “call” or visit someone who is seriously ill and homebound. While the sacrament was originally only given to those who were dying, it can now be given to anyone who is facing a serious illness or surgery, as well as the elderly.

History of Sick Call Sets
While some collectors have come across sick call sets dating back to the 19th century, sick call sets likely existed long before. In the early days, before people had access to hospitals, sick family members were cared for in the home. A sick call set was therefore quite common in many Catholic homes.

Biblical historians point out, that sick call sets existed in some form or variation well before the 19th century. The act of anointing the sick is described in James 5:14-16: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins he will be forgiven.”

History of Sick Call Crucifixes
In addition to anointing a sick person, these sets can bring immense comfort to loved ones. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is “both a liturgical and a communal celebration…the Sacramental anointing of the sick can inspire and comfort both those who are ill and their family and friends who are gathered.”


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“Earlier this month I went in for surgery. I had undergone several operations during childhood, but it had been almost thirty years since the last one and this would be my first as a Catholic. So, in addition to making preparations for my convalescence, I decided to request the anointing of the sick, a sacrament I had never received before.

Anointing of the sick sometimes is confused with the “last rites.” But that phrase refers to the three sacraments—confession, anointing of the sick, and final Holy Communion—ordinarily given to a Catholic who is seriously ill or beginning to be in danger of death. (There’s also the Apostolic Pardon, which isn’t a sacrament or rite, but an indulgence offered to the dying. It can be given directly by a priest, or received through desire by the dying person who meets the requirements for the indulgence.)

“Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may Almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”

“By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Let’s dispel any confusion by taking a look at each of the final sacraments the Church offers to souls preparing for their journey from this life to the next.

Confession

If possible, a seriously ill person should do all he can to go to sacramental confession first. Reception of the other sacraments doesn’t necessarily depend on sacramental confession, but a valid confession ensures the soul is properly disposed to receive anointing of the sick and final Communion. It also prepares the soul to receive the indulgence of the Apostolic Pardon, especially if a priest isn’t present at the point of the person’s death.

There are many ways in which a sick person can request sacramental confession. If he’s well enough to travel, he can go to confession during one of the scheduled times at his parish. If he wants to receive anointing of the sick at the same time, he can make an appointment with a priest to receive the final sacraments. If he is homebound, he or someone acting on his behalf can ask a priest to visit for confession.

Sometimes there can be challenges in convincing a busy priest to visit a sick patient, especially when the priest doesn’t ordinarily have chaplain duties at a hospital. I recommend that the sick person or his caregivers keep petitioning a hospital chaplain’s office or local parishes to send out a priest. Don’t lose heart, don’t accept “no” for an answer, and do not accept non-priestly delegates—such as deacons or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion—when sacraments are needed that only a priest can offer (confession, anointing of the sick).

Anointing of the sick

Not having received anointing of the sick before, I was surprised to discover that the celebration of this sacrament in its full form, which is preferred when a sick person is not in immediate danger of death, is a liturgy and not just an anointing with oil. In addition to the anointing, it includes a penitential rite (unless it was preceded by sacramental confession), reading from Scripture, a brief homily, a litany, and a laying-on of hands. This liturgy can be celebrated for just one sick person or for a group of sick persons, and can be celebrated within a Mass (CCC 1517). This sacrament is one “of strengthening, peace, and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, Who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, [especially] the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death” (CCC 1520).

For centuries, anointing of the sick ordinarily was given to those in immediate danger of death, which is why it was called extreme unction (“final anointing”). After the Second Vatican Council, the Church encouraged reception of the sacrament “as soon as any one of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age,” and, when this is the case, “the appropriate time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (Sacram Unctionem Infirmorum).

Final Communion

Ideally, the final sacrament a Catholic receives should be the Eucharist, which acts as viaticum (Latin, “provision for a journey”).

Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of “passing over” to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection, according to the words of the Lord: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father (CCC 1524).

Communion can be given to a sick person by the priest after celebration of confession and anointing of the sick. It can also be brought to the sick person on subsequent occasions by a deacon or extraordinary minister. If caregivers are properly disposed to receive it, Communion can also be brought to them to strengthen them in their tasks for the sick person.

Who can receive the last rites?

The Code of Canon Law provides that the last rites may be given to any Catholic disposed to receive them. They may also be given to baptized non-Catholics “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the Catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed” (canon 844). If a sick person isn’t baptized, he can request baptism, which acts as “the gateway to the sacraments” (849). Canon law also adds, “The anointing of the sick is not to be conferred upon those who obstinately persist in a manifestly grave sin” (CCC 1007).

All of the final sacraments are repeatable. A sick person may request confession whenever he reasonably believes he is in need of it. He may request that Communion be brought to him either daily or weekly; if he is homebound, he ordinarily should respect the resources of the parish in distributing Communion to those who cannot attend Mass. Anointing of the sick may be given again if an illness worsens, or if a patient relapses after regaining his health.

The evangelical value of the last rites

You never know when being a Catholic in a public space will offer an opportunity to witness to your faith. When I was about to be wheeled away for surgery, I turned to a Catholic friend who accompanied me to the hospital and asked her to pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet for me during the operation. She readily agreed.

Suddenly, one of the nurses who had been prepping me for surgery asked, “Are you Catholic?” I responded, “Yes. If anything should happen to me, please call a priest.” The nurse responded, “Would you like to pray a Hail Mary before we go?” I agreed, and we all prayed a Hail Mary together.

It occurred to me later that the prayer was undoubtedly heard throughout the ward by other patients who were being prepared for surgery that day and by their caregivers. Perhaps they too were comforted to hear that invocation to the Blessed Mother, asking her to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Sep 26 – St Cyprian of Carthage (200/210-258 AD)- Bishop, Martyr, Father of the Church


-Head Reliquary (has his actual head, or parts of it inside) of Saint Cyprian in the St. Kornelius chapel of the abbey church of Kornelimünster Abbey in Kornelimünster

Cyprian is important in the development of Christian thought and practice in the third century, especially in northern Africa.

Thaschus Cæcilius Cyprianus, was born into a rich pagan family of Carthage sometime during the early third century. His father was a senator.  His original name was Thascius; he took the additional name Caecilius in memory of the priest to whom he owed his conversion. Before his conversion, he was a leading member of a legal fraternity in Carthage, an orator, a “pleader in the courts”, and a teacher of rhetoric. After a “dissipated youth”, Cyprian was baptized when he was thirty-five years old, c. 245 AD. After his baptism, he gave away a portion of his wealth to the poor of Carthage, as befitted a man of his status.

Highly educated, a famous orator, he became a Christian as an adult. He distributed his goods to the poor, and amazed his fellow citizens by making a vow of chastity before his baptism. Within two years he had been ordained a priest and was chosen, against his will, as Bishop of Carthage.

In the early days of his conversion he wrote an Epistola ad Donatum de gratia Dei and the Testimoniorum Libri III that adhere closely to the models of Tertullian, who influenced his style and thinking. Cyprian described his own conversion and baptism in the following words:

“When I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, I used to regard it as extremely difficult and demanding to do what God’s mercy was suggesting to me… I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe I could possibly be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices and to indulge my sins… But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of my former life was washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, was infused into my reconciled heart… a second birth restored me to a new man. Then, in a wondrous manner every doubt began to fade…. I clearly understood that what had first lived within me, enslaved by the vices of the flesh, was earthly and that what, instead, the Holy Spirit had wrought within me was divine and heavenly.”

Contested election as bishop of Carthage

Not long after his baptism he was ordained a deacon, and soon afterwards a priest. Some time between July 248 and April 249 he was elected bishop of Carthage, a popular choice among the poor who remembered his patronage as demonstrating good equestrian style. However his rapid rise did not meet with the approval of senior members of the clergy in Carthage, an opposition which did not disappear during his episcopate.

Not long afterward, the entire community was put to an unwanted test. Christians in North Africa had not suffered persecution for many years; the Church was assured and lax. Early in 250 the “Decian persecution” began. The Emperor Decius issued an edict, the text of which is lost, ordering sacrifices to the gods to be made throughout the Empire. Jews were specifically exempted from this requirement. Cyprian chose to go into hiding rather than face potential execution. While some clergy saw this decision as a sign of cowardice, Cyprian defended himself saying he had fled in order not to leave the faithful without a shepherd during the persecution, and that his decision to continue to lead them, although from a distance, was in accordance with divine will. Moreover, he pointed to the actions of the Apostles and Jesus Himself: “And therefore the Lord commanded us in the persecution to depart and to flee; and both taught that this should be done, and Himself did it. For as the crown is given by the condescension of God, and cannot be received unless the hour comes for accepting it, whoever abiding in Christ departs for a while does not deny his faith, but waits for the time…”

Lapsi

Cyprian complained that the peace the Church had enjoyed had weakened the spirit of many Christians and had opened the door to converts who did not have the true spirit of faith. When the Decian persecution began, many Christians easily abandoned the Church. It was their reinstatement that caused the great controversies of the third century, and helped the Church progress in its understanding of the Sacrament of Penance.

The persecution was especially severe at Carthage, according to Church sources. Many Christians fell away, and were thereafter referred to as “Lapsi” (the fallen).  The majority had obtained signed statements (libelli) certifying that they had sacrificed to the Roman gods in order to avoid persecution or confiscation of property. In some cases Christians had actually sacrificed, whether under torture or otherwise. Cyprian found these libellatici especially cowardly, and demanded that they and the rest of the lapsi undergo public penance before being re-admitted to the Church.

Novatus, a priest who had opposed Cyprian’s election, set himself up in Cyprian’s absence (he had fled to a hiding place from which to direct the Church—bringing criticism on himself) and received back all apostates without imposing any canonical penance. Ultimately he was condemned. Cyprian held a middle course, holding that those who had actually sacrificed to idols could receive Communion only at death, whereas those who had only bought certificates saying they had sacrificed could be admitted after a more or less lengthy period of penance. Even this was relaxed during a new persecution.

However, in Cyprian’s absence, some priests disregarded his wishes by readmitting the lapsed to communion with little or no public penance. Some of the lapsi presented a second libellus purported to bear the signature of some martyr or confessor who, it was held, had the spiritual prestige to reaffirm individual Christians. This system was not limited to Carthage, but on a wider front by its charismatic nature it clearly constituted a challenge to institutional authority in the Church, in particular to that of the bishop. Hundreds or even thousands of lapsi were re-admitted this way, against the express wishes of Cyprian and the majority of the Carthaginian clergy, who insisted upon earnest repentance.

A schism then broke out in Carthage, as the laxist party, led largely by the priests who had opposed Cyprian’s election, attempted to block measures taken by him during his period of absence. After fourteen months, Cyprian returned to the diocese and in letters addressed to the other North African bishops defended having left his post. After issuing a tract, “De lapsis,” (On the Fallen) he convoked a council of North African bishops at Carthage to consider the treatment of the lapsed, and the apparent schism of Felicissimus (251 AD). Cyprian took a middle course between the followers of Novatus of Carthage who were in favor of welcoming back all with little or no penance, and Novatian of Rome who would not allow any of those who had lapsed to be reconciled. The council in the main sided with Cyprian and condemned Felicissimus, though no acts of this council survive.

The schism continued as the laxists elected a certain Fortunatus as bishop in opposition to Cyprian. At the same time, the rigorist party in Rome, who refused reconciliation to any of the lapsed, elected Novatian as bishop of Rome, in opposition to Pope Cornelius. The Novatianists also secured the election of a certain Maximus as a rival bishop of their own at Carthage. Cyprian now found himself wedged between laxists and rigorists, but the polarization highlighted the firm but moderate position adopted by Cyprian and strengthened his influence, wearing down the numbers of his opponents. Moreover, his dedication during the time of a great plague and famine gained him still further popular support.

Cyprian comforted his brethren by writing his De mortalitate, and in his De eleemosynis exhorted them to active charity towards the poor, setting a personal example. He defended Christianity and the Christians in the apologia Ad Demetrianum, directed against a certain Demetrius, in which he countered pagan claims that Christians were the cause of the public calamities.

Persecution under Valerian

During a plague in Carthage, Cyprian urged Christians to help everyone, including their enemies and persecutors.

A friend of Pope Cornelius, Cyprian opposed the following pope, Stephen. He and the other African bishops would not recognize the validity of baptism conferred by heretics and schismatics. This was not the universal view of the Church, but Cyprian was not intimidated even by Stephen’s threat of excommunication.

He was exiled by the emperor and then recalled for trial. He refused to leave the city, insisting that his people should have the witness of his martyrdom.

At the end of 256 AD a new persecution of the Christians broke out under Emperor Valerian, and Pope Sixtus II was executed in Rome.

In Africa, Cyprian prepared his people for the expected edict of persecution by his De exhortatione martyrii, and himself set an example when he was brought before the Roman proconsul Aspasius Paternus (August 30, 257). He refused to sacrifice to the pagan deities and firmly professed Christ.

The proconsul banished him to Curubis, modern Korba, whence, to the best of his ability, he comforted his flock and his banished clergy. In a vision he believed he saw his approaching fate. When a year had passed he was recalled and kept practically a prisoner in his own villa, in expectation of severe measures after a new and more stringent imperial edict arrived, in which Christian writers subsequently claimed it demanded the execution of all Christian clerics.

On September 13, 258, Cyprian was imprisoned on the orders of the new proconsul, Galerius Maximus. The public examination of Cyprian by Galerius Maximus, on 14 September 258 has been preserved:

“Galerius Maximus: “Are you Thascius Cyprianus?” Cyprian: “I am.” Galerius: “The most sacred Emperors have commanded you to conform to the Roman rites.” Cyprian: “I refuse.” Galerius: “Take heed for yourself.” Cyprian: “Do as you are bid; in so clear a case I may not take heed.” Galerius, after briefly conferring with his judicial council, with much reluctance pronounced the following sentence: “You have long lived an irreligious life, and have drawn together a number of men bound by an unlawful association, and professed yourself an open enemy to the gods and the religion of Rome; and the pious, most sacred and august Emperors … have endeavoured in vain to bring you back to conformity with their religious observances; whereas therefore you have been apprehended as principal and ringleader in these infamous crimes, you shall be made an example to those whom you have wickedly associated with you; the authority of law shall be ratified in your blood.” He then read the sentence of the court from a written tablet: “It is the sentence of this court that Thascius Cyprianus be executed with the sword.” Cyprian: “Thanks be to God.””

The execution was carried out at once in an open place near the city. A vast multitude followed Cyprian on his last journey. He removed his garments without assistance, knelt down, and prayed. After he blindfolded himself, he was beheaded by the sword. The body was interred by Christians near the place of execution.

Cyprian was a mixture of kindness and courage, vigor and steadiness. He was cheerful and serious, so that people did not know whether to love or respect him more. He waxed warm during the baptismal controversy; his feelings must have concerned him, for it was at this time that he wrote his treatise on patience. Saint Augustine remarks that Cyprian atoned for his anger by his glorious martyrdom.

Love,
Matthew

The Catholic invention of the hospital


-“St Fabiola of Rome”, -by Jean-Jacques Henner, 1885, oil on canvas, 11 x 9 in. (27.9 x 22.9 cm.) Saint Fabiola, feast day December 27, was a nurse and Roman matron of rank of the company of noble Roman women who, under the influence of the Church father St. Jerome gave up all earthly pleasures and devoted themselves to the practice of Christian asceticism and charitable work, founding a hospital in Rome in the 4th century AD.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Mike Aquilina

1 out 7 hospital patients in the US is cared for in a Catholic hospital.

“Did you know that the institution we know as the hospital is entirely an invention of the Catholic Church?

Well, it was. The ancient world had all the material ingredients needed for such an institution. It had medical professionals, and it had sick people. It had a centuries-old tradition of medical science and technology. And yet it could not bring all that together to make a hospital. There was no way to make such a venture profitable, so there was no compelling motive to keep such a venture running during an epidemic.

What they had instead were individual freelance practitioners, who moved from place to place like traveling salesmen — usually outrunning their most recent failure. They passed down their knowledge, as trade secrets, within their family and never risked public disclosure.

The pagans had medicine. What they lacked was charity, as it came to be expressed in hospital-ity, the virtue that gave the healthcare institution its name.

It was Catholics who invented the hospital, and they did this in response to a real need, an urgent need—in a time of epidemic.

It was the middle of the third century, and the world found itself suddenly oppressed by plague. Scholars disagree on whether the disease was smallpox or influenza. Some say it was Ebola. But whatever the bug was, it quickly reached pandemic levels—and it stayed there for thirteen years. In that time, the population of the empire was reduced by thirty percent, and there was a corresponding decline in every sector of the economy, not to mention the military.

The practice of Christianity was illegal. In fact, it was a capital crime and it was punished more severely during the plague. Why? Because traditional Romans blamed their run of bad luck on the Christians’ refusal to sacrifice to the gods.

Governing the Church in North Africa at the time was a bishop named Cyprian. He had been a prominent attorney in the city of Carthage, earning renown for his work in the courts. And now he brought all the powers of his gigantic intellect to bear on the problems of the Church in his day.

Cyprian called his flock to act with heroic charity during the plague, insisting that Christian doctors must give care not only their fellow believers, but also their pagan neighbors—the very people who were trying to kill them.

Cyprian exhorted his congregation: “There is nothing remarkable in cherishing merely our own people … [We] should love our enemies as well … the good done to all, not merely to the household of faith.”

And from this exhortation of a bishop came medical care as we know it. The foremost expert on the history of hospitals, Dr. Gary Ferngren, made this point emphatically in his recent survey published by Johns Hopkins:

“The hospital was, in origin and conception, a distinctively Catholic institution, rooted in Catholic concepts of charity and philanthropy. There were no pre-Catholic institutions in the ancient world that served the purpose that Catholic hospitals were created to serve … None of the provisions for health care in classical times … resembled hospitals.”

This was not a local phenomenon. We possess similar testimonies from Alexandria in Egypt and elsewhere. The great sociologist Rodney Stark noted that the Catholic Church grew during this period at a steady rate of forty percent per decade, and he believes that growth was due, at least in part, to its profound and unprecedented public witness of charity.

The pattern emerged still more clearly in the following century during the epidemic of 312 AD. By then, the Christians were numerous in every major city. So their efforts were more effective, extensive, and visible. Eusebius, who was an eyewitness, reports that Christians “rounded up the huge numbers who had been reduced to scarecrows all over the city and distributed loaves to them all.”

Gary Ferngren, once again, states most emphatically that “The only care of the sick and dying during the epidemic of 312-13 was provided by Catholic churches.” He adds: “No charitable care of any kind, public or private, existed apart from Catholic … care because there was no religious, philosophical, or social basis for it.”

Epidemics were among the great terrors of the ancient world. Doctors could identify the diseases, but they knew no way to stop the spread. Antibiotics and anti-viral drugs were still centuries away in the future.

So when the plague hit a city, the physicians were the first to leave. They knew the symptoms from their textbooks, and they knew what was coming, and they knew there was nothing they could do to stop the inevitable horror.

Catholics couldn’t stop the plagues either. But they could and did risk their lives in order to serve chicken soup to the sick. They could and did make a clean, well-lighted place for the sick to find rest. And some of those sick people recovered as a result—and became Catholics.

In time, those stable Catholic institutions—those hospitals—became de facto sites of medical research. Only there could medical professionals gain experience together, compare notes openly, and make progress.

Often you’ll hear people say that the Church has historically waged a “war on science” or a “war on women.” That’s exactly wrong, and the history of the hospital tells why. Many of the pioneers in the field were women—St Fabiola in Rome, for example, and St Olympias in Constantinople. They changed society in ways that pagan women could not. The Church made opportunities that had been impossible in classical antiquity.

So, if we can fight this year’s disease with medicine, we should thank our long-ago ancestors in the faith. And we might permit ourselves to ask what wonders God will work through today’s circumstances.”

Our Lady!!!! Health of the Sick!!!! Pray for us.
Love,
Matthew

May 14 – Sts Victor & Corona (d. 160 AD) – Martyrs


-“St Victor of Siena” by the Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna (b. 1340), in the National Gallery of Denmark. Please click on the image for greater detail.

-“St Corona” by the Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna (b. 1340), in the National Gallery of Denmark. Please click on the image for greater detail.

In the earliest version of St. Corona’s story, written by a fourth-century deacon in Antioch, Victor was a Roman soldier of Italian ancestry, serving in the city of Damascus in Roman Syria during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, or Antoninus Pius, or Diocletian. Accused of being a Christian, he was sentenced by the Roman judge Sebastian. He was tortured, including having his eyes gouged out. Victor was beheaded in Damascus in ca.160-170s AD.

Sebastian, wanting to make an example out of Victor, ordered him to be bound to a pillar and whipped until his skin fell from his body. After the whipping, Sebastian ordered Victor’s eyes to be gouged out. No matter the amount of pain Victor endured, Victor never denied the Lord.


-illuminated miniature of the martyrdom of Saints Victor and Corona, on a full leaf from a Book of Hours, France (Paris), ca. 1480. 

While he was suffering from the tortures, news about Victor’s cruel treatment reached a young girl named Corona. The sixteen-year-old wife of another soldier, or perhaps even Victor’s own wife, named Corona or Stephanie (or Stefania or Stephana (from Greek στέφᾰνος, stéphanos, “crown”, the Greek version of her Latin name, which also means “crown”) comforted and encouraged him to hold fast to his faith despite his suffering. For this, she was arrested and interrogated. When she, too, would not renounce Christ, she was tied between two palm trees bent down towards each other and the ground. They were released, ripping her in half.


-statuary of Saint Corona on the altar of St. Corona am Wechsel parish church, Lower Austria. Please click on the image for greater detail.

Relics, believed to be of St. Victor and Corona’s, have been in a basilica in the city of Anzů, Italy since the 9th century.



-SARS CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19, please click on the images for greater detail.

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Corona means “crown” in Latin.


-German holy card for St Corona, please click on the image for greater detail

The Roman Martyrology records under 14th May:

“In Syria, the holy martyrs Victor and Corona, under Emperor Antoninus [Marcus Aurelius]. Victor was subjected to diverse and horrible torments by the judge Sebastian. Just then, as Corona, the the wife of a certain soldier, proclaimed him blessed for his constancy in his sufferings, she saw two crowns falling from heaven, one for Victor, the other for herself. She related this to all present, and was torn to pieces between two trees, while Victor was beheaded”.

These saints were recorded in the martyrologies of “Jerome”, Bede, Florus, Adon and Usuard.

They were apparently ‘adopted’ at Ocriculum, as evidenced by two inscriptions (6th century) from San Vittore, Ocriculum. Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below) has him born in Otricoli. He dated the martyrdom to 14th May 168, and had the relics of both saints returned to Italy three years later by Italian soldiers who had served in Syria. The body of St Corona and parts of that of St Victor (including his head) were sent to Otricoli.

St Victor


-please click on the image for greater detail

The first inscription, which surrounds a relief of a Cross and two lambs, records that St Fulgentius discovered the relics of St Victor and erected an altar over his grave:

IVBANTE DEO FVLGENTIVS EPISCOPVS INVENTO CORPORE

MARTYRIS VICTORIS IN XR(IST)I NOMINE SVPER ALTARE CONSTRVXIT

According to Gianfranco Binazzi (referenced below, at p. 6):

“The dedicatory inscription is sculpted on the altar (of which only the edge survives) erected by bishop Fulgentius above the tomb of the martyr Victor, which he had discovered in the middle of the 6th century” (translation).

Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 762) recorded that:

“This inscription and image an be seen at the foot of the first step of the high altar at [Santa Maria Assunta], having been taken there in 1351 on the occasion of the translation to this church of the relics of St Victor” (translation).

The inscription is set into the wall of the presbytery, to the left of the high altar.

Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 500) recorded that, on the 5th November, 1351:

“… Bishop Agostino [Tinacci] of Narni translated the the relics of St Victor, which reposed in the subterranean church dedicated to him beside the Tiber, to [Santa Maria Assunta] and placed them under the high altar, together with the remains of the martyrs SS Eufredius, Januarius and Victoria and two other martyred companions, all of which had been with his at San Vittore” (my translation).

✴The reliquary of SS Victor, Eufredius, Januarius and Victoria in the crypt is visible from the window under the high altar.

St Corona

An inscription in Santa Maria Assunta (on the left wall of the presbytery, above the door to the sacristy) once identified the presumed relics of St Corona, together with those of St Fulgentius and other martyrs:

Hic requiescunt S(an)cti Fulgentius

Lozimus Nectarius Leopardus et Corona

martyres C(h)r(ist)i

It is inscribed in a single line on what was probably originally an architrave. Gianfranco Binazzi (referenced below, at p. 7) observed that:

“As far as chronology is concerned, both the characters and the formula [used in the inscription] point to a date after the 6th century, but it is otherwise difficult to establish it with precision” (translation).

Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 500) recorded that:

“In 1316, Bishop Peter of Narni translated from San Vittore …. to [Santa Maria Assunta] the remains of the martyrs SS Fulgentius, Lozimus Nectarius Leopardus and Corona and placed them under the altar dedicated to St Fulgentius [now the Cappella di Sant’ Antonio Abate, to the left of the presbytery]. ” (translation).

He gave the precise date at p. 764: 7th May 1316. Ludovico also recorded (at p. 500) two inscriptions that were placed nearby at this time, one of which was in marble and was almost certainly the inscription transcribed above. It seems likely that this inscription originally belonged to the portal of a room (presumably a crypt) at San Vittore that housed the relics, and that it was moved to Santa Maria Assunta at the time that the relics were translated.

The relics of St Fulgentius were translated to the new chapel of San Fulgenzio in 1672 and are still preserved in the urn under its altar. Those of St Corona and the other martyrs were placed in a small Roman sarcophagus (2nd century AD) in 1675 and placed under an altar in this new chapel in 1675. They were translated to their present location, under the altar of the

Cappella della Madonna del Rosario, in 1730.

Legend of SS Victor and Corona of Otricoli

A later legend (BHL 8583 b-d) used the legend of the Syrian martyrs (probably from the version BHL 8559b) in order to ‘flesh out’ the epigraphical evidence from Ocriculum. Victor and Corona were now martyred at Ocriculum, “intra civitatem, in loco qui dicitur Lico” (in the city, in a place called ‘Lico’), under the auspices of the ‘dux’ Sebastian.

The version BHL 8583d relates to the translation of the relics to the palatine chapel at Aachen by Otto III, who was Holy Roman Emperor in 996- 1002. The first part of the legend is a version In the version of BHL 8583b that oddly concentrates on St Corona, with hardly a mention of St Victor. The persecutor is now ‘Cirinus’ rather than Sebastian, and Corona was buried next to St Leopardus in a crypt in Ocriculum. It ends with an account of Otto’s discovery of the relics under the guidance of an angel. In fact, it seems that the relics that he took to Aachen were those [or, at least some of those] of St Corona: see for example this interesting extract from a paper by Alexandru Stefan (referenced below, at p. 204):

“On 27 October 997, Emperor Otto III announced his intention of erecting a Benedictine abbey on the Lousberg, a hill near Aachen, which would be dedicated to ‘Jesus, Saviour of the World, and St Corona’. In order to do this, he acquired some of Corona’s relics from Otricoli and deposited them into a lead reliquary … at Aachen Cathedral until the completion of the monastery and the consecration of a Coronian chapel. However, he died in 1002 and the Coronian co-patronage over the monastery was not carried out in the end. Nevertheless, the relics of St Corona remained in Aachen Cathedral where, immediately after the death of [Otto III], an altar was dedicated to her. In 1691 the episcopal chapter decided to remove her altar and to relocate the relics in the cathedral crypt”.

References

  • Binazzi, “Inscriptiones Christianae Italiae: Regio VI; Umbria”, (1989) Bari
  • D’Angelo, “Otricoli e i Suoi Santi: Storia, Liturgia, Epigrafia, Agiografia”, (2012) Spoleto (pp. 33-41)
  • Jacobili, L. “Vite de’ Santi e Beati dell’ Umbria”, (1647-61, republished in 2008) Sala Bolognese:
    -the material on SS Victor and Corona is in Volume I, pp. 494 – 501; and
    -the material on St Fulgenius is in Volume I, pp. 760-5
  • Stefan, “Saint Corona – the First Patron Saint of Medieval Brasov?”, Studia Historia, 58:1 (2013) 201-26


-restorer Luke Jonathan Koeppe and the director of the cathedral treasury Birgitta Falk present shrine with the relics of Saint Corona, please click on the image for greater detail.
by John Bowden – 03/25/20 04:07 PM EDT

“A German cathedral is digging out its collection of relics related to “St. Corona,” the little-known patron saint of surviving epidemics, amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

Reuters reported that the Aachen Cathedral in Germany had already been planning to showcase relics and a shrine of St. Corona as part of an exhibition of gold craftsmanship, but has now accelerated those plans after the coincidentally-named outbreak began.

“We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned and now we expect more interest due to the virus,” said a cathedral spokeswoman.

“Like many other saints, Saint Corona may be a source of hope in these difficult times,” added the head of the cathedral’s relics trove in a statement to Reuters.

It is unclear when the exhibition will go on display due to the ongoing epidemic and related restrictions on public gatherings.

Germany has confirmed more than 35,000 cases of coronavirus, though it lags behind other European countries such as Italy and Spain which have become the hardest-hit worldwide by the virus.

The Aachen Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Europe, and was built in the 9th century. The relics of St. Corona have reportedly rested there since the year 997 A.D.”

Corona’s relics, brought to Aachen by King Otto III in 997, were kept in a tomb underneath a slab in the cathedral – which can still be seen – until 1911-12 when they were placed in the shrine, which is 93 centimeters tall and weighs 98 kilograms.

The Roman Catholic cathedral at Aachen, built by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century, is one of Europe’s oldest. Charlemagne was buried there in 814 AD and it was used for the coronation of German kings and queens.”

Love & perseverance.  Offer it ALL to His Glory!!!! He is our hope and our joy!!!
Matthew

Dec 14 – St John of the Cross, OCD (1541-1591) – a suffering saint’s sense of humor & hope


-by Shaun McAfee, was raised Protestant, Southern Baptist/Non-denominational, but at 24, he experienced a profound conversion to the Catholic Church with the writings of James Cardinal Gibbons and modern apologists. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology. As a profession, Shaun is a veteran and warranted Contracting Officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and has served in Afghanistan and other overseas locations.

“What if you joined a religious order only to find that the religious lifestyle that once existed in it was now almost unrecognizable? Abuses are everywhere, laxity is the norm, nobody enforces the rules, and anyone who challenges the new status quo is met with cruelty.

You consider leaving, but one special leader within the order tells you that she has big plans and a good friend who will help out, and that she needs your help to do it all. So, you stay—only to be thrown in jail.

What do you do? You love the Church and your order, but your confreres all hate you, and they want you dead. Not just silenced­—dead!

That’s where we find the famous Carmelite and Counter-Reformer, St. John of the Cross, whose feast we commemorate today. December 14 is the day he died, but he didn’t die in that prison. He escaped, and where most of us might run away as far as possible or seek vengeance, and certainly leave that religious order, John was stubborn in his commitment to improving anything worth improving, loving anyone worth loving, and telling the world about his Dark Night. After suffering so much, nothing was going to stop him.

But John was not stubborn to the point where he let it affect his ability to work with and respect the opinions of others, nor did he let his stubbornness make him pigheaded; his was a determination, a resolve to do what he knew was right for the glory and love of God, even if it meant he would be hunted, imprisoned, and despised. We can learn from his life to reform correctly, which begins with reforming ourselves.

For John and his Carmelite friend, St. Teresa of Avila, reforming an order was as much a legal, political, and administrative process as it was a spiritual one. There is not a formula to be learned from them for reforming each and every problem in the Church today, but there are lessons about the character and virtue required for those who wish to make better of themselves first and their communities second.

First, if we wish to really help the Church, we must learn detachment. We must become unattached to worldly things. John consistently stressed that “individuals must deprive themselves of their appetites for worldly possessions.”

There is a difference, of course, between owning something for utility or proper entertainment and being attached to something for possession’s sake. The issue with attachment is when we base our happiness on the accumulation of stuff and the hoarding of things that have no eternal value. John explains: “It ought to be kept in mind that an attachment to a creature makes a person equal to that creature; the stronger the attachment, the closer is the likeness to the creature and the greater the equality.”

Next, we must hold strong to the virtue of hope. Hope is an absolute necessity if we are to commit our lives to a constant conversion, and it’s indispensable as well for those hoping to reform the Church in any measure: be it the culture in their parish, the focus of a small group, the consistency of a local chapter of a third order, or just the domestic church of their own family.

Hope is necessary because we’re human and will feel tempted at times to give up or to slacken our efforts. Through hope we can resist and focus on what we know to be true. In moments when we are filled with hope and holy ambitions, John tells us, “As often as distinct ideas, forms, and images occur to them, they should immediately, without resisting them, turn to God with loving affection, in emptiness of everything rememberable.”

The third thing we need to have is what John of the Cross calls “the first passion of the soul and emotion of the will.” He’s referring to joy, one of the fruits of the Spirit. What is joy, though? Our saint tells us:

“Joy is nothing else than a satisfaction of the will with an object that is considered fitting and an esteem for it . . . Active joy which occurs when people understand distinctly and clearly the object of their joy and have the power either to rejoice or not. . . . In this [passive] joy, the will finds itself rejoicing without any clear and distinct understanding of the object of its joy.”

John, though an austere and serious person, knew how to have fun and laugh. Once he escaped from prison, his first stories to his friends were about the funnier things that happened there, and his first homilies made audiences hysterical with his observations of the humorous moments in life.

There’s much more to be studied about St. John of the Cross’s reforming style and accomplishments, but detachment, hope, and joy are the top three we can learn from him to enable our resilience in times of change and performance in times of reform—especially our self-reform. Christian reform is not about novelties and progress but is a return to the soul’s conversion to Christ. True interior reform will keep the whole Church in a constant state of conversion.”

Love & the JOY of the Resurrection,
Matthew

The Black Death & the Protestant Revolution

“The arrival of the Black Death in Christendom — perhaps the most destructive pandemic in world history, which killed, by very reliable estimates, about half the population of Europe. In some areas the death toll may have been as high as 80 percent.

“It was a visitation upon a scale so enormous as to strike a blow at medieval society which might have dissolved it — and nearly did dissolve it. . . . In some places towns and villages sank never to rise again. . . . You may trace its effects even today in the half-finished buildings which were stopped dead and their completion never undertaken.”22

It’s no wonder many Catholics believed that Pestilence, the first of St. John’s Four Horsemen, had made his prophesied appearance (see Rev. 6).

One of the cruelest ironies about the Black Death is the way it contributed so heavily to the deterioration of the clergy. In what way? Imagine the workload for a priest: confessions, last rites, comfort to survivors, and Christian burial (when possible) from sunup to sundown for weeks, months, years on end. And though science did not yet know what caused the Black Death, everyone knew very well by common sense alone that whoever spent time around the plague usually died from it sooner or later. So the clergy who took the sacraments into the plague zones were spiritually akin to the firemen who ran toward the Twin Towers on 9/11 while everyone else was running away. The faithful bishop, the loyal priest, the dutiful deacon all ministered as long as they could, and then died. The cowards and deserters fled and survived — to become practically the whole clergy in the post plague years. No wonder the fifteenth century was such a dumpster fire.

As a direct result of this factor, the Faith itself got lost somewhere along the way — or adulterated, at any rate, by a nasty tincture of superstition. The plague shut down churches and monasteries, all the places where the real Christian Faith was meant to be taught (and had been for a long time, despite individual lapses).

Many of the clergy ordained to replace the fallen became “Mass priests” — priests, that is, who literally did nothing but recite the Mass because they had no training and did not know how to preach. Deprived of solid doctrine this way, the laity took on bad doctrines, often spread by teachers who were simply ignorant. Sub-Christian notions crept back in and distorted Catholic teaching.

The Church’s perfectly sound traditions about the correct use of sacramentals, for instance, were allowed to mix with leftovers from Europe’s recently dead pagan past. Sacred medals became charms; relics were confused with rabbit’s feet. In a disaster area like this, with no time to spare for jumping through moral or theological hoops, quick cures were needed — so the Church became a source for magic pills, not spiritual salvation. Doctors and theologians kept the true teaching on the books, to be sure, but popular extravagances happened far away from the universities. “For instance,” as Belloc writes,

the doctrine of the Invocation of Saints is clear; but towards the end of the Middle Ages you get men robbing one shrine to enrich another. The doctrine of the use of Masses is clear, and especially their use for the benefit of the souls in Purgatory; but the superstition that a Mass in this place was efficacious, and in that was not — the superstition which confuses mechanical repetition with spiritual force grew as the Middle Ages declined.23

Somewhat akin to this are the many fantastic legends about the saints and the early Church that grew up during these years, based, in many cases, on few, if any, historical facts. Most of them were perhaps harmless — saints who never existed, shrines built at the sites of miracles that never happened — harmless, that is, until they came to be confused with the actual tenets of the Faith. Laypeople lost the ability to distinguish between actual Sacred Tradition and tradition with a small t (i.e., just old, oft-repeated stories, many times nothing but wives’ tales). Worse, both sets of ideas came to be held with the same tenacity — leaving the Resurrection of Our Blessed Lord in the same category with St. George’s dragon.

And then, a few decades later, when some Lollard or Lutheran came along, bringing proofs against the “Donation of Constantine” or the “False Decretals,” many a vulnerable papist joined the Protestants in their Bible-only beliefs, convinced that they had now seen the folly of “man-made” Christianity.

When the Black Death began to subside in the late 1300s, some measure of order was restored. Why, afterward, weren’t efforts made to sort through these fables and false documents? There were — but only after the Protestant revolt. Before then, there was simply too little incentive to overcome the inertia. And here, of course, is where the bad shepherds returned big time. Too much money was being generated by this point, money the Church had come to depend on. The best example is the most famous: the sale of indulgences, against which Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses.”

-Bennett, Rod. Bad Shepherds: The Dark Years in Which the Faithful Thrived While Bishops Did the Devil’s Work . (c) 2018 Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition. Location: 874-913

Love,
Matthew

22 Hilaire Belloc, The Crisis of Civilization (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1992), 89.
23 Ibid., 81.

The Black Death



-by Steve Weidenkopf

“As the modern world struggles to handle the impact of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, commentators are making comparisons to previous viral outbreaks such as the Influenza Pandemic (or “Spanish Flu”) in the early twentieth century or the Black Death in the fourteenth century. Although historical comparisons can be helpful in some situations, they are not always beneficial because the context in which these events occurred is often not sufficiently acknowledged.

The Black Death is one of the best-known calamities in human history, but the society it ravaged and its impacts on Christendom and the Church are not widely understood. Given the current health crisis gripping the modern world, it may be profitable to investigate the period in an effort to shed a different light on the current situation.

In the mid-fourteenth century, a nasty virus carried to Europe by merchants from the East attacked Christendom. Known at the time as “the pestilence,” “the plague,” or “the great mortality” (the term “Black Death” was coined first in the sixteenth century but entered popular usage in the nineteenth century), it began in China, spread to Mongolia, the Byzantine Empire, and the Crimea, from which it entered Sicily and spread throughout Europe. Every country in Christendom was affected except Poland and Bohemia, which had limited merchant activity with the rest of Europe.

England suffered greatly from three waves of the plague over the course of a century. So great the devastation that the country did not return to its pre-plague population of six million until the mid-eighteenth century.

The deadly pestilence occurred in three forms: bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague produced painful buboes in the lymph nodes, especially in the groin, armpits, and neck. Symptoms included high fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, convulsions, and dizziness. The septicemic plague involved an infection of the blood and produced black and blue marks on the body, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. The pneumonic plague produced shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing as the infection settled in the lungs.


-physician protective gear of the 14th century. The belief was disease was caused by bad smells, which certainly accompany disease after the fact. But, the belief in bad smells as a cause led to the masks seen here. The beak was filled with sweet smelling herbs, or such, and the entire outfit certainly lessened the direct contact with germs to a horrific degree, which supported the use of the garment and mask and theory in lieu of anything more enlightened. So, while the beak and outfit looks awful and chilling, it did have a practical intended purpose.

Medieval doctors did not have accurate knowledge of the transmission of germs and immunology, so a wide spectrum of treatment options was employed, including enemas and bloodletting. Some doctors endorsed abstinence from seafood, sexual activity, and bathing. Jacme D’Agramont, a Spanish physician and professor at the University of Lerida, wrote in his book Regimen of Protection against Epidemics that, “habitual bathing is also very dangerous, because the bath opens the pores of the body and through these pores corrupt air enters and has a powerful influence upon our body.”

Although the plague affected parts of Europe differently, recent estimates put the overall death rate at fifty percent of Christendom’s total population over a two-year period. Cities were devastated and many urban dwellers fled to the countryside in an attempt to escape the pestilence. The volume of deaths was staggering as thousands died daily. In the Burgundian village of Givry the annual death rate before the plague was forty; in 1348, the village lost 650 souls. The southern French city of Avignon, home at this time to the popes, witnessed 11,000 deaths over a five-week period. The calamity produced extreme reactions. Some people believed the plague was punishment from God for the sins of humanity, so they publicly practiced extreme penances, such as scourging. A group known as the Flagellants developed. They preached doctrinal errors and ran afoul of the Church hierarchy because of their unorthodox and unauthorized preaching and penitential processions. The chronicler Heinrich of Herford recorded their vicious flagellations and wanderings from place to place:

“I have seen, when they whipped themselves, how the iron points became so embedded in the flesh that sometimes one pull, sometimes two, was not enough to extract them. They wandered the land… but when they came to cities, towns, and large villages and settlements, they marched down the street in procession, with their hoods or hats pulled down a little to cover their foreheads.”

The Flagellants required members to pledge not to leave the fraternity without permission of superiors, to practice silence, never to scourge themselves to the point of illness or death, to give alms to the poor, and to pray for an end to the pestilence. The people generally viewed the Flagellants favorably due to their overall appearance of piety and extreme penances. The Church, however, found the Flagellants independent streak troublesome and their unorthodox preaching unacceptable. Pope Clement VI (r. 1342­–1352) suppressed the group in 1349 in the bull Inter Solicitudines.

In searching for an explanation for the outbreak of the plague, some Christians blamed the Jewish people. Rumors circulated in southern France and Spain, where the majority of Europe’s Jews lived, that the Jews had poisoned wells with the plague. Sadly, these rumors led to pogroms, mostly in German areas, in the fall of 1348, eventually encompassing nearly a hundred cities and towns by 1351. During the violence, Jews were burned, robbed, expelled, and forced to convert to the Christian Faith in order to spare their lives. Some Jews chose immolation and other forms of suicide rather than suffer at the hands of the mobs.

The Jewish community in Strasbourg suffered greatly as 900 Jews out of a population of 1,884 were killed. In some areas, bishops protected the Jewish people from harm. Notably, the Jewish community in Avignon, site of the papal residence, did not suffer because of the plague due to papal protection. Additionally, Pope Clement VI issued the bull Sicut Judeis in July 1348 declaring the Church’s protection of Jews throughout Christendom. Pope Clement highlighted the false charge against the Jews about the plague:

“It does not seem credible that the Jews on this occasion are responsible for the crime nor that they caused it, because this nearly universal pestilence, in accordance with God’s hidden judgment, has afflicted and continues to afflict the Jews themselves.”

The impact of the great pestilence on Christendom was widespread. Europe suffered great economic turmoil as trade was reduced and society witnessed a severe shortage of laborers. Spiritually, people gravitated to the Faith and sought solace in prayer and the sacraments.

The Church lost nearly forty percent of its priests to the Black Death. Some towns saw the death of ninety percent of priests. The English clergy died at an alarming rate, including three archbishops of Canterbury in the span of a year. Monasteries suffered immensely as the plague wiped out entire religious communities. The high percentage of clergy deaths because of the plague produced a shortage of priests, which the Church tried to ameliorate by lowering the minimum age of ordination from twenty-five to twenty. Although understandable given the circumstances, this action produced a cadre of inexperienced, young, and poorly formed priests. The quality of the priesthood suffered and with it the Church as a whole, as ecclesiastical abuses became widespread in the fifteenth century, leading—many believe—to the Protestant Revolution in the sixteenth century.”

Love,
Matthew

Angel Band



The latest sun is sinking fast, my race has nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph is begun

O come Angel Band, come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home

I know I’m near the holy ranks of friends and kindred dear
I’ve brushed the dew on Jordan’s banks, the crossing must be near

O come Angel Band, come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home

I’ve almost gained my Heavenly home, my spirit loudly sings
The Holy ones, behold they come, I hear the noise of wings

O come Angel Band, come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home

O bear my longing heart to Him Who bled & died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin and gives me victory

O come Angel Band, come and around me stand
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home
O bear me away on your snow wings to my immortal home

Love & His peace,
Matthew

Hick’s Farewell

VERSION 1
————————–

My time is swiftly rolling on
When I must faint and die;
My body to the dust return
And there fergotten lie.
Let persecution rage around
And Antichrist appear;
My silent dust beneath the ground;
There’s no disturbance there.

To call poor sinners to repent
And seek their Savior dear.
My brother preachers, boldly speak
And stand on Zion’s wall.
Confirm the drunk, confirm the weak
And after sinners call.

My loving wife, my bosom friend,
The object of my love,
The time’s been sweet l’ve spent with you,
My sweet and harmless dove,
My little children near my heart
My warm affections know.
From each the path will I attend.
O from them can I go?!

O God, a father to them be
And keep them from all harm,
That they may love and worship Thee
And dwell upon Thy charm.
How often you have looked fer me
And often seen me come.
But now I must depart from thee
And nevermore return.

My loving wife, don’t grieve fer me,
Neither lament nor mourn;
Fer I will with my Jesus be
And dwell upon His charm.

VERSION 2
————————–
The time is swiftly rolling on
When I must faint and die,
My body to the dust return
And there forgotten lie.
Let persecutions rage around,
Let Antichrist appear;
Beneath the cold and silent ground
There’s no disturbance there.

Through heats and cold I’ve toiled and went
And wandered in despair;
To call poor sinners to repent
And seek the Savior dear.

My brother preachers, boldly speak
And stand on Zion’s wall.
Confirm the strong, revive the weak,
And after sinners call.

My little children, near my heart,
And nature seems to bind,
It grieves me sorely to depart
And leave you here behind.

Oh Lord, a father to them be
And keep them from all harm
That they may love and worship Thee
And dwell upon Thy charm.

My loving wife, my bosom friend,
The object of my love,
The time’s been sweet I spent with thee,
My sweet, my harmless dove.

Though I must now depart from thee
Let this not grieve your heart,
For you will shortly come to me
Where we shall never part.

Love & His peace,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine