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Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

It’s hard for me to imagine a faith strong enough to willingly and literally sell oneself into slavery for a Christian held captive by hostile forces. However this has in times past been a very real act of mercy which produced even a few religious orders.

Order of the Holy Trinity for the Ransom of Captives was one and required one-third of all income to be set aside for the ransom of Christian captives. One never knows the effects of ransoming either; as an example St. John the Damascene was tutored by an Italian monk named Cosmas who was ransomed by St. John’s father from the Muslims.

St Raymond of Pennafort religious order was bound by a fourth vow to remain as hostages in the pagan’s power, if necessary for freeing the Christians. Mercedarians: Spanish merced = ransom, always sent missionaries in two’s amongst the non-christians, to treat about the ransom.

St Raymund Nonnatus, was a Cardinal back in 1240 A.D. The true story of his life has little reliable data. He was sent into Algiers to obtain freedom for a number of slaves. When his funds were depleted he voluntarily gave himself up as a hostage for the ransom of others, not simply to free them, but because he feared they were losing the Christian faith. After converting numerous Muslims the local ruler condemned him to be impaled. But the greedy slave traders wanted their money more and he released him. He continued to preach and the authority had imprisoned him. He ended up converting the jailers and the ruler as tradition says literally put a padlock in his mouth to keep him from preaching.

The state of Christians in Islamic lands is cruel to say the least. While I don’t expect our current generation to rise up and ransom themselves for their fellow brothers and sisters in danger of their life and losing their faith. I thik it critical to send money to support their efforts to maintain a Christian presence and start the dangerous work of converting their Islamic neighbours.

In modern times we have the example of Pope Pius XII who provided a underground system to free many Jews during WWII. Additionally we have traffiking in human organs. The Mercedarians still exist and are working as their forefathers did to free the slaves.

Update: 3-1-08Chaldean bishop of Mosul abducted looks like we need to ransom some one now.archbishop-faraj-raho.jpg

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I have seen the trailer for the movie The Bucket List combined with the quickly approaching season of Lent, got me to thinking about a Christian “bucket list” and I realized that there already was one made up and acted upon for over 1800 years in some cases – Pilgrimages. I thought I’d make up a list of the pilgrimages I’d like to accomplished before my time is up and/or the body is still able to do so. There was an even older Jewish tradition of pilgrimages to see the Ark of the Covenant (Jg 20:18) or Shiloh(1 Sam 1:3) and Jesus going up to Jerusalem ( Lk 2:41), but anyway one of the first recorded pilgrims was Bishop Abercius of Hierapolis- 180A.D.

“The citizen of a chosen city, this [monument] I made [while] living, that there I might have in time a resting-place of my body, [I] being by name Abercius, the disciple of a holy shepherd who feeds flocks of sheep [both] on mountains and on plains, who has great eyes that see everywhere. For this [shepherd] taught me [that the] book [of life] is worthy of belief. And to Rome he sent me to contemplate majesty, and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled; there also I saw a people bearing a shining mark. And I saw the land of Syria and all [its] cities Nisibis [I saw] when I passed over Euphrates. But everywhere I had brethren. I had Paul. . . . Faith everywhere led me forward, and everywhere provided as my food a fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it faith ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread. These things I, Abercius, having been a witness [of them] told to be written here. Verily I was passing through my seventy-second year. He that discerneth these things, every fellow-believer [namely], let him pray for Abercius. And no one shall put another grave over my grave; but if he do, then shall he pay to the treasury of [the] Romans two thousand pieces of gold and to my good native city of Hieropolis one thousand pieces of gold.”

Now for some background which I think perhaps is needed here.

Pope John Paul II issued a BULL OF INDICTION back in1998 called Incarnationis Mysterium. This called for a Jubilee Year to be celebrated in the year 2000.

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8. In addition to pilgrimage, there is the sign of the holy door, opened for the first time in the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour at the Lateran during the Jubilee of 1423. It evokes the passage from sin to grace which every Christian is called to accomplish. Jesus said: “I am the door” (Jn 10:7), in order to make it clear that no one can come to the Father except through him. This designation which Jesus applies to himself testifies to the fact that he alone is the Saviour sent by the Father. There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation. To him alone can the words of the Psalmist be applied in full truth: “This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter” (Ps 118:20).To focus upon the door is to recall the responsibility of every believer to cross its threshold. To pass through that door means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life (cf. Mt 13:44-46).

I love the image of the holy door.

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The opening of the Holy Door is the main symbol of a Jubilee, the Catholic term derived from the Hebrew word ”yobel,” a law handed down by Moses requiring that slaves be freed and debts forgiven every 50 years. The main entrance to St. Peter’s in Rome is located under the statue of the Risen Christ to symbolize that we have to enter the church through faith in Christ. The Holy Year door, however is narrower then the main entrance to emphasize the scriptural passage “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me, will be saved. He will go in and out, and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). It is also called the Door of the Great Pardon.

Now we come to an historic bit of controversy. Pope John Paul II continues in the document with the other part of a Pilgrimage – Indulgences.

9…From the first centuries, however, the Church has always been profoundly convinced that pardon, freely granted by God, implies in consequence a real change of life, the gradual elimination of evil within, a renewal in our way of living. The sacramental action had to be combined with an existential act, with a real cleansing from fault, precisely what is called penance. Pardon does not imply that this existential process becomes superfluous, but rather that it acquires a meaning, that it is accepted and welcomed. Reconciliation with God does not mean that there are no enduring consequences of sin from which we must be purified. It is precisely in this context that the indulgence becomes important, since it is an expression of the “total gift of the mercy of God”. With the indulgence, the repentant sinner receives a remission of the temporal punishment due for the sins already forgiven as regards the fault.

Now that my Protestant readers who have just recovered their jaws from the floor and thought that Indulgences were thrown out the door, they haven’t been. Certainly Pilgrimages and Indulgences have been regulated to the back of the bus, but the church seems to shelve some traditions for a time and bring them back in vogue to fit a given age’s needs.

There are IMO three big (as in ancient and universally accepted) Pilgrimages. I’d really like to accomplish one each of these with my wife, daughter, sons, brother and one just by myself. I have no idea if I can accomplish any of these due to time, money and health, but it’s a goal.

The first two Pilgrimages need no additional information since they have remained popular to the extent that nothing needs to be said.

1) the tomb of the Apostles at Rome

2) The way of the Cross in Jerusalem

3) The way of St. James at Compostella – Confraternity of Saint James –great as in invaluble resource. I haven’t read the book yet, but heard good things about it is The Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela

In a close second tier are:

4) The relics of the Three Kings at Cologne

5) St. Thomas a Becket in Canterbury  and of course one would be aided in reading Chaucer’s C A N T E R B U R Y  T A L E S 

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6) Lourdes for those who want their Marian devotions.

And then a host of others depending on you nationality, but since I’m blessed of Irish decent my two would be:

7) Downpatrick – St. Bridget, Padrick, & Columba saint_patricks_grave_downpatrick.jpg

8)  St. Patrick’s Purgatory-Lough Derg 

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Today is the Feast of Cathedra Petri at Rome.

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This feast celebrates the first service St. Peter held in Rome. There is another feast of St. peter in which the church celebrates his confession to the Divinity of Jesus (Matthew 16:16-18) on Feb. 22nd.

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This is the photo of the one in St. Peter’s today. I didn’t want to say much beyond that, because this issue then turns to Divine or canonical authority and that’s not what a feast day is for. Hopefully both the Orthodox & Catholic tradition can simply reflect on the wonderful contribution St. Peter gave to the church at large during the critical infancy in church development and the fulfillment of Christ mission for him ending with his promise to finally keep his word to the Lord and Love Him more then the others with the sacrifice of his life on the cross as his master foretold in John 21:18 –

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

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I was thinking about this today, because we had two baptisms and one couple selected Logan for the child’s name. I didn’t recall any Saint having that name and secretly hoped that there is one. I haven’t found one listed on the net.

Anyway this custom starts back with Abram to Abraham, to Jacob/Israel, on through history to Jesus in Luke 1:15, to Saul to Paul. It’s a change in purpose, it’s a new starting point. This is the basis in the Catholic church which started in about the mid 3rd century of taking a first name of a Saint. One of the elect in the Heaven. The concept is the Saint will pray for the child through their life time and seeing how a Saint in heaven is closer to God they will petition for them particularly in their formative years. Let’s face it we all need as much pray as we can get in this life.

To my knowledge the church doesn’t enforce/require the parents to select a Christian name, but I would think that the parents would want one for their child.

I was named Thomas, after my uncle and the doctor who delivered me and the Apostle. I’m just waiting for the church to recognize the first two as Saints, their both ones in my book. Thankfully I dodged a faint worse then death, when my mother almost gave me the name Damian for when I was born.

So what’s in a name you ask? Well quite a bit, might as well select one that God has with Him in heaven.

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Today the Catholic church commemorates the death of Pope Silvester I.

Little is actually know of this Pope, but because it was during his reign that the 1st Ecumenical council was held various supporters of the papacy and those opposed to it have by my understanding made mountains out of mole hills.

Various Catholic e-polygists will state that the papacy called all the Ecumenical council. As if their authority is endangered if one failed to do so. First problem is that we have no original documents to refer to on this or what was later the second Ecumenical council.

The first bit of evidence comes from Rufinus who’s church history is very close(circa 400) to the time of the council which was in 325 A.D. Constantine made his decision “on the advice of the clergy”according to Rufinus, Hist. Eccl., 1:218. That’s pretty open ended. Likely it’s Hosius of Cordova

who was the Emperor’s consultant. Of the two extant lists by Mansi massive work “Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio” and two by Pope Gelasius the first name is always Hosius of Cordova followed by two priests of Rome Vincentius and Vitus, they are followed by much more famous personages who have much higher authority within the church:St. Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Nicholas of Myra(yes that’s Santa Claus).

It is significant that mere priests are listed ahead of metropolitans and other bishops and this is because they represent the Pope at the council.

Although the fact that the Pope did not attend this council the papacy used this as an excuse not to attend future councils, thereby maintaining the ability to veto items that it found displeasing.

Protestants will frequently note that this is the date of the birth of the Catholic church. Such a claim is very far from true. However what isn’t noted by either protestants nor Catholics sadly is Constantine’s change towards the church from 314

My own desire is, for the common good of the world and the advantage of all mankind, that your people should enjoy a life of peace and undisturbed concord. Let those, therefore, who still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and tranquillity which they have who believe. For it may be that this restoration of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires. Only let men of sound judgment be assured of this, that those only can live a life of holiness and purity, whom you call to a reliance on your holy laws. With regard to those who will hold themselves aloof from us, let them have, if they please, their temples of lies: we have the glorious edifice of your truth, which you have given us as our native home. We pray, however, that they too may receive the same blessing, and thus experience that heartfelt joy which unity of sentiment inspires- Chapter 56

As for those who will not allow themselves to be cured of their error, let them not attribute this to any but themselves. For that remedy which is of sovereign and healing virtue is openly placed within the reach of all. Only let not any one inflict an injury on that religion which experience itself testifies to be pure and undefiled.-Chapter 59 – Book II Life of Constantine

The problem with this was two fold. One was the merging of the emperor acting as a bishop confusing the role of church & state on the one hand, which created issues btwn the latin and greek speaking church in centuries later and eventually to the schism in 1054 A.D.

The other was the entrance of crypto-pagans and heretics

Thus were the lurking-places of the heretics broken up by the emperor’s command, and the savage beasts they harbored (I mean the chief authors of their impious doctrines) driven to flight. Of those whom they had deceived, some, intimidated by the emperor’s threats, disguising their real sentiments, crept secretly into the Church. For since the law directed that search should be made for their books, those of them who practiced evil and forbidden arts were detected, and these were ready to secure their own safety by dissimulation of every kind. Chapter 66 book III.

Freedom of religion was desired initially to prevent Christians from being deprived of property, killed and shunned. However, it was realized by the Emperor that paganism was already dead and the only viable instrument to unite the empire he wanted to preserve was through Christianity.

The church leaders were slow to react to the changes, most having lived under the reign of VALERIUS DIOCLETIANUS

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