As we advance through Advent, we recall the darkness of the world before Christ arrived. While Israel clung, sometimes by a thread, to the Law and the Prophets, most of the world dwelt in the darkness of paganism. My academic background is in the Greek and Roman classics, and you see the disordered passions and anxieties of these peoples projected onto their gods (or, if you prefer, these gods were demons inspiring disordered passions and anxieties among their worshippers).
Two of the most comprehensive instantiations of Greek myth are Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer’s Iliad. Continue reading
In my previous post, I discussed the commemoration of the martyr St. Anastasia at the Mass at dawn on Christmas Day. I focused on St. Anastasia’s name, which recalls the Resurrection of Our Lord. In this post, I will discuss the location of the station church for the Christmas Mass at dawn, namely the Basilica of Sant’Anastasia al Palatino. This basilica is located on the Palatine Hill in Rome. I will argue that this location is especially fitting for a celebration of Christ’s Birth in the Grotto of Bethlehem.
Circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth
To begin with, let’s consider some circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth. Our Lord was born in a cave or grotto in the countryside outside of Bethlehem. Despite the humble trappings of His Birth, Our Lord was the King of Israel and the Son of God. He was miraculously conceived of the Virgin Mary, and was born without damage to Her virginity. Our Lady laid the Infant in a manger; the cave was used as a sheepfold, and shepherds came to pay Him homage. Fearing that Our Lord would seize his throne, Herod the Great sought to kill Him, and did in fact massacre the other male infants of Bethlehem. As a result, the Holy Family fled into exile.
Romulus, Remus, and the Palatine
Many of the circumstances of Our Lord’s Birth find a parallel, or a pointed contrast, in the legend of the birth of Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of Rome.* Continue reading
(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)
If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.
In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading
Here are some reasons to oppose the notion of female cardinals. For the sake of argument, we’re defining “female cardinal” as a woman who is given the canonical right to vote in a papal conclave. Not every cardinal has been ordained, so female ordination (a metaphysical impossibility) is not a necessary condition for a woman being appointed cardinal. It seems to be possible, at least, to appoint a woman as a papal elector. However, here are reasons why the notion is absurd: Continue reading
Today’s feast day (prior to 1960, anyway) commemorates the consecration of the Basilica of St. Peter ad Vincula (“at the Chains”). That’s the basilica in Rome that houses a major relic of St. Peter. It’s a single chain formed from two separate chains, one that bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and one that bound him when he was imprisoned in Rome. When the two chains were brought together in the 400s, they miraculously fused together.*
Here are some photos that I took at the basilica in 2007. First, the miraculous chain. The reliquary is located in the confessio (crypt shrine) below the basilica’s high altar.
The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.
St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.
When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading
Wikipedia informs me that today is the 573rd anniversary of the Battle of Torvioll (June 29, 1444)*, where the glorious Albanian Catholic military genius Skanderbeg** routed the Ottoman hordes to the relief of Christendom. The Pope proclaimed Skanderbeg “Athleta Christi,” which is Latin for “Champion of Christ.” To commemorate this auspicious anniversary, I post this photo I took of the statue of Skanderbeg that stands in Rome at the Piazza Albania. All hail Skanderbeg, champion of Christ!
Ten years ago today, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, I had the privilege of attending the Pallium Mass offered by Pope Benedict XVI (aka the Once and Future Pontifex) in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pallium is a woolen vestment that the Pope bestows on new metropolitan archbishops. The Pope blesses and bestows the pallium on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul as a sign of unity between the new archbishops and himself as Successor of St. Peter and Prince of the Apostles. Formerly (starting with Pope St. John Paul II and ending with Pope Francis) the Pope bestowed the pallium in person in Rome.
The first photo shows Pope Benedict walking up the nave of St. Peter’s toward the high altar at the beginning of the Mass.
May is Our Lady’s month. I fondly recall May Crowning in my home parish—
“O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!”
The month of May is named for the pagan goddess Maia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(mythology))*, who was the mother of the Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Among other things, Hermes was the god of shepherds. When the Gentiles of the Roman Empire first converted to Christianity and began creating their own artwork, they used statues of Hermes Kriophoros (the “Ram-Bearer”) as a model for statues of Christ the Good Shepherd (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriophoros).
I don’t mean to lead us down some syncretistic rabbit hole. However, there were some strains in Gentile religion that pointed to the coming of Christ. If the pagans celebrated May as the month of the mother of Hermes the Ram-Bearer, how much more should we celebrate it as the month of the mother of the Good Shepherd.
*Warning: there’s at least one immodest image on this Wikipedia page