Our Lady’s First Apparition

Strange, how the seeds of doubt are sown. I read a blog post by someone who touts himself as a traditional Catholic. The author made an observation. Earlier in Church art, images of Our Lady always include Our Lord. Think of the icons of the East, where Our Lady typically holds the Christ Child. Think of Romanesque and Gothic statues of Our Lady seated, with the Christ Child on her lap. The author contrasted this artistic tradition with Neo-Gothic statues of the modern era, which often show Our Lady standing alone, her arms outstretched. This pose is often associated with Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima.

The author was implying that this artistic convention is un-traditional and divorces Our Lady from Our Lord. It makes her an independent force or mediator, separate from Our Lord, making the Protestant allegation of Mariolatry seem true. This thought now occurs to me when I see statues of Our Lady absent a representation of the Christ Child. It occurs to me when I venerate Our Lady at the Lady Altar in a local church, where the statue shows Our Lady in the pose described above. It’s a wicked thought, but it takes some insight to redress. For me, the insight was slow in coming. It came one day when praying the Rosary, specifically the mystery of the Visitation. Continue reading

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Each day between today (Jan. 18th, regardless of the date stamp above) and next Wednesday (Jan. 25th), I encourage you all to pray the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. For each day’s prayers, I refer you here (http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2015/01/traditional-catholic-prayers-for-week.html). For some background on this prayer octave, I refer you here (http://church.atonementonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Octave-of-Prayer-for-Christian-Unity.pdf).

The octave lasts from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (Jan. 18th) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th). You can learn more about today’s feast here (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/01/the-two-feasts-of-st-peters-chair.html#.WIAQSGciyM9). The first day’s prayer intention is for the return of the “other sheep” to the One Fold of Christ. In honor of today’s feast, here is a photo of the Altar of the Chair in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I understand it, the throne above the altar is a reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter’s cathedra (chair). 015 Continue reading

“Good King Wenceslas Went Out Upon the Feast of Stephen” . . . for Eucharistic Adoration

The English-language Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” relates how St. Wenceslas of Bohemia went out upon the feast of Stephen to feed a poor peasant (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas). According to the legend, St. Wenceslas’ servant found it very cold following him through the snow, so St. Wenceslas told the servant to follow in his footprints. By a miracle, the footprints stayed warm to protect the servant’s feet.

By divine providence today (the very feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 26, regardless of the date stamp above), I came upon an alternative story of the legend that says the miracle occurred during a visit St. Wenceslas made to the Blessed Sacrament. This version comes from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists.  Continue reading

St. Stephen in Rome

Today is the feast of St. Stephen, the Protomartyr of the Church. St. Stephen’s relics are preserved in Rome, in the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls. This is fitting, as St. Stephen and St. Lawrence were both deacons and martyrs. St. Stephen was one of the seven protodeacons of the Church of Jerusalem, and St. Lawrence was one of the seven deacons of the Church of Rome. Also, the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls is the titular basilica of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Legend says that when they deposited St. Stephen’s body next to St. Lawrence’s, St. Lawrence rolled over to make room for St. Stephen.

Here is a photo of the confessio of the Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, where the relics of both St. Stephen and St. Lawrence are preserved.

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Putting the “Hyper-” Back in “Hyperdulia”

I recently wrote several posts about Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. I think by any objective standard, I am a “high Mariologist.” I affirm all of the defined dogmas relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I affirm that the miraculous, virginal, painless birth of Our Lord is a defined dogma. I affirm that Our Lady is Universal Mediatrix of Grace, Co-Redemptrix, and Advocate. In a very real sense, she is the primary beneficiary of the redemption wrought by Our Lord.

Still, it’s possible to go too far, affirming propositions about the Blessed Virgin that exceed the dignity God bestowed upon her. I personally think St. Maximilian Kolbe went too far in some of his writings, and that these excesses skew the Mariology of some of his followers. I give one example here. Continue reading

St. Nicholas’ Day

Today (Dec. 6, regardless of what appears above) is the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra, Bishop and Confessor. When my maternal grandmother was a girl, children received gifts from St. Nicholas on the morning of his feast day. The children set out their shoes on the night before. I think they filled the shoes with hay for St. Nicholas’ horses. In the morning, they found the shoes filled with oranges, apples, and nuts. That’s how St. Nicholas was celebrated in one German-American Catholic family in the Driftless Area, 40-50 years before Vatican II.

This Old World Catholic tradition was remembered in Wisconsin through the year 2000 at least. When I was a freshman at Marquette, the Residence Assistant in our dorm set small gifts of candy from our parents outside our doors on the morning of St. Nicholas’ Day. We were in the midst of finals and looking forward to Christmas break. It’s a fond memory. Continue reading

Patronal Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle

Today, November 30, is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of the church of the town where I live. This is fitting, as the town was founded by a Scotsman and St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Here are two photographs of the statue of St. Andrew outside of the local church:

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The nave of the church is fittingly shaped like a ship (“nave” means “ship”); St. Andrew was a fisherman and is a patron saint of fishermen. Here’s a close up of the coat-of-arms beneath the statue:
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Patronal Feast Day of St. Raphael

Happy feast day (in the Old  Calendar) to St. Raphael the Archangel! He is the patron saint of the Diocese of Madison and a patron saint of mine. Here is a photo I took in one of the side-chapels of the Basilica of Sant’ Andrea della Valle in Rome (http://romanchurches.wikia.com/wiki/Sant%27Andrea_della_Valle). The painting depicts St. Raphael revealing himself to the elder Tobias (on the left) and the younger Tobias (on the right).

I found the placement of this painting providential, as Sant’ Andrea della Valle is my favorite church in Rome. I also have a devotion to St. Andrew, the patron saint of the church in the town where I now live. St. Raphael and St. Andrew, pray for us!

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Ethnocentrism in the Middle Ages; Or, the World Outside the Summa

There’s a strong tendency among traditionally-minded Catholics to characterize the Middle Ages as a golden age (a golden calf, I almost wrote) when everyone was a great Catholic and the sorts of horrible, outrageous things we see today never, ever happened.

It’s a bunch of rubbish, but it colors a lot of “our” thinking. I recently read an article in which the author cited Aquinas as an example of a natural law thinker who focused on humans qua humans, not qua this or that nationality or ethnicity. The author’s goal was to score a hit against tribalism.

Well and good — to my knowledge, Aquinas doesn’t attempt any taxonomy of nationalities. But then the works of St. Thomas Aquinas aren’t really a mirror of the world in which he lived. Here are some things about the Middle Ages you won’t learn if the only thing you know about the Middle Ages is Aquinas. These facts reveal a world in which tribal/ethnic/national/dynastic identity was very strong and often helped determine the course of history: Continue reading

St. Sebastian: Bastion of Catholic Identity

This post is inspired by a homily that the parish priest at my home parish in Illinois* preached about a month ago. The Rio Olympics were in full swing, and the priest commented on American gymnast Simone Biles. He related that Biles, a Catholic, had a devotion to St. Sebastian and lit candles to him. I subsequently found out that St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and of Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics were held. The full name of Rio de Janeiro is São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, which in Portuguese means St. Sebastian of the River January (the Portuguese first landed there in January). This got me thinking about St. Sebastian’s role as an icon and bastion of Catholic identity.

Here are the basics of St. Sebastian’s story. He was a Roman soldier who was martyred during one of the persecutions inflicted on the Church by the Roman Emperors. He was sentenced to be tied to a tree and shot through with arrows. He miraculously survived the arrows, so he was clubbed to death. The Christians buried him in catacombs outside the city of Rome that have been called St. Sebastian’s Catacombs ever since. Now a basilica in St. Sebastian’s honor stands over the catacombs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebastiano_fuori_le_mura). Here’s a photo I took of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom as depicted on the ceiling (!) of the nave of the Basilica of St. Sebastian’s Outside the Walls:

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St. Sebastian became very popular in the Middle Ages for a number of reasons**. Here, I’ll focus on just one: the all-out awesomeness of his martyrdom. I think in many Catholics’ mind, the martyrdom of St. Sebastian is the template for their own perseverance in the face of persecution and temptation. If you think of it, his martyrdom is very reminiscent of Our Lord’s Crucifixion. He was bound to a tree, with his face to his persecutors, as they pierced his flesh. He is the patron saint of grit-your-teeth-and-take-it.

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