Saturday, September 3, 2016

On St. Gregory the Great

ST. GREGORY was born at Rome in 540. He was successively senator and prefect of Rome before the age of 30. After five years he resigned and became a monk, transforming his own house into a Benedictine monastery, and founding six others. At the age of 50 he was elected pope, serving from 590 to 604. In 14 years he accomplished much for the Mystical Body of Christ.

After seeing English children being sold as slaves in Rome, he sent 40 monks, including St. Augustine of Canterbury, from his own monastery to make "the Angles angels." England owes her conversion to him. At a period when the invasion of the barbarian Lombards created a new situation in Europe, he played a great part in winning them for Christ. When Rome itself was under attack, he personally went to interview the Lombard King.

At the same time he watched equally over the holiness of the clergy and the maintenance of Church discipline, the temporal interests of his people of Rome and the spiritual interests of all Christendom. He removed unworthy priests from office, forbade taking money for many services, and emptied the papal treasury to ransom prisoners of the Lombards and to care for persecuted Jews and victims of plague and famine. These deeds and others made him, in the words of an antiphon in his office, "the Father of the City, the joy of the World."

Gregory reformed the liturgy, and it still contains several of his most beautiful prayers. The name "Gregorian chant" recalls this great Pope's work in the development of the Church's music. His commentaries on Holy Scripture exercised a considerable influence on Christian thought in the Middle Ages. St. Gregory died on March 12, 604. His body lies at St. Peter's in Rome.


St. Gregory, by Francesco de Goya y Lucientes.
Oil on canvas, c. 1797; Museo Romántico, Madrid.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

St. Augustine: "Recall that single father of all our human race"

“FOR there is nothing so social by nature, so anti-social by sin, as man. And if any man should ever need an argument against the evil of dissension, either to prevent it breaking out or to bring it to an end, there is nothing better than to recall that single father of all our human race who God created as a solitary individual, for the purpose of reminding us to preserve unity of heart in a multitude of men. And the fact that a woman was made from the side of the man shows clearly enough how highly we were meant to esteem the relationship between husband and wife.”

~St. Augustine: The City of God, 3, 12, 28.

Creation of Adam and Eve, by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Gilded bronze, 1425-52; Baptistry, Florence.

St. John Damascene: "God’s Mother and Lady and Queen"

“ASSUREDLY she who played the part of the Creator’s servant and Mother is in all strictness and truth in reality God’s Mother and Lady and Queen over all created things.”

~St. John of Damascus (c. 676-749 AD): Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 4, 14.

Coronation of the Virgin, by Andrea di Bartolo. Panel, 1405-07;
Galleria Franchetti, Ca' d'Oro, Venice.

The Holy Apostle Bartholomew

"The Holy Apostle Bartholomew was born at Cana of Galilee and was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. After the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, it fell by lot to the holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip (November 14) to preach the Gospel in Syria and Asia Minor. In their preaching they wandered through various cities, and then met up again. Accompanying the holy Apostle Philip was his sister, the holy virgin St Mariamnne. 

"Traversing the cities of Syria and Myzia, they underwent much hardship and tribulations, they were stoned and they were locked up in prison. In one of the villages they met up with the Apostle John the Theologian, and together they set off to Phrygia. In the city of Hieropolis by the power of their prayers they destroyed an enormous viper, which the pagans worshipped as a god. The holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip with his sister confirmed their preaching with many miracles." 

● Continue reading St. Bartholomew, Apostle.

St. Bartholomew, by Cecco di Pietro. Poplar panel, gold ground,
c. 1386; Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon.

Monday, August 22, 2016

St. Augustine: "Unity of heart"

“FOR there is nothing so social by nature, so anti-social by sin, as man. And if any man should ever need an argument against the evil of dissension, either to prevent it breaking out or to bring it to an end, there is nothing better than to recall that single father of all our human race who God created as a solitary individual, for the purpose of reminding us to preserve unity of heart in a multitude of men. And the fact that a woman was made from the side of the man shows clearly enough how highly we were meant to esteem the relationship between husband and wife.”

~St. Augustine: The City of God, 3, 12, 28.

Creation of Adam and Eve, by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Gilded bronze, 1425-52; Baptistry, Florence.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Early Church on Abortion

"The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born." 

─ Letter of Barnabas, Ch. 19 v. 5. (A.D. 74)

And hard by that place I saw another strait place wherein the discharge and the stench of them that were in torment ran down, and there was as it were a lake there. And there sat women up to their necks in that liquor, and over against them many children which were born out of due time sat crying: and from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were they that conceived out of wedlock (?) and caused abortion.

 Apocalypse of Peter, 26. (A.D. 137)

“And near by this flame shall be a pit, great and very deep, and into it floweth from above all manner of torment, foulness, and issue. And women are swallowed up therein up to their necks and tormented with great pain. These are they that have caused their children to be born untimely, and have corrupted the work of God that created them. Over against them shall be another place where sit their children [both] alive, and they cry unto God. And flashes (lightnings) go forth from those children and pierce the eyes of them that for fornication's sake have caused their destruction." 

 Apocalypse of Peter, (Ethiopic Text) (A.D. 137)

"You shall not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant."

 Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, Ch. 2. (2nd cent.)

"WHAT MAN of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? For we cannot eat human flesh till we have killed some one. The former charge, therefore, being false, if any one should ask them in regard to the second, whether they have seen what they assert, not one of them would be so barefaced as to say that he had. And yet we have slaves, some more and some fewer, by whom we could not help being seen; but even of these, not one has been found to invent even such things against us. For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles.  How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God's care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it."

 Athenagoras (Athenian philosopher and convert to Christianity): A Plea for the Christians, Chap. 35. (A.D. 177)

"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed." 

 Tertullian: Apology Ch. 9, v. 8. (A.D. 197) 

"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery. "There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . . "[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive." 

 Tertullian: Treatise on the Soul, Chap. 25. (A.D. 210) 

"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does. 

 Tertullian: Treatise on the Soul, Chap. 27.

"The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion."[Ex. 21:22–24] 

 Tertullian: Treatise on the Soul, Ch. 37.

"There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods. . . . To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide."

 Minucius Felix: Octavius, Ch. 30. (A.D. 226)

"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!" 

 St. Hippolytus of Rome: Refutation of All Heresies, Bk 9, Ch.7. (A.D. 228)

"When God forbids us to kill, he not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but he warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. . . . Therefore, let no one imagine that even this is allowed, to strangle newly-born children, which is the greatest impiety; for God breathes into their souls for life, and not for death. But men, that there may be no crime with which they may not pollute their hands, deprive [unborn] souls as yet innocent and simple of the light which they themselves have not given."Can anyone, indeed, expect that they would abstain from the blood of others who do not abstain even from their own? But these are, without any controversy, wicked and unjust." 

 Lactantius: Divine Institutes, Bk. 6, Ch. 20. (A.D. 307)

"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees." ;

 Council of Ancyra: Canon 21. (A.D. 314)

"Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not." 

 St. Basil the Great: First Canonical Letter, Canon 2. (A.D. 374)

"A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder. And any fine distinction as to its being completely formed or unformed is not admissible amongst us."

 St. Basil the Great: Letters, 188.

"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees." 

 St. Basil the Great: Canon 8. 

"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication. . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? (where there are many efforts at abortion? (where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine." 

 St. John Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans, 24. (A.D. 391)

"I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother. . . . Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder." 

St. Jerome: Letters 22, Para. 13.  (A.D. 396)

"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, ‘You shall not suffer a witch to live’ [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. . . . [I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed."

Apostolic Constitutions, 7:3. (A.D. 400)

"Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born." 

St. Augustine of Hippo: On Marriage and Concupiscence, Bk. 1, Ch. 17 (15). (A.D. 419-420)

"Hence in the first place arises a question about abortive conceptions, which have indeed been born in the mother's womb, but not so born that they could be born again. For if we shall decide that these are to rise again, we cannot object to any conclusion that may be drawn in regard to those which are fully formed. Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified? But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting, any more than the blemishes which time did bring shall be present: so that the nature shall neither want anything suitable and in harmony with it that length of days would have added, nor be debased by the presence of anything of an opposite kind that length of days has added; but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed." 

─ St. Augustine of Hippo: Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Charity, Ch. 85. (A.D. 421)

Pre-born child at 16 weeks

[Excerpts to be continued]

Sunday, August 7, 2016

St. Eusebius of Vercelli

St. Eusebius of Vercelli (283 - 1 August 371) was a bishop, and along with Athanasius, affirmed the divinity of Jesus against Arianism. He was the first bishop in the West to organize the clergy of his cathedral under a common rule of life, and so is counted as a remote founder of the Canons Regular. Eusebius worked with Hilary of Poitiers and Liberius, bishop of Rome, to restore Nicene doctrine in the churches of Italy.

Writings of St. Eusebius

Catholic Encyclopedia article on Eusebius

Colonnade Statue in St. Peter's Square

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