Saints, both near and far…

Having recently kicked up some dust about the declaration that Gregory of Narek is to be heeded as a Doctor of the Church, I decided to add a few more reflections and notes to the general topic of sanctity, and our models thereof.

First, let me mention a “totally badass” saint that I recently discovered: St. Gabriel Possenti, the patron saint of handgunners. Yes, kiddies, of handgunners.

Here’s the goods:

In 1860, a band of soldiers from the army of Garibaldi entered the mountain village of Isola, Italy. They began to burn and pillage the town, terrorizing its inhabitants.

Possenti, with his seminary rector’s permission, walked into the center of town, unarmed, to face the terrorists. One of the soldiers was dragging off a young woman he intended to rape when he saw Possenti and made a snickering remark about such a young monk being all alone.

Possenti quickly grabbed the soldier’s revolver from his belt and ordered the marauder to release the woman. The startled soldier complied, as Possenti grabbed the revolver of another soldier who came by. Hearing the commotion, the rest of the soldiers came running in Possenti’s direction, determined to overcome the rebellious monk.

At that moment a small lizard ran across the road between Possenti and the soldiers. When the lizard briefly paused, Possenti took careful aim and struck the lizard with one shot. Turning his two handguns on the approaching soldiers, Possenti commanded them to drop their weapons. Having seen his handiwork with a pistol, the soldiers complied. Possenti ordered them to put out the fires they had set, and upon finishing, marched the whole lot out of town, ordering them never to return. The grateful townspeople escorted Possenti in triumphant procession back to the seminary, thereafter referring to him as “the Savior of Isola”.

Let’s do our share to bring back his cult, eh? Shoot, why not?

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Regaining the wisdom to regard so virile and humble a fellow as Possenti as a saint might go a long way toward stirring up the once-and-future Vatican to reinstate the long forgotten and oft maligned vergers, beadles*, and that über-verger-beadle that came to be known as ‘Mastro Titta‘: Rome’s executioner in the pledge of Christ the King and His Vicar.

To wit:

From 1796 to 1864, only one man was in charge for the rather frequent executions in Rome: Giovanni Battista Bugatti, whose nickname Mastro Titta (“Master Titta”), became legendary: during his 70-year long activity, he performed 516 executions, or justices, as they used to be called. ‘Mastro Titta’ became the local synonym for ‘executioner': even the many who came before him and the few who came after were addressed by this nickname. A personage so deeply rooted in the folk memory to be mentioned even in a popular children’s rhyme. …

[A] typical feature of the gloomy cerimony was the procession of friars who accompanied the condemned up to the scaffold, wearing a black cowl with a pointed hood. They belonged to the Confraternita della Misericordia (“Brotherhood of Mercy”), a centuries-old congregation founded in Florence; Michelangelo himself had been one of its members, over 300 years earlier. Their headquarters in Rome were by the church of San Giovanni Decollato (“St. John Beheaded”, i.e. St. John the Baptist) [dat gallows humor doe], located in a narrow street by via dei Cerchi, another spot where executions took place in the 1700s and 1800s.

The congregation was in charge of delivering religious consolation to the condemned; after the execution, the same friars also carried away the corpses to the church’s cloister, where they buried them. By an ancient privilege, granted by pope Paul III in 1540, each year the Brotherhood of Mercy had the right of freeing one convict sentenced to death.

No waterboarding. No wiretapping. Just the dignity of a sober death after the grace of informed contrition.

These days, though, the Holy Father prefers to give succor to a radical bisexual atheist, who was pivotal in the acceptance of abortion in Italy, during one of his voluntary hunger strikes–but, as Kermit the Frog would say, that’s none of my business.

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Demanding his release from uterine limbo, my son trumped the doctor’s prediction by almost a whole week, and made his debut as my third child, and second son, this morning at 5:57 AM on Saturday, 28 February 2015. It was a remarkably smooth delivery (just don’t ask my wife), and the timing of the thing struck me on many levels, of which I shall only mention two.

Before heading out to the hospital shortly before 3 AM, I made sure to pack my current Missal (though I’m awfully fond of this one, as well). While my wife was being triaged, I consulted the Internet and my Missal for information on what saints I might implore with special favor on this day. In the Missal I learned that, in the old calendar, today was a memorial of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, to whom I immediately committed the incipient boy as a model for virtuous youth.

But that is not all. In the new liturgical calendar 28 February is the memorial of Pope St. Hilary (or, as I prefer to call him, Pope Hilarius [ca. 461-468, formerly 17 November]). This is where the plot thickens. For Hilary:

was born in Sardinia, Italy, and was a papal legate to the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449, barely escaping with his life from this affair. Hilary was used by Pope St. Leo I the Great on many assignments. When Leo died, Hilary was elected pope and consecrated on November 19, 461. He worked diligently to strengthen the Church in France and Spain, calling councils in 462 and 465. Hilary also rebuilt many Roman churches and erected the chapel of St. John Lateran. He also publicly rebuked Emperor Anthemius in St. Peter’s for supporting the Macedonian heresy and sent a decree to the Eastern bishops validating the decisions of the General Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus, and Chalcedon.

And so it came to pass that an Armenian monk who lived his whole life in a communion that had rejected Chalcedon and dyophysitism for centuries was venerated as a Doctor of the Church one day before the memorial of a man who nearly lost his life defending the Tome of Pope Leo I and spent most of his energies as pope asserting the truth of Chalcedon. Once again, if it turns out that a council like Chalcedon is not so important to grounding one’s Catholicity, then how important could councils like Trent and Vatican II be, really?

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Lastly, I leave you with some data points which other have suggested might be counted as having been smuggled in with the elevation of an Armenian schismatic as a universal model for the Church.

1) WIKIPEDIA:

“The Oriental Orthodox Church is more severe than the Eastern Orthodox Church in terms of divorce and adopts an intermediate position between Rome and Constantinople, allowing it only in the case of adultery. This position is valid for both Copts and Armenians. [12][13]”

2) The Deacon’s Bench:

“The story recounts a talk given last month in Illinois by the historian Knarik O. Meneshian, who gave some of the background behind women deacons in the Armenian Apostolic Church….”

After all, if miaphysitism and separation from Rome are no biggies, then, well…?

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* (or here1 for more, as well as here2 [left column], here3 [third paragraph from the end], and here4)

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A new Doctor of the Church, you say? Innnnteresting…

gregory of narek[Heads up, sports fans: This afternoon I brought this post up at One Peter Five to generate a little more discussion. Go have a look.]

Gregory of Narek (ca. 950-1005), a revered Father of the Armenian Orthodox Church (AOC), is now officially a Doctor of the Universal Church.

The AOC, the body to which Gregory belonged, has formally and persistently rejected the authority of the Council of Chalcedon, was not in communion with Rome during Gregory’s life, and highly venerates Gregory, who was (as Ann Barnhardt strongly emphasizes) a miaphysite. “The main difference,” notes the just cited AOC website, “between the Byzantine tradition, also known as Chalcedonian churches and the Armenian Church, (together with other non-Chalcedonian churches) has been on the issue of Christology, i.e., the dogma related to Christ’s Divine and Human natures.” As Abp. A. Keshishian explains:

“[T]he Christology of the Armenian Church is fundamentally in line with the Alexandrian Theological School. In fact, the Cyrillian formula of ‘One Nature of the Incarnate Word’ consititutes the foundation stone of her Christology. [It should be noted that] first, ‘One Nature’ is never interpreted in the Armenian Christology as a numerical one, but always a united one. This point is of crucial importance [for the Armenian Church] particularly in its anti-Eutychian and anti-Chalcedonian aspects. Second the term ‘nature’ (ousia, in Armeian bnut’iun) is used in Armenian theological literature in three different senses: (a) as essence, an abstract notion, (b) as substance, a concrete reality, (c) as person. In the context of anti-Chalcedonian Christology ‘one nature’ is used in a sense of ‘one person’ composed of two natures”.

So, a saint venerated in a fellowship that has for centuries rejected Chalcedon–a council universally binding on the Catholic Church–is considered a Doctor of the Catholic Church. Are there any other councils that one might reject while still enjoying exemplary ecclesial status–say, Trent or Vatican II?

Does this elevation not also canonize Gregory? How could it not? If he is but a provincially revered saint in an ancient but schismatic Christian communion, how can he be considered a universal Doctor? Are there any other Doctors of the Church who are not also celebrated in her liturgy as saints?* Are there any other Doctors who belonged to schismatic bodies? 

I’m being provocative, I admit, but only because this raises a host of fascinating and important issues about ecclesial communion, papal authority, and truth, among other things. In order to get a better sense of the issues, I’ll be reading up on the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Here are some other helpful joint statements from the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Meanwhile, what do you think, especially you Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox folks out there?

Am I the only one who thinks this cause, which had been underway for some time, was executed with such celerity in order to throw a grim but timely light on one of Pope Francis’s favorite themes, “the ecumenism of blood”? As he most recently put it: “Be they Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it doesn’t matter: They’re Christian! The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ”.

* [I’ve since learned that Gregory is in fact in the Church’s most recent martyrology, but not in the earlier edition, and is mentioned as a saint in the CCC, so this just confirms my instinct to see something beautiful here, regardless of how it might be spun for this or that ideological fetish. {Further research leaves me uncertain once more. Did Rome recognize Gregory of Narek’s sanctity as recently and suddenly as 2001/2005? What’s going on here?}]

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Lent: it’s bigger than you…

Here’s a link to my latest piece at One Peter Five: “‘He Was Led By the Spirit into the Desert: The Mystical Context of Curial Politics’“. It picks up on things I discussed in my last post there, but delves into some (for me, at least) remarkable spiritual and liturgical lessons.

pope francis beware devil division

“The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare.” — Pope Benedict XIV

Gloomy reading and happy Lent! (Or maybe I have that backwards?)

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An apology, and an update…

I’m sorry that I did not post the prayers for the last three days of the novena. I hope you still prayed it, though! Things at work got more involved than I anticipated, and etc.

As for the update, I invite you to head over to One Peter Five to read my latest contribution there. It is titled, “An Encyclical of Guesstures: Making Sense of Pope Francis’s Pastoral Aims“. In it I discuss how a recent novelty at a papal audience is but a tile in the larger mosaic that is Pope Francis’s “creative” vision for the Church as bearer of the Good News. Suffice to say it’s all a bit… peculiar.

pope-francis-shoesLong live the hermeneutic of continuity!

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Novena to the Holy Face of Jesus — Day 6

Go here for the background/context of this novena.

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NOVENA IN HONOR OF THE MOST HOLY FACE OF JESUS*

holy face of Jesus

“All those who, attracted by my love, and venerating my countenance, shall receive, by virtue of my humanity, a brilliant and vivid impression of my divinity. This splendour shall enlighten the depths of their souls, so that in eternal glory the celestial court shall marvel at the marked likeness of their features with my divine countenance.”(Our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Gertrude)

WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD!

SIXTH DAY 
(Console Holy Face and recite Daily Preparatory Prayer).

DAILY PREPARATORY PRAYER
O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with all His sorrows, love and total abandonment. We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Start novena)

Psalm 51,12-13.
A pure heart create for us O God,
put a steadfast spirit within us.
Do not cast us away from your presence
nor deprive us of your Holy Spirit.

May our hearts be cleansed, O Lord, by the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, and may He render them fruitful by watering them with His heavenly dew. Mary, the most chaste spouse of the Holy Spirit, intercede for us, Saint Joseph pray for us. Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition……………… Pardon
and mercy.

Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel
O Victorious Prince, most humble guardian of the Church of God and of faithful souls, who with such charity and zeal took part in so many conflicts and gained such great victories over the enemy, for the conservation and protection of the honour and glory we all owe to God, as well as for the promotion of our salvation; come, we pray Thee, to our assistance. For we are continually besieged with such great perils by our enemies, the flesh, the world and the devil, and as Thou wast a leader for the people of God through the desert, so also be our faithful leader, and companion through the desert of this world, until Thou conduct us safely into the happy land of the living, in that blessed fatherland from which we are all exiles. Amen. (St. Aloysius)

Pray
one (1) Our Father
three (3) Hail Mary’s
one (1) Glory Be
three (3) “O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine.”

Jesus Shroud face

THE “GOLDEN ARROW” PRAYER
MAY the most holy, most sacred, most adorable, most incomprehensible and unutterable Name of God be always praised, blessed, loved, adored and glorified, in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth, by all the creatures of God, and by the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.

Become A Brave Defender Of The Holy Name Of God Through the Holy Face Devotion!

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Novena to the Holy Face of Jesus — Day 5

Go here for the background/context of this novena.

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NOVENA IN HONOR OF THE MOST HOLY FACE OF JESUS*

holy face of Jesus

“All those who, attracted by my love, and venerating my countenance, shall receive, by virtue of my humanity, a brilliant and vivid impression of my divinity. This splendour shall enlighten the depths of their souls, so that in eternal glory the celestial court shall marvel at the marked likeness of their features with my divine countenance.” (Our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Gertrude)

WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD!

FIFTH DAY
Console Holy Face and recite Daily Preparatory Prayer 

Psalm 51,10-11.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your Face,
and blot out all my guilt.

Holy Face of Jesus, Sacred Countenance of God, how great is your patience with humankind, how infinite your forgiveness. We are sinners, yet you love us. This gives us
courage. For the glory of your Holy Face and of the Blessed Trinity, hear and answer us. Mary our Mother, intercede for us, Saint Joseph, pray for us. Through the merits of your precious blood and your Holy Face, O Jesus, grant us our petition……………… Pardon and mercy.

DAILY PREPARATORY PRAYER
O Most Holy and Blessed Trinity, through the intercession of Holy Mary, whose soul was pierced through by a sword of sorrow at the sight of the passion of her Divine Son, we ask your help in making a perfect Novena of reparation with Jesus, united with all His sorrows, love and total abandonment. We now implore all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us as we pray this Holy Novena to the Most Holy Face of Jesus and for the glory of the most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Start novena)

Prayer to Saint Joseph
Dear Saint Joseph! Adopt us as thy children, take charge of our salvation; watch over us day and night; preserve us from occasions of sin; obtain for us purity of body and soul,
and the spirit of prayer, through thy intercession with Jesus, grant us a spirit of sacrifice, of humility and self-denial; obtain for us a burning love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and a sweet, tender love for Mary, our Mother. Saint Joseph, be with us in life, be with us in death and obtain for us a favourable judgment from Jesus, our merciful Saviour. Amen.

Pray
one (1) Our Father,
three (3) Hail Mary’s,
one (1) Glory Be
three (3) “O Bleeding Face, O Face Divine, be every adoration Thine.”

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Grace at every turn…

Sometimes, the Jesus Prayer is enough. Sometimes just enough is more than enough.

A wise and attentive confessor tonight gave me a penance that consisted solely of that prayer, once for every year of Christ’s mortal life, and a commitment to praying it whenever my mind was not directly engaged in my daily duties. I consider it a sign of hope for the larger Church that a Roman Catholic priest assigns me what is normally considered “sole property” of the Eastern Orthodox (“Hesychasm”). He even had dozens of the prayers cards in the confessional ready to be taken by penitents, so my penance was probably not a one-off.

Jesus-Prayer-sinai-christ-pantokrator

Jesus Prayer posterEmail

With every breath, with every beat, with every break… pray. Sometimes enough is more than enough.

Also, say hello to my new favorite saint (i.e. a new member of the favorite saints who play pray for me on the God-Help-Us-Somehow-Even-God-Can-Get-This-Schlub-Elliot-To-Heaven Team):

onuphriusSt. Onuphrius

We know of the life of St. Onuphrius from the testimony of the monk Paphnutius.  The saintly hermit had lived in the desert for sixty years when Paphnutius visited him. … 

For a long time he fed only on vegetables which could rarely be found in the wilderness and after that, when he had overcome by patience and faith violent attacks of temptations by demons and when his heart was fortified and centred upon the love of God, an angel of God brought him bread for nourishment. Besides that, by the good Providence of God, a palm tree grew next to his cell which brought forth dates in abundance and a spring of water began to flow there.

However, Onuphrius said, his face shining: “I mostly feed and quench my thirst on the sweet words of God.”  To Paphnutius’ question: “How do you receive Communion?” the hermit replied that an angel of God brings him Holy Communion every Saturday.

If you like the cut of his jib (and that beard!), join me in seeking his intercession and support. If nothing else, realize that, at every Mass, it may be the same angels bringing you the Bread of Life that ministered to St. Onuphrius.

Angel Offer Mass

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