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.
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.
“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. ”
“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…?