Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Founding of the Church in France

Reading N°35 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

More than forty cities of France have claimed the honor of being founded by disciples of Christ or of the Apostles. These claims are of unequal worth. A general Church History cannot be expected to discuss them in detail. The same cannot be said of the Provençal tradition which assigns to Apostolic times the evangelization of Marseilles and the environs of that great city. Because of the celebrity of the disputes which it has raised and because of its own importance, the question of the Apostolic origin of Christianity in Provence requires that we treat it in some detail.

The Martyrology of the Church (December 29) says that the evangelization of Provence by disciples of our Lord was the fountainhead from which "the streams of Christian faith have spread through all Gaul."[1] Is this true? The most unbiased historical researches permit us to answer this question in the affirmative. But, for the sake of clearness and exactness in the conclusions to be drawn from this fact, the historical problem must be divided into three subsidiary questions: that of the Apostolic origin of Christianity in Provence; that of the organization of local churches in Provençal territory; and that of the first apostles of Provence.

Of the Apostolic origin of Christianity in Provence there can scarcely be a doubt. Duchesne writes:
Aside from any positive evidence, there is a likelihood that the region close to the Rhone was evangelized at an early date. Marseilles enjoyed commercial relations that reached the full extent of the Mediterranean. [...] It is natural to suppose that, among so many vessels which, in the earliest times of Christianity, dropped anchor in the harbor of Marseilles, some there were from which preachers of the gospel landed.[2] We may consider it as highly probable that, in those same early times - I would even say in the time of the Apostles - at this great port so frequented by Greeks of Asia Minor and by Syrians, there was a little nucleus of Christians. Thence the Gospel spread to the interior of the country.[3]
The Sarcophagus of Brignoles La Gayole

The inference of the learned critic is fully confirmed by positive archeological evidence. Two monuments that seem to go back to the middle of the second century[4] - an inscription now preserved in the Marseilles museum and a sarcophagus found at La Gayole, within the territory of Aix - show that Christianity was solidly implanted in Provence at that period and may even have had its martyrs there.

The Inscription of Volusianus
The Marseilles inscription (called the Inscription of Volusianus)[5] is, according to Edmond Le Blant, the epitaph of two Christians (Volusianus and Fortunatus), who perished by fire - martyrs perhaps.[6] This inscription, coming from excavations that were made in 1837 in the valley of the Carenage, was classified among the pagan monuments of the Marseilles museum. "There it was," says Ulysse Chevalier, "'that Edmond Le Blant found it in 1849. He drew de Rossi's attention to it, and the latter saw it himself three or four years later, and perceived that it was a most precious Christian monument."[7] The famous Roman archaeologist in one of his subsequent writings has, in fact, declared that he regards Volusianus and Fortunatus as two Marseilles martyrs, who suffered death about the same time as the celebrated martyrs of Lyons, and that their eulogy was carved in stone immediately after their martyrdom - a fact that is almost unique in Christian antiquity.[8] The sarcophagus of La Gayole belongs to the same period.[9] A comparison of these monuments with similar ones of Gaul leads Le Blant to the following conclusion:
While studying our first Christian inscriptions, I have shown that their distribution throughout all Gaul marks the advance of the new faith. [...] This revolution of souls took place on the shores of Provence, in the southern Rhone valley. [...] This fact is attested by our epigraphic monuments.[10]
These conclusions are corroborated by other historic facts. The famous documents quoted or analyzed by Eusebius at the beginning of the fifth book of his Ecclesiastical History bear glorious testimony to the existence and vitality of Christianity in Gaul a century after the death of the Apostles.[11] A text of St. Irenaeus shows that in his time there were churches in Germany, probably in the Roman provinces of that name on the left bank of the Rhine, and among the Celts: in other words, in the Gallic provinces north and west of Lyons.[12] To reach there, if Le Blant's theory is correct, Christianity probably had to be established in the Provençal region; that foundation would therefore go back to a very early date. Our hypothesis finds support in the ancient tradition, frequently cited in history, which always regards the Church of Marseilles as the mother Church of the region.[13]

When we ask when and how the first churches of Gaul were established, the answer is not so clear. We know that in the Apostolic period Marseilles had an important colony of Jews.[14] It must have been among them that the first Christian community was organized. If St. Paul, on his way to Spain, landed at Marseilles, as we may reasonably suppose, his first preaching would have been, according to his practice, among these Jews. These considerations lead us to conclude that this community was the first to be made into a particular Church, with a bishop at its head. But we have no direct documentary evidence to this effect. Duchesne expresses the opinion that all the scattered Christian groups from the Rhine to the Pyrenees must have formed, until about 250, only one community, subject to a single head, the bishop of Lyons.[15] But Harnack attacks this conclusion in a notable dissertation, in which he maintains that the Lyons province, in the third century, counted several organized bishoprics.[16] The French scholar's opinion seems, therefore, in the view of historical criticism, not entirely beyond dispute.

His chief argument is the silence of the episcopal lists of Gaul, none of which, except that of Lyons, goes back to the middle of the second century; but Duchesne himself gives us the elements for focusing this argument. He says:
It is commonly imagined that the churches carefully preserved the lists of their bishops from their very foundation. This is true of certain large churches, like those of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria. But many others did not attempt to fix these lists, or they let them be altered. [...] At Carthage we find only three or four bishops previous to the fourth century. [...] In the diptychs, or liturgical lists, arbitrary suppressions or additions were often made.[17]
Besides the silence of the episcopal lists, we should consider the silence of the Fathers of the first centuries, notably of St. Irenaeus. When he appeals to tradition against the heretics, he makes no reference to the tradition of the churches of Marseilles and Arles. It is true that, in the extant writings of the Fathers of the first four centuries, we meet no clear allusion to the early churches of Gaul. But we should note that this silence extends to the Christian communities themselves; and the most exacting critics, despite this silence, have no hesitation in admitting, at least as very probable, the existence of Christian communities at Marseilles and its environs from earliest antiquity. As far as concerns the writings of St. Irenaeus - of which only fragments remain - we can understand that, in his argument from tradition, he would content himself with the authority of St. John, whom he knew so well through the intermediary of his master Polycarp.

We are also told that, in the Apostolic age, it was customary to establish episcopal sees only in the very large centers. But were not the cities of Marseilles and ArIes of the first importance?[18]

St. Gregory of Tours attributes the origin of the churches of Gaul to a mission of seven bishops sent thither in the third century.[19] Duchesne, however, says that Gregory's evidence about the sending of the seven bishops is too weak and its origin too obscure for it to enter into the woof of history.[20]

Lastly, appeal is had to the famous text of Eusebius: "The parishes (paroikion) of Gaul over which Irenaeus has supervision (epescopei)."[21] If the word epescopei suggests the idea of episcopacy, the word paroikion seems to refer to organized Christian groups. In Eusebius, the word paroikia often (notably in this chapter 22, which contains the ambiguous phrase) has the meaning of "diocese."[22]

In short, the documents of archaeology and the information of history contain nothing that contradicts, in a strict and precise way, the tradition of the Apostolic origin of the episcopal sees in Provence.[23] But who were the first to occupy those sees?

On this last question, we have no hesitation in taking our stand on the conclusions of a historian whose erudition and critical acumen no one will question: Ulysse Chevalier:
Who were the first apostles of Marseilles, who was its first bishop? [...] We must first remark that it is a begging of the question to declare that a tradition first appears in the eleventh century - it goes back at least to the tenth century - because earlier documents do not mention it. What documents? we might ask. Provence was ravaged again and again by Saracens and Normans and therefore has a paucity of official documents dating earlier than the ninth century. Not a single one exists among all the instrumenta of the province of Aix. These repeated destructions, whether accidental or intentional, have deprived us of a knowledge of facts which fragmentary chronicles or documents with numerous gaps do not enable us to supply. All we can do is to bemoan the lack.[24]
The Holy Marys, mothers of James and Salome, arriving on
the shores of Provence (Les Saintes maries de la Mer)
Though documents say nothing, regional traditions and local religious practices more than ten centuries old offer their support. The following are the chief data: Fourteen years after our Lord's death, when a religious persecution broke out in Palestine, the following persons boarded a ship without sails: Lazarus, his sisters Mary Magdalen and Martha, their servant Sara, Sidonius, the man who was blind from his birth and who was cured by Christ, the two Marys (the mother of James and Salome), and Maximin, one of the seventy-two disciples. This boat was driven by Providence to the shores of the Camargue. They landed at the mouth of the Rhone, at the spot now occupied by the village of les Saintes-Mariesde-la-Mer. The two Marys and Sara settled there, and Lazarus went to evangelize Marseilles; Maximin went to Aix; Martha to Avignon and Tarascon. The Golden Legend records:
The blessed Marie Magdalene, desirous of sovereign contemplation, sought a right sharp desert, and took a place which was ordained by the angel of God, and abode there by the space of thirty years without knowledge of anybody. In which place she had no comfort of running water nor solace of trees nor of herbs. And that was because our Redeemer did to show it openly, that He had ordained for her refection celestial, and no bodily meats. And every day at every hour canonical she was lifted up in the air of the angels, and heard the glorious song of the heavenly companies with her bodily ears. Of which she was fed and filled with right sweet meats, and then was brought again by the angels unto her proper place, in such wise as she had no need of corporal nourishing.[25]
Scenes from the life of Mary Magdalen
Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337), Magdalen Chapel, Assisi

How ancient is this tradition? It is not surprising that we find no trace of it in the writers of the first centuries, since they say almost nothing about the Apostolic origins of Christianity in Provence - origins which archaeological monuments and historical inference lead us to hold as demonstrated facts. A church dedicated to St. Martha in the seventh century in the city of Tarascon,[26] the spread of devotion to this saint, which seems to be evidenced by the extensive use of the name "Martha" in the ninth century in the Arles district and the dependencies of the Marseilles bishopric[27] - these are the earliest traces of devotion paid to the holy family of Bethany.

At the same time there appeared in the East traditions that St. Lazarus' tomb was on the island of Cyprus and that of St. Magdalen in the city of Ephesus. But these traditions are not trustworthy;[28] they appear not to go back to the early centuries, for the famous Peregrinatio Silviae (fourth century) makes no mention of them;[29] and they are probably the result of a confusion in names: it may be that the Lazarus and Magdalen of the Gospel were confused with a holy monk named Lazarus, who died in the island of Cyprus in 822, and a Magdalen who was buried at Ephesus in the fifth century.[30]

A third group of traditions appears at Vézelay in Burgundy, where the relics of St. Magdalen became the object of public veneration and of numerous pilgrimages in the eleventh century. Are these traditions and this veneration dependent upon those of Provence, as Bérenger maintains?[31] Or do the Provençal traditions depend upon those of Burgundy, as Duchesne holds?[32] Or do both depend upon Auvergne legends, as Georges de Manteyer[33] and Dom Germain Morin[34] try to prove? With scholars so divided on the question, evidently it is not very clear. We shall merely observe that the Provençal traditions supplanted the others before long. Since the elevellth century it is in Provence that the veneration of St. Lazarus, St. Magdalen, St. Martha, and St. Maximin has continued with undiminished splendor. The "holy places of Provence," as they were called, became places of numerous pilgrimages. They have been visited by many saints and persons of high rank, among whom we mention St. John of Matha, King St. Louis, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Brigid of Sweden, Charles VIII, Louis XII, Anne of Brittany, Louis XIII, and Louis XIV. On one single day there were five kings there;[35] a single century brought eight popes thither.[36] The founder of seminaries in France in the seventeenth century and the restorer of the Dominican Order in the nineteenth century went there to place their new labors under the protection of the great penitent; the renowned preacher of Notre Dame boasted of venerating "in those holy places which might be thought to belong to Heaven rather than to earth, the last footprint, as it were, of Christ's life in our midst."[37]

Such are the facts. After an impartial examination of them we can understand that the editors of the Acta sanctorum, taking the point of view of strict historical criticism, decline to give their sanction to claims which our present knowledge does not allow us to establish with sufficient certainty. But we can also understand how the devout people of Provence, rightly proud of having received the first fruits of the Christian faith on the soil of France, and without ever having had any other patron saints to invoke except these holy friends of the Savior, are unwilling to abandon their veneration, now more than ten centuries old, in the presence of objections of indecisive critical scholarship, and declare they will maintain the old traditions of their district so long as the manifest falsity thereof is not proven.


[1] "Arelate in Gallia, sancti Trophimi, cujus meminit sanctus Paulus ad Timotheum scribens [...] ex cujus praedicationis fonte (ut sanctus Zosimus papa scribit) toia Gallia rivulos fidei recepit." (Martyr. rom., 4 Kal. Jan.)
[2] Duchesne, Fastes épiscopaux de l'ancienne Gaule, I, 75.
[3] Ibidem, p. 103.
[4] Ibidem, p. 76.
[5] A carefully executed copy of this may be seen in Albanes, Armorial et sigilographie des évêques de Marseille, p. 4.
[6] Le Blant, Catalogue des monuments du musée de Marseille, pp. 1 ff.
[7] Gallia christiana novissima, p. vii.
[8] De Rossi, Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae, II, x. The German scholar Otto Hirschfeld shares the view of Le Blant and de Rossi on the antiquity and the Christian character of this inscription. (Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, XII, 55.) "The inscription of Volusianus and the sarcophagus of La Gayole possess an antiquity comparable to that of the earliest vestiges of subterranean Rome." (Jullian, Revue catholique de Bordeaux, XIX, 196.) "This opinion," says Chevalier, "is in conformity with that of the severest critics." (Op. cit., p. vii.)
[9] Le Blant, Les Sarcophages chrétiens de la Gaule, p. 158.
[10] Ibidem, p. xviii; cf. Bérenger, Les Traditions provençales, pp. 176-187.
[11] Cf. Duchesne, Les Origines chrétiennes, p. 449.
[12] Haereses, I, x, 2.
[13] "The bishops of Marseilles had kept a certain authority over what was called the Second Narbonnaise, the district between the lower Rhone valley and the lofty Alpine chain. At the end of the fourth century, all the bishops of this region received ordination from the hands of the bishop of Marseilles, who, moreover, considered himself to be the founder of all their sees. This was the old tradition." (Duchesne, Les Fastes épiscopaux, I, 103.)
[14] Bouche, Essai sur l'histoire de Provence, I, 142.
[15] Duchesne, op. cit., I, 36.
[16] Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, II, 264 ff. Duchesne replies to Harnack in the second edition of his Fastes épiscopaux, pp. 43-46.
[17] Duchesne, Les Origines chrétiennes, 2d ed., p. 459. It is true that Duchesne declares that he eliminated all suspect names from the episcopal lists which he uses as a basis for his argument.
[18] Ausonius, in the fourth century, in his enumeration of the great cities of the Empire, places Arles among those in the first rank. Ahead of it, in Gaul, he places only the city of Treves, which was then the imperial residence. Ausonius, Carmina, XIX, 8. Pavia was a much less important city. Yet de Rossi judged that he had found, in an epigraphic monument, proofs of the Apostolic origin of its episcopal see. (See Bullett. di archeol. crist., 1876, p. 77.) De Rossi's conclusions have been contested by Savio, Gli antichi vescovi d'Italia, Turin, 1899.
[19] St. Gregory of Tours, History of the Franks, II, 20 fl. (bk. I, chap. 28). On the other hand, St. Gregory in his De gloria martyrum, chap. 47, says that St. Saturninus was "ab apostolorum discipulis ordinatus," and in chapter 79 of that same work he says that St. Ursinus of Bourges was ordained and sent "a discipulis apostolorum." Should we, in agreement with Duchesne, say that these words "can mean no one but the pope" or are we to see a contradiction between these two passages and the passage in the History of the Franks? (Duchesne, Les Fastes épiscopaux, pp. 20-26.)
[20] Duchesne, Les Origines Chrétiennes, p. 451.
[21] τῶν κατὰ Γαλλίαν δὲ παροικιῶν ἃς Ειρηναίος ὲπεσκόπει; Eusebius, H.E., V, xxiii, 4.
[22] Du Cange, under the word Parochia. Duchesne says: "Here, as often, the phraseology of Eusebius impairs the clearness of his testimony." (Op. cit., p. 450.) In his Fastes épiscopaux (2d ed., p. 43), Duchesne, although acknowledging that the word paroikia has, in the same chapter of Eusebius, the meaning of "diocese," refuses that sense to it in the passage which we are here considering.
[23] Dr. Marx thinks that "it can be affirmed with very great probability that episcopal sees existed as early as the second century in the chief cities of the southern part of Gaul." (Manuel d'hisloire ecclésiastique, 1st epoch, chap. I, sect. 18.)
[24] Chevalier, Gallia christiana novissima, Marseilles, p. viii.
[25] Voragine, The Golden Legend, II, 626.
[26] Manteyer, La Provence du Ier au XIIe siècle, pp. 60-62. There is every reason to suppose this St. Martha to be the St. Martha of the Gospel; but there is no positive indication of identity. The word "Martha" comes from the Aramaic word maran (master), and might mean "mistress." Plutarch (Marius, 17) cites this name as that of a Syrian prophetess who accompanied General Marius. (Cf. Schegg, Evangelium nach Lukas, II, 530.)
[27] Manteyer, op. cit., p. 62. In Avignon also a church is found dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen in the eleventh century. (Ibidem, p. 66.)
[28] Duchesne says: "I do not vouch for the authenticity of this tomb of Lazarus (in the island of Cyprus), nor for the tomb of Magdalen at Ephesus." (Les Pastes épiscopaux, I, 2.)
[29] Bérenger, Les Traditions provençales, p. 54.
[30] This is Bérenger's hypothesis (op. cit., p. 52).
[31] Ibidem, pp. 81-88.
[32] Duchesne, op. cit., I, 328-340.
[33] Manteyer, op. cit.
[34] Morin, Etudes sur saint Lazare et saint Maximin, p. 28.
[35] In 1332: Philip of Valois, king of France; Alphonso IV, king of Aragon; Hugh IV, king of Cyprus; John of Luxemburg, king of Bohemia; Robert, king of Sicily.
[36] John XXII, Benedict XII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Urban V, Gregory XI, Clement VII, Benedict XIII. The two last named are considered antipopes.
[37] Lacordaire, Sainte Marie-Madeleine (Œuvres, IX, 351).


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President of the Ghana Bishop's Conference: "Homosexuals Go to Hell"

 Giuseppe Nardi

His Excellence Joseph Bishop Osei-Bonsu
(Accra) Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong in Ghana disagreed with the notion that homosexuals go to heaven. The President of the Ghanaian Bishops' Conference, a descendent of the ancient royal house of Ashanti, is of a very different opinion.

Homosexuality, said Bishop Osei Bonsu, is "not natural." The Ghanian prelate relegated the assertion that some are born homosexual to the realm of "political myth-making," saying that it was invented in order to agitate for "gay rights" and to justify one's actions. Msgr. Osei-Bonsu told Nii Arday Clegg, host of Ghana Radio Starr 103.5 FM's Morning Starr, on Monday:
The Bible clearly tells us, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that those who practice homosexuality and those who support gay marriage - whether politically, religiously or howsoever - make themselves guilty before God. [...] Gays, lesbians, liars and child molesters and the like do not get into heaven, and the Bible says that very clearly. It is neither a man nor a Bishop who says that they do not go to heaven, but rather the Bibel. It is Sacred Scripture which declares that they do not go to heaven.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Thirty-First in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

To bless is not merely to wish one well, but also to invoke good fortune upon his head, to recommend him to the Giver of all goods. So, too, cursing, damning, imprecation, malediction - synonymous terms - is stronger than evil wishing and desiring. He who acts thus invokes a spirit of evil, asks God to visit His wrath upon the object cursed, to inflict death, damnation, or other ills. There is consequently in such language at least an implicit calling upon God, for the evil invoked is invoked of God, either directly or indirectly. And that is why the Second Commandment concerns itself with cursing.

Thus it will be seen that this abuse of language offends against religion and charity as well. To the malice of calling down evil upon a brother's head is added the impiety of calling upon God to do it, to curse when He should be prayed to bless.

Of course all depends on what is the object of our imprecations. One species of this vice contains blasphemy pure and simple, that is, a curse which attains something that refers to God in an especial manner, and as such is cursed. The idea of God cannot be separated from that of the soul, of faith, of the Church, etc. Malediction addressed to them reaches God, and contains all the malice of blasphemy.

When the malediction falls on creatures, without any reference to their relationship to God, we have cursing in its proper form with a special malice of its own. Directly, charity alone is violated, but charity has obligations which are binding under pain of mortal sin. No man can sin against himself or against his neighbor without offending God.

A curse may be, and frequently is, emphasized with a vow or an oath. One may solemnly promise God in certain contingencies that he will damn another to hell; or he may call upon God to witness his execrations. The malice of two specific sins is here accumulated, the offense is double in this one abominable utterance; nothing can be conceived more horrible, unless it be the indifferent frequency with which it is perpetrated.

The guilt incurred by those who thus curse and damn, leaving aside the scandal which is thereby nearly always given, is naturally measured by the degree of advertence possessed by such persons. Supposing full deliberation, to curse a fellow man or self, if the evil invoked be of a serious nature, is a mortal sin.

Passion or habit may excuse, if the movement is what is called "a first movement," that is, a mechanical utterance without reflection or volition; also, if the habit has been retracted and is in process of reform. If neither damnation nor death nor infamy nor any major evil is invoked, the sin may be less grievous, but sin it always is. If the object anathematized is an animal, a thing, a vice, etc., there may be a slight sin or no sin at all. Some things deserved to be cursed. In damning others, there may be disorder enough to constitute a venial sin, without any greater malice.

Considering the case of a man who, far removed from human hearing, should discover too late his forgetfulness to leave the way clear between a block and a fast-descending and ponderous ax, and, in a fit of acute discomfort and uncontrollable feeling consequential to such forgetfulness, should consign block, ax, and various objects in the immediate vicinity to the nethermost depths of Stygian darkness. In such a case, we do not think there would be sin.

On the other hand, they in whose favor such attenuating circumstances do not militate do the work of demons. These latter can do nothing but curse and heap maledictions upon all who do not share their lot. To damn is the office of the damned. It is therefore fitting that those who cease not to damn while on earth be condemned to damn eternally and be damned in the next life. And if it is true that "the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart," to what but to hell can be compared the inner soul of him whose delight consists in vomiting forth curses and imprecations upon his fellow men?

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Blessings of Many Children

Ninth in a Series on Catholic Marriage and Parenthood

 Fr. Thomas J. Gerrard

When man and woman were first joined together in holy matrimony, a divine command was given unto them to increase and multiply and to replenish the earth. Adam alone was lonely, and lonely in more senses than one. Eve was given him to be his companion - not merely, however, for the sake of companionship, but also for the benefit of the race of which he was to be the father. She was to be the co-principle with him for the procreation of the great human family. She was to be his help in domestic life and also his help in the life of the race. The whole earth was to be replenished by their offspring.

This was one of the first and most peremptory laws of nature. And being such a fundamental law it has persevered until now, and must persevere until this world is exhausted, until there is no more use for the law, until we are safe in heaven, where we shall be as the angels, neither giving nor taking in marriage.

This natural law, moreover, has in the meantime been fortified by additional sanctions. The natural law is a reflection of the divine Mind. The new sanctions, therefore, do not alter, but emphasize the original law. Throughout the Jewish dispensation, therefore, we find that fruitfulness in child-bearing was ever regarded as a sign of divine predilection, as a fulfillment of God's promises of prosperity. And as fruitfulness was looked upon as a special sign of God's favor, so was barrenness looked upon as a sign of God's displeasure or forgetfulness.

Further, when the contract of marriage was raised by Christ to the dignity of a Sacrament, this same end of marriage remained as the chief: the procreation of children; but, at the same time, it was raised to a higher plane: the procreation of children both for this world and for the next. The mother who had done her duty in this matter had fulfilled her highest destiny. By bringing many children into the world, by bringing them into the Church through Baptism, by bringing them to their final salvation through her good example and zeal for Christian education, she had saved her own soul.
She shall be saved, however, through child-bearing, if she shall persevere in faith and love and holiness and sobriety.
Seeing, then, that this fruitfulness is according to God's will, it must be rewarded with God's blessing. And, indeed, it is first a blessing to the family, secondly a blessing to the State, and eventually a blessing to heaven itself.

Many children are a blessing to the family. First, they provide the opportunity for the exercise of one of the strongest instincts of nature, family affection, the love of parents toward children, of children toward parents, of children toward each other. No matter how many children a mother may have, her love for any one of them is not thereby diminished, but rather increased. If she had to part with any one of them, she could not make the choice. They are each dear to her, because they are her own, because they are the children of her husband, and because they are brothers and sisters to each other. The family love is so woven and interwoven that the greater the number of the threads, the more difficult it is to distinguish any one of them.

This may be the result of merely natural affection. When, however, the family love is intertwined with supernatural faith, supernatural hope, and supernatural love, then is the family bond made indefinitely stronger, and the family love more keen and more satisfying. The mother of the Maccabees did not love her children less, but indescribably more, when she had to lead them to be sacrificed for the sake of God's cause. And although her natural sorrow must have been one of the most poignant ever suffered by mother on account of children, yet her supernatural joy must have surpassed it in intensity and have produced in her maternal heart a satisfaction far exceeding the natural void caused by her bereavement.

Secondly, a large family is a means of developing character, both in the parents and in the children. In the case of the father, it is a question as to whether he will face the task of working and saving for the means of bringing up a large family. He certainly needs courage. He certainly needs self-denial and self-restraint. He certainly needs the help of Sacraments and other religious ordinances. But these are the very warp and woof of manly character. He is only a weakling, therefore, wanting in manhood and wanting in the stamina of a Christian, who shirks the duties of fatherhood merely because they involve a heavier burden.

In the case of the mother, it is a question as to whether she will face the illness and the anxieties incident to a large family of children, and possibly, which is the greatest trial of all, displeasure and neglect on the part of her husband. The burden of motherhood then acts against flimsy attractions of the world of pleasure. It concentrates her attention on the family. It gives her an interest than which nothing is more absorbing and satisfying outside heaven. In a word, it develops her womanhood. And, since she is of the gentler, as contrasted to the sterner, sex, her numerous anxieties will develop in her the quality of gentleness.

Further, if she is so unfortunate as to have a husband who is unkind or neglectful or difficult, then it will bring out her characteristic of tact. There are few husbands who do not need some "managing." And it is the glory of some wives that they know how to "manage" their husbands; how to get what they want without crying or quarreling for it. Surely, therefore, it must be an accomplishment worth cultivating, to be able to rule by tact and by persuasion, rather than by force or harshness.

Now, a large family implies many relations to be adjusted, many misunderstandings to be smoothed over, many arrangements for the mutual welfare of all. It is the mother of the family who has to do all this. It is by her instinctive tact and enduring patience that the family is held together. The more accomplished she is in this office, the brighter does she shine as an example of motherhood. And the greater will be her accomplishment in proportion as she has the greater number of children to care for.

In the case of the children, it is a question of generosity or selfishness. Who has not looked with dismay on the spoiled child, the only one of the family? Who has not observed the ugly self-consciousness, pride, and vanity of two children, the miserable two who have had no other companions but each other during the years when the foundation of their character was laid? And who has not seen the beautiful unselfishness and generosity of the children of a family of seven, or, better still, of a family of fourteen? Why, even their faults and their sins are due to excess of generosity, rather than to defect in It. The principle of give and take has been so often demanded of them and so often exercised, that it must have grown into a fixed habit by the time they come to separate and go their way in life apart. The boys have had their boyishness toned down by the gentle influence of the girls, while the girls have had their girlishness toned up by the strong influence of the boys.

Thirdly, a large family is a means of strengthening both the temporal and the eternal interests of the family. Even from a worldly point of view, a father is working against his own interests in setting limits to his family from motives of economical selfishness. His view must be a broad one, however. The law of nature pervades the organization of society, even as it does the organization of the physical universe, and none the less does it there reflect the mind of God. It is, therefore, both the law of nature and the law of God that children should support their parents in sickness and old age. When, however, there is only one child or two, and these have wives and families of their own to support, there is little opportunity of supporting aged parents. But where the burden is divided, among say seven or eight families, then the aged couple have some hope of ending their days in reasonable and frugal comfort.

Again, we must remember that, in most countries, the provision of free education is such as to leave no room whatever for the excuse of economy. If the father has the pretension to go further, and to leave his two children enough inheritance to save them from the necessity of working for a living, then he is doing an injustice both to his children and to society. Drones are a nuisance in every line. In all stages of society, the work of bringing up a family of children is a burden both to the father and to the mother. It is a burden, however, which is followed by a handsome reward if only it is generously accepted.

The children, too, must profit by their larger number. The world is so wide, trades and professions are so manifold, as to leave practically little difference in the difficulty of finding situations for eight and that of finding situations for two. Nay, if we look around we shall find that it is the only boy rather who fails to make a good beginning, and the only girl rather who fails to secure a husband or a vocation. Owing to the absence of fraternal influence and education, they have not got the grit in them to make them attractive to others. Then again, later in life, the many are a help to each other in time of difficulty. They do not all meet with adversity at the same time. If one is low down in business or low down in health, his brothers and sisters are there to help him, each knowing that he or she may likewise depend on the others whenever the hour of distress shall overtake them.

This mutual support extends also to the sphere of faith and morality. How often has not a father been kept to his religion, and a mother been saved from temptation, by the thought of the children! It is curious how parents who have given up the practice of religion themselves have often insisted on their children being taught religion and brought up in a good moral atmosphere, and eventually, through the children, have been brought back again to God. Holy marriage is a Sacrament and as such is a means of grace. It is an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and no one can tell the multitudinous ways and times and places in which the Holy Spirit uses this instrument.

The family being the foundation of the State, its life must produce an effect on the life of the State. If fruitfulness in child-bearing is a blessing to the family, it is likewise a blessing to the State. A man has reached a high state of natural virtue if he can be so unselfish as to take the interests of the State as a motive for his own right conduct. Human nature being what it is, such a motive can hardly be expected to work as the predominant one. It can, however, act, and act effectively, as a supplementary one. It is a motive, too, which goes a long way in the formation of public opinion which reacts on private opinion.

When the abuses of family life were first propagated, they were propagated ostensibly with a view to promoting the nation's welfare. The country was said to be overpopulated, and these abuses were introduced to reduce the population. The nations, however, which have allowed themselves to submit to these abuses have found out to their heavy cost the great mistake which they have made. Statesmen, with no pretensions to high morals or a godly life, have discovered that this abuse is a canker eating away the vitals of the nation.

France stands out pre-eminently as the worst sinner of all. This last year [1911] her death rate exceeded her birth rate. Germany is wide awake to the evil, and a movement has been set on foot to counteract the growing practice. Otherwise prepared for emergencies in the case of war, this would be her weakest point. England has to lament her decadence due to practices introduced from France. And in America the sermon preached by President Roosevelt on the burden and duties of the married state tells of the prevalence of the evil, and emphasizes the fact that the evil is a curse to any nation. It weakens its power of production; it weakens its power of defense; it weakens its power of intelligence and morality; it weakens the very life blood of the limited offspring which actually is born, for such offspring must come from a principle which is already marked by weakness, softness, and decadence.

The Christian family, however, was not made for the State as for its final destiny. It was made for the glory of God. Fruitfulness in child-bearing tells eventually for the greater glory of God. The mutual happiness of the persons of the blessed Trinity is all sufficient for the intrinsic glory of God. God, however, has chosen to surround Himself with an extrinsic glory. He has created creatures to give Him honor and praise. And the greatest honor and praise of this kind which can be given Him is that of man. It adds nothing to God's internal happiness, but is rather the expression and diffusion of God's love and goodness outside Himself.

God, therefore, having provided this great happiness for His creatures, He wishes as many as possible to avail themselves of it. In this way, He obtains His greatest external glory. The greater the number of souls that are added to the number of the elect, so much the richer is the music of nature's hymn of praise. That this is the mind of the Church may be seen from the enormous care which she takes for the happiness of infants. Her priests are bound to undergo the gravest inconveniences in order that they may apply the baptismal water to any child in urgent need of it. Why is this? It is because Christ has died for and purchased these children. It is because God has chosen for Himself a number of elect souls, a great number which we cannot count, but which we must do our best to make up, presuming or rather knowing that to do so will require all our spiritual efforts.

To hinder the course of nature, therefore, is to interfere with God's plans. It is to pull down His work in the Church Militant, and to lessen His glory in the Church Triumphant. A diminution of the number in the children of the Church is a diminution of the Church's collective faith, and love, and holiness. It is a diminution, too, which reacts on the parents; for, since they have willfully lessened the number of subjects of faith and love and holiness, they have willfully lessened their own faith and love and holiness. They have lessened the chances of their own salvation. But letting nature have its way, they contribute to their own eternal welfare, they contribute to the collective eternal welfare of the race, they contribute to the greater glory of God.

Some apology is needed for even venturing to speak of the abuse of matrimony, and the apology which is offered is the only permissible one, namely, absolute necessity. The evil is widespread and is still growing. If it is to be counteracted, it must be counteracted, both by the private good living of individuals and by the formation of a good public opinion. Non-Catholics now speak openly and without any sense of shame of their small families and of their intention of having only small families. Advertisements of the most pernicious nature are flaunted openly in the newspapers. Books are published, the aim of which is to propagate and to make the evil as easily accessible as possible.

Seeing, then, the high ideal of matrimony which the Catholic Church sets before the world, she must of necessity look with special horror on an abuse which does away with the primary end for which matrimony was instituted. Therefore it is that her preachers have to speak out when they would fain keep silence. And, therefore, it is that every Catholic should set his face against all approval or toleration of the abuse.

A few practical suggestions, then, are offered which may serve to indicate the attitude which Catholics ought to assume when questions concerning this matter arise. The first is to keep clearly before one's mind the fact that the law of nature, the law of God, and the law of the Church all condemn any willful interference with the due course of nature. A second is to protest vigorously against any opinions approving of such when proposed in conversation. A third is to boycott all newspapers, books, and business houses which make a trade in providing the means for the pernicious practice. A fourth is to take a holy pride in a large family of well-brought-up Catholic children. Natural motives as well as supernatural motives may be used for this end. Natural as well as supernatural motives have been proposed in this consideration. But natural motives alone will not suffice. A premium provided by the State for every seventh child will not hinder the decrease of population. Christian principles must be made the foundation of society life - that is, the family life must be governed by Catholic faith and Catholic morality. And if natural motives are offered and used, it is only that they may be added to the strictly supernatural ones and that they may be directed to a supernatural end, and thus become themselves supernaturalized.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Founding of the Church in Spain

Reading N°34 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

A possible route of St. Paul's Spanish Mission
St. Clement of Rome informs us that the Apostle of the Gentiles was not put to death until after he had reached "the limits of the West."[1] It is natural to suppose these words refer to Spain. We may wonder why St. Paul, at the time of his Epistle to the Romans (AD 60), speaks only of Spain, and not of Gaul and Africa. Perhaps the reason was that Gaul and Africa had already received the true faith. When we know how reluctant St. Paul was to go and preach where other Apostles had preceded him,[2] we are led to suppose that cities like Carthage or Marseilles may have received the Gospel even before the year 60. In the Second Epistle to Timothy we read:
Crescens [is gone] into Gaul, Titus into Dalmatia.[3]
For in this passage, we should read 'Gaul' rather than 'Galatia,' however slender may be this preference.[4] In a word, at the close of the first century, seventy years after the Savior's death, it appears that not only has Europe been traversed from end to end, from east to west, but Asia and Africa have been penetrated far beyond the frontiers of the Empire. Harnack enumerates forty one localities where the existence of Christian communities is historically attested in the course of the first century.[5] We know these communities formed only a very small minority in the Church. Even the Epistles of St. Paul and of St. Peter witness to the presence of many such communities which they do not name; those founded by the other Apostles are even less known. The miracle of Pentecost was verified in a new sense:
Men out of every nation under heaven [...] heard them speak in their own tongue.
And St. Clement of Rome was able to ask in his prayer "that the Creator of the Universe may guard unhurt the number of His elect that has been numbered in all the world."[6]

Was the condition of the ancient world favorable or unfavorable to the spread of Christianity? A great part of the discussion that has arisen over this question rests upon an equivocal statement of the problem. The question can be answered exactly only by a distinction. Whereas, in the ancient world, everything seems to have been providentially disposed to facilitate the rapid spread of Christian doctrine, yet everything appears to have been prepared by the spirit of evil to hinder its acceptance. The unity of the civilized world under a single ruler, the universality of the Greek language, the spread of the Jews, depositaries of a monotheistic faith and of the Messianic prophecies, over the whole world, evidently favored the preaching of the Gospel, while the decadence of the traditional religion, the avowed powerlessness of the philosophical sects, the lassitude engendered by the very excesses of civilization, inclined men's minds to listen to a new preaching. But the powerful unity of the Empire, as soon as it would turn - as in fact it did, against the religion of Christ - was capable of creating a most formidable obstacle to it. Where ever the narrow and carnal spirit of the Jews prevailed - as it did almost everywhere - it made them bitter enemies of Christianity. The cultivation of the Greek language and of the ancient authors of Hellas was sure to make contemptible the speech of a few obscure and unlettered Jews. Although the old mythology had few believers, it was already replaced by the worship of Rome and Augustus, by the whole prestige of a national religion, and by those Oriental mysteries with their purification rites that attracted the lofty-minded, and with their sensual practices that so well suited the instincts of the masses. The philosophical sects prepared rnen's minds for heresies. Pagan Rationalism rebelled against a religion of authority with as great violence as did pagan sensualism against a doctrine of purity and humility. In short, between the worship of Pan - i.e., nature raised and divinized by its own forces - and the worship of Christ, of a God made man and crucified to redeem a fallen world, the opposition was explicit and absolute.

It is no less noteworthy that the geographical spread of Christianity was duplicated by a deep penetration of its spirit into society. This is what Harnack calls its "intensive penetration." Since the day when St. Paul wrote: "There are not many wise according to the flesh among you,"[7] the Church had made many a conquest in the social and intellectual aristocracy. At Athens it won a member of the Areopagus; at Rome under Nero it counted members in Caesar's household;[8] under Domitian among the members of the imperial family. We know also that the Christians of Alexandria did not hesitate to enter upon the philosophical discussion of their faith. By Alexandria the whole eastern civilization would be penetrated with Christianity. By Athens and Rome, the two great nations of Western antiquity would transmit to Europe the spirit of the Gospel. And can we say further that two of the nations destined to play a preponderant role in the history of the West, Spain and France, contained Christian communities even in the first century, and that the Churches of these two countries - that of the "Catholic kingdom" and that of the "most Christian kingdom" - can boast of an Apostolic origin? This question merits the pains of closer study.

Duchesne opines:
St. Paul no doubt took the opportunity to go to Spain, where the first beginnings of Christianity seem to be connected with him.[9]
The thought of evangelizing Spain was early in the mind of the great Apostle. "When I shall begin to take my journey into Spain, I hope that as I pass I shall see you," he wrote from Corinth to the Romans.[10] And again: "I will come by you into Spain."[11] This keen desire is explained by the fact that, although Spain was slowly and with difficulty conquered by the Roman armies, yet, owing to the natural genius of its inhabitants, it rapidly became one of the most cultivated provinces of the Empire. The renown of the two Senecas, Lucan, Martial, Silius Italicus, and Quintilian, all of them Spaniards, was not dimmed by the glory of a Horace or a Virgil. An inner impulse seemed to urge the humble disciples of Christ to carry the gospel to all points of civilization in the ancient world. St. Paul seems to have considered the Spanish mission as the height of his career, after which he might end his course, having brought the faith even to those pillars of Hercules which marked the outermost bounds both of the Empire and of the world.[12] Probably he carried out his intention about the year 63, right after his trial before Caesar and his acquittal, following two years spent in Rome. St. Clement of Rome, well situated for acquiring exact information, declares that Paul "reached the limits of the West."[13] We naturally regard this expression as equivalent to the Hesperia ultima of Horace[14] and the extremique orbis Iberi of Lucan.[15] St. Jerome says that the Apostle's journey was by sea.[16] In that case, he would have landed at Tarragona or Cadiz.

None of the spots where St. Paul may have founded churches is known to us. If these churches existed, we are ignorant of the treatment they received in Nero's persecution.[17] The Marquesia (Maravesar) inscription in Lusitania, lauding Nero for having "purged the province of brigands and of those who teach a new superstition to mankind," is apocryphal.[18] More to be credited is the remark in the Martyrology of Ado, regarding a mission of seven bishops sent to Spain by St. Peter, subsequent to St. Paul's mission.[19] The chief of these missioners, Torquatus, is said to have founded the Church of Acci or Cadiz. A bishop of Cadiz in AD 300 presided over the famous Council of Illiberis (Elvira), and probably this bishop owed his preeminence to the honor of being Torquatus' successor. The soundest proof of the antiquity of the Spanish Church is the very complete organization and development of that Church at the end of the third century, as appears from the Acts of the Council of Elvira.

What is to be said about the coming of the Apostle St. James the Greater to Spain? It seems to be affirmed by a vague text of St. Jerome[20] and an Apostolic Catalogue of dubious authority. But no mention is made of this Apostle by Orosius, Idacius, Martin of Braga, Braulio, John of Biclaro, or Isidore of Seville. The Mozarabic Liturgy contains no mention of a special devotion to St. James as founder of the Spanish Church. Moreover, as the Apostles did not leave Jerusalem before the year 42 , and as St. James the Greater was put to death that very year, it would seem impossible to allow for his journey to Spain. James could have gone there only in the sense that his relics were taken there. Probably they were transported to Spain at some undetermined date and occasioned the celebrated pilgrimage to St. James of Compostela,[21] for centuries the most popular pilgrimage in all Christendom.[22]

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral


[1] Clement, First Epistle, v, 7.
[2] Romans 15:20.
[3] 2 Timothy 4:10.
[4] Cf. Batiffol in the Revue biblique, April 1895, p. 140. The interpretation of 2 Tim. 4: 10, in the sense of Gaul is much disputed. The words Celtia, Galatia, and Gallia appear to have been synonymous in the language of the period. Only the circumstances can determine whether Gaul or Galatia is meant.
[5] Harnack, Expansion of Christianity, II, 91.
[6] St. Clement, First Epistle, L1X, 2; Funk, Patres apostolici, I, 175.
[7] 1 Corinthians 1:26.
[8] Philippians 4:22.
[9] Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, I, 43.
[10] Romans 15:24.
[11] Romans 15:28.
[12] Cf. Leclercq, L'Espange chrétienne, p. 26.
[13] Clement, First Epistle, v, 7.
[14] Horace, Carmina, I, 36.
[15] Lucanus, Pharsalia, VII, 541. Pliny and Silius Italicus use similar expressions to designate Spain.
[16] "Ad Hispaniam alienigenarum portatus est navibus." (St. Jerome, In Isaiam, cap. IX.) This voyage would necessitate a call at Marseilles. The journey by land would have brought St. Paul to Arles, Nimes, and Narbonne.
[17] Cf. Leclercq, op. cit., p. 29.
[18] Corpus inscrip. lat., II, 25. Cf. Walsh, Marmor Hispaniae antiquum; Leclercq, loco cit.
[19] Gams, Die Kirchengeschichte von Spanien, I, 103-117.
[20] In Isaiam, 12:42.
[21] From Jacomo apostolo, according to some; others say, from Campus stellae, because of a star which in 772 miraculously revealed to Bishop Theodomir the place where the relics of the Apostle would be found.
[22] Upon the question of St. James' coming to Spain, see Leclercq, op. cit., pp. 31-42. About the middle of the sixteenth century, some people of Biscay, not satisfied with claiming connection with three Apostles - St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. James the Greater - made claim to another title in favor of the antiquity of their Church. In their district they had found a tombstone bearing the name of a certain Bilella, serva Christi; thereupon they said that the evangelization of their district was due to St. Bilella, a domestic servant of Christ. (Leclercq, op. cit., p. 40 .)


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Monday, September 21, 2015


Thirtieth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

To blaspheme is to speak ill of God, an utterance derogatory to the respect and honor due to God. Primarily, it is a sin of the tongue; but, like all other sins, it draws its malice from the heart. Thus, a thought may be blasphemous, even though the blasphemy remain unexpressed; and a gesture, oftentimes more expressive than a word, may contain all the malice of blasphemy. This impiety therefore may be committed in thought, in word and in deed.

Blasphemy addresses itself directly to God, to His attributes and perfections which are denied or ridiculed; to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Sacrament; indirectly, through His Mother and His saints, through Holy Scripture and religion, through the Church and her ministers in their quality of ministers - all of which, being intimately and inseparably connected with the idea of God, cannot be vilified without the honor of God being affected; and, consequently, all contempt and irreverence addressed to them, takes on the nature of blasphemy. An indirect sin of blasphemy is less enormous than a direct offense, but the difference is in degree, not in kind.

All error that affects God directly, or indirectly through sacred things, is blasphemy, whether the error consist in a denial of what is true, or an attribution of what is false. Contempt, ridicule, scoffing and sneering, where the Holy and things holy are concerned, are blasphemous. He also blasphemes who attributes to a creature what belongs to God alone, or can be said only of holy things, who drags down the sacred to the level of the profane.

Revilings against God are happily rare; when met with, they are invariably the mouthings of self-styled atheists or infidels whose sanity is not always a patent fact. Heretics are usually blasphemous when they treat of anything outside Jesus Christ and the Bible; and not even Christ and Scripture escape, for often their ideas and utterances concerning both are as injurious to God as they are false and erroneous. Finally, despair and anger not infrequently find satisfaction in abusing God and all that pertains to Him.

Nothing more abominable can be conceived than this evil, since it attacks and is in opposition to God Himself. And nothing shows up its malice so much as the fact that blasphemy is the natural product and offspring of hate; it goes to the limit of human power in revolt against the Maker. It is, however, a consolation to know that, in the majority of cases, blasphemy is found where faith is wanting or responsibility absent, for it may charitably be taken for granted that if the blasphemer really knew what he was saying, he would rather cut out his tongue than repeat it. So true is it that the salvation of many depends almost as much on their own ignorance as on the grace of God.

There is a species of blasphemy, not without its degree of malice, found sometimes in people who are otherwise God-fearing and religious. When He visits them with affliction and adversity, their self-conscious righteousness goes out and seeks comparison with prosperous ungodliness, and forthwith comments on the strange fact of the deserving suffering while the undeserving are spared. They remark to themselves that the wicked always succeed, and entertain a strong suspicion that if they were as bad as others certain things would not happen.

All this smacks dangerously of revolt against the Providence of God. Job's problem is one that can be solved only by faith and a strong spiritual sense. He who has it not is liable to get on the wrong side in the discussion; and it is difficult to go very far on that side without finding Providence at fault and thus becoming guilty of blasphemy. For, to mention partiality in the same breath with God's care of the universe, is to deny Him.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Before and After Childbirth

Eighth in a Series on Catholic Marriage and Parenthood

 Fr. Thomas J. Gerrard

The Church teaches that children receive their bodies from their parents, but not their souls. Each soul is specially created by God and infused into the body at the moment of creation. God does His share at the will of the parents. He has so decreed it as part of His providence. Parents therefore share the dignity of parenthood with God. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews can say:
Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits and live?
There is a difference of opinion amongst Catholic theologians as to the precise time at which the soul is infused into the newly formed body. Some say that it is at the very moment of conception, whilst others, including St. Thomas, say not until some time after, when the body has been more perfectly formed. The first opinion is the more common. For all practical purposes in regard to marriage, it may be more profitably followed; for whether the soul comes at the moment of conception or later, the Church regards the new and independent life as existing from conception. If the new being has not got an intellectual soul, it is nevertheless ordained by God to receive one. All harm, therefore, which may be inflicted on the new being is harm inflicted on a human being, either directly or by anticipation. Likewise, all good done to the new life is good done to a human life, either directly or by anticipation.

The first duty of parents towards the unborn child is to recognize the sacredness of its life. One of the commonest features of race suicide which prevails today is the destruction of the unborn child. Artificial means are adopted in order to prevent conception which are not always successful. Then recourse is had to the crime of abortion. And the sad thing is that the opinion is spreading that such a destruction of child life is not a crime. Parents speak of it as if it were an ordinary way of being rid of an unpleasant inconvenience. Happily, the idea has not become prevalent in Catholic families. Nevertheless, Catholics need to be on their guard against the materialistic doctrine and its consequences. Let the truth be said plainly: All attempts to kill the unborn child are attempts to commit murder.

Again, the child unborn has the right to every care that it shall not be hurt by accident. What constitutes dangerous occupations or amusements must be decided in individual cases by the family doctor or an experienced mother. What is insisted on here is that there is a moral obligation on the part of the parents to do nothing which will directly injure the third person concerned. If anything, the child has an especial right to protection, on account of its inability to protect itself.

Perhaps more important still is the influence which parents exert on the soul of the unborn child. True, it has not received Baptism and is incapable, for the time being, of receiving the covenanted grace consequent on Baptism. But there can be no doubt that the heart and mind of the parents do exercise an influence, for good or for evil, on the unborn child. Perhaps it may be only in the natural order. But even so, this natural foundation is a preparation for the supernatural grace of Baptism. The supernatural grace will be all the more fruitful if it falls upon well prepared natural ground.

The science of education tends to throw back the time at which the formation of the child's mind begins. Formerly, the best teachers were reserved for the highest classes in our schools. Then it was seen that the lower classes were of equal importance. And so on the important day was pushed back; and now there are educationists who say that a child's training begins forty years before it is born. Doubtless there is some exaggeration in these sayings, yet there is enough truth in them to show that the parents, and chiefly the mother, do exercise an enormous influence on the children before they are born.

The use of alcohol by the parents is proved to predispose the child to alcohol. With regard to the mother, it were better that she should be a total abstainer, and particularly during the whole period of child-bearing. Only by medical advice is it wise to take any alcoholic stimulant whatever. The same advice holds good, too, for the period following on the birth of the child.

The dispositions of mind and heart also reproduce themselves. If the mother is cross, or depressed, or unhappy, during the time of childbearing, there is a likelihood of the child being tiresome. And conversely, if the mother is happy and contented, the child will probably be good and easy to nurse.

But whence comes this happy disposition in the mother? Almost entirely from the kindness and love of the husband. If he is careless about his home, or shows any marked distaste for the domestic inconveniences consequent upon the arrival of the newborn, his disposition will act upon his wife, and react upon his child. Hence, the duty lies with the husband of taking the burden of marriage in the truly Catholic spirit. He has been warned of the burden, and he has received a sufficient measure of grace to enable him to bear it. At least for the sake of his wife and child, he will correspond with that grace, and make himself a model husband and father.

The duty may be summed up in one word: sympathy. The opposite vice may likewise be named in one word: niggardliness. The coming of a child means extra expense, and the sooner the man settles his mind to this, the better for himself and his whole household. It is not his duty merely; it is his privilege. He, together with his wife, shares the honors of parenthood with God. He can do nothing better to make himself worthy of that honor, than by helping his helpmate to the full extent of his capacity.

It is not necessary for the future mother to know all about the possible dangers which may arise. Indeed, it is better that her mind should be occupied rather with the healthy and spiritual aspect of the situation. But dangers may happen which involve moral principles. Now, in order that the Catholic mother may act according to those principles it is well that she should be guided by a Catholic doctor. There are some doctors with materialistic views, who advise operations which are forbidden by the Church, and not only advise them in extreme cases but also in unnecessary cases. Owing to the strictness of the Church in forbidding certain operations, the practice of midwifery in Italy has made enormous progress. The doctors, knowing that they were forbidden to do these things, thought out ways of avoiding them; and thus, thanks to the decrees of the Church, hundreds of lives, both of mothers and of babes, have been saved from destruction.

On the other hand, some operations are both lawful and praiseworthy. The Cesarean operation, that by which the child, which cannot be born in the ordinary way, is taken from the abdomen of the mother, is one such. The question as to when it may or ought to be performed is a complicated one and hardly concerns the general public. When, however, it is raised by a doctor, Catholic or non-Catholic, a consultation with one's spiritual director is advisable.

The doctrine that the child is a separate and distinct human being, from the moment of conception, implies a grave responsibility in the cases of miscarriage. If the embryo which comes away is alive, yea, if it only live for a few moments, it has a right to Baptism. Many people feel a repugnance to this idea. Still, the truth must not be shirked. If the soul is there, it must have every chance of salvation, for it is of priceless value. There is no need for a particular examination as to whether the child is alive or not. The Sacrament is administered conditionally. On the one hand, the child may be dead. If this is certain, no Baptism may take place. On the other hand, it may be alive, yet capable of living only for a few moments. The time is too precious for detailed examination. Let the ceremony be performed as quickly as possible. The doctor, or the nurse, will take the whole being, the embryo with its covering, and put it in a basin of clean lukewarm water. The covering is then broken so that the liquid within flows out whilst clean water flows in. The embryo should then be moved about in the water whilst the person performing the ceremony says these words:
If thou canst be baptized, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
When there is danger of death of the child during the process of being born, it must be baptized conditionally. Either the nurse or the physician, but not the priest, must pour water (sterilized) on such part of the child as is apparent, though it be only the hand, saying at the same time the words with the condition above stated.

Where there is danger of death to the mother during childbirth, she should receive the last Sacraments. The conditions of danger are well known to the members of the medical profession, and so the doctor must be the guide. This danger is present in all cases where operations are needed. The principle wants emphasizing, however, that the Sacraments are for the sake of men, and not men for the Sacraments. It is much better to run the risk of administering the Sacraments when unnecessary, than to run the risk of missing them when necessary.

It may be well at this point to call attention to the special blessing which the Church is ready to give in the case of dangerous childbirth. She implores the Creator of all things, under the beautiful figure of supreme doctor and nurse. "Accept," she says, "the sacrifice of a broken heart of Thy servant so that, by the obstetric hand of Thy mercy, her offspring may come safely to light, and be preserved for holy regeneration."

Here again, the Church has foremost in her mind the higher welfare of the child. She has the tenderest care for the safety of body, but this safety of body must be directed to the safety of the spirit. When, therefore, a child has been brought to a happy and successful birth, the duty of its parents is to see that it is baptized as soon as possible. If the child is strong and healthy, it should be taken to church for this purpose within eight days. If the child is weak, and likely to take harm from the weather, then the priest is to be sent for. As long as it remains unbaptized, it is to some extent under the power of Satan, and all unnecessary delay on the part of the parents is a grave injustice to the child.

The churching of women is an act of thanksgiving to God for having been brought through a difficult crisis. It is also a blessing given by the Church. But it is not a Sacrament.

There is a widespread impression that bad luck comes to the woman who, going out for the first time after childbirth, does not take the opportunity of being churched. So ingrained is this idea that many women look upon churching as of far more importance than Baptism. Now the ceremony of churching is of no obligation whatever, whilst that of Baptism is. There can be no comparison between the two. It is a praiseworthy custom to go to church and render thanks to God as soon as possible, but nothing more than a custom. Provided the woman does not stay away out of contempt for the ceremony, but merely for considerations of health and convenience, she commits no sin. If, on the other hand, she goes as soon as she can, she obtains a blessing for herself and her family.

The law of nature demands that mothers should suckle their own children. The Church, in interpreting this law, does not make it binding under pain of mortal sin. If the mother be suffering from bad health, or if she have to attend to business or other grave duty, then the Church does not exact this duty under any pain whatever. But wherever a nurse is called in, the mother must see that she is of good health and morals.

Whilst allowing this liberty of substitute, the Church points to the law of nature as the more perfect ideal, and as tending more to the welfare of the child and the happiness of the family. Nay, she ennobles the law of nature by setting before the world that type of mother of whose Child it was said: "Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the breasts that gave thee suck." Any suggestion of substitution in this case is simply unthinkable. And if it were not beneath the dignity of such a mother to accept the full burden of her office, so it should not be beneath the dignity of the dames of a worldly society. It should rather be their glory to set the example to their poorer sisters. The poor nurse, who is taken away from her own child, has all the dignity and feelings of motherhood equally with the richest woman in the land.

Not on this point only, but on every other that pertains to the care of the child, born or unborn, the mother's mind is raised and her heart enkindled by the Catholic ideal. This ideal is realized in Mary, the Mother of God. The Protestant consciousness has never become reconciled to the title, and consequently has never learnt the lesson which it teaches to the whole Catholic motherhood. When the eternal God took flesh in the womb of the Virgin, and deigned to be the object of a mother's tender nursing, care, and affection, then was motherhood raised to its highest grade of splendor and magnificence, then was the law of nature made perfect by the law of grace. A real perfect Mother of flesh and blood was given to the mothers of the world to show them the glory of their state. She was instrumental to the forming of the Incarnate Christ; they are to be instrumental to the forming of the Mystic Christ.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Apostles Among the Barbarians

Reading N°33 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

The Twelve Apostles, Chartres Cathedral. The two figures flanking the Holy Apostles are thought
to be the Old Testament Prophets Enoch and Elijah

We have clear and precise documents in abundance regarding the evangelization of the great centers - Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Ephesus, and Alexandria. But, for the history of Christian origins among most of the peoples far removed from these famous centers, the documents are scanty and obscure. In default of written texts, we must rely mostly on inferences, conjectures, more or less ancient traditions, and legends containing an odd mixture of truth. Tradition, as well as writing, is good evidence, and "what is engraved on the altar by public worship and in the heart by prayer is more enduring than marble or bronze."[1] Besides, if we have a mere probability that a witness of the first centuries, a man of the Apostolic age, evangelized a district or shed his blood there, would not this be enough for Christian people to venerate the least traces of that evangelization or martyrdom?

A highly respectable tradition tells us that the twelve Apostles "planted the Church in their blood."[2] Where did they suffer martyrdom? Thus far, besides the names of Paul and Barnabas, who were apostles in the broad sense of the word, we have met only the names of Peter, John, the two Jameses, and Philip. What and where were the labors of their brethren in the apostolate? Did they go beyond the regions of which we have been speaking?

Eusebius says that "Thomas, as tradition relates, obtained by lot Parthia."[3] St. Jerome supposes that he evangelized Persia also,[4] and Rufinus says he was buried at Edessa,[5] where St. John Chrysostom mentions his tomb: "It is one of the four Apostolic tombs that are known: the others are the tombs of Peter, Paul, and John."[6] Another tradition has it that he preached the faith and was martyred in India.[7] This statement seems to be corroborated by an archeological monument, the Udayapur inscription, in eastern India,[8] and by the fact that the Hindu Christians, known as "Christians of St. Thomas," have honored this Apostle from time immemorial as the founder of their Church. It seems, however, that their founder was a Nestorian missioner named Thomas, and that they have pushed back the date of his preaching to Apostolic times, so as to glory in a more ancient beginning.[9] The only fact emerging with certainty from all these different reports is that St. Thomas the Apostle exercised the apostolate in regions beyond the eastern and southern frontiers of the Roman Empire; regions which at that time went under the vague designation of "India". According to the tradition accepted by the Roman Martyrology, the Apostle was pierced with a lance by order of a persecuting king, and his body was transported to Edessa. The legendary details in the Acta sancti Thomae are not trustworthy because this writing bears evident traces of Gnosticism.[10]

There is greater uncertainty regarding the nations evangelized by St. Matthew after his departure from Palestine. Clement of Alexandria simply says that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Hebrews for fifteen years, and then went to convert the pagans.[11] St. Gregory the Great and the historian Socrates say he went to Ethiopia,[12] and this is the tradition adopted by the Roman Breviary.[13] But St. Isidore of Seville and Simeon Metaphrastes state that he devoted himself to the evangelization of the Parthians.[14] As to his martyrdom, the details given in the Acta sancti Matthaei are not reliable.[15]

Even vaguer is the information about the apostolate of St. Matthias, whom some of the Fathers confuse with St. Matthew.[16] One tradition has him stoned to death by the Jews in Judea; there is another and more probable tradition which says that he preached the gospel in Ethiopia and was martyred there.[17]

All the authors who speak of St. Bartholomew agree in saying that he evangelized India. But, in the vast region designated by that term, where are we to locate the exact district to which he went? The view adopted by the Roman Breviary is that it was Armenia. It is said that he was there flayed alive and crucified by order of Astyagesm whose brother Polymius, king of Armenia, he had converted.[18] St. Simon and St. Jude, according to the Roman Breviary, together evangelized Mesopotamia, where they were martyred.[19] They are also said to have preached the gospel in Persia, and St. Simon in Egypt. That this Apostle preached in other parts of Africa and in Britain, is considered purely legendary by the Bollandists.[20]

The Acts of the Apostles mentions the name of Andrew only in the list of the Apostles, and the Epistles do not speak of him at all. The tradition recorded by Eusebius[21] and Nicephorus[22] says that, after the dispersion, he crossed Cappadocia, Galatia, Bithynia, and Colchis, to mysterious Scythia, north of the Black Sea, between the Don and the Danube, where he disappeared in the darkness of the barbarian world, quietly introducing the Christian faith in the southern provinces of the future empire of the czars, until, after fulfilling his mission as apostle to the Scythians, he returned through Thrace to the Greco-Roman world, coming down through Macedonia and Epirus as far as Achaia, where he died.[23] Andrew was arrested and condemned to death in the heart of the Hellenist world, at Patras in Achaia, near the Strait of Lepanto. Before him he saw the X-shaped cross on which he was to be put to death: he greeted it in words which the Church has inserted in her liturgy, to remind her ministers what should be the sentiments of a true apostle of Christ:
O lovable cross, O cross so eagerly wished for and at last so happily found, may I never quit thee, that He who redeemed me by thee, by dying on thy arms, may by thee also receive me and keep me forever in His love.[24]
Bossuet calls Andrew "the first-born of the Apostles,"[25] because he was the first to bring disciples to Jesus, notably his brother Simon Peter; he was thus chosen by God to give the world an example of triumphant heroism in the face of martyrdom.

Not only did the twelve poor fishermen of Galilee, through their preaching, give the world their Gospels and their Epistles, the loftiest lessons mankind has ever heard, but they also gave the finest examples of conduct ever seen. "When God wishes to show that a work is entirely that of His own hand, He reduces all to powerlessness and despair, and then He acts."[26]


[1] Lacordaire, Sainte Madeleine, chap. 6.
[2] "Isti sunt qui, viventes in carne, Ecclesiam plantaverunt sanguine suo"; responsorium of the third nocturn of the Common of Apostles.
[3] Eusebius, H. E., III, i; cf. Socrates, H. E., I, xix; Clementine, Recognitions, IX, xxix.
[4] St. Jerome, De vitis apostolorum, 5.
[5] Rufinus, H. E., II, v.
[6] St. John Chrysostom, Hom. 26 in Heb., 2.
[7] St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes adversus Arianos, 33, II.
[8] Beilage zur Allgemeinen Zeitung, Munich, January 8, 1900, p. 7.
[9] Art. "Thomas," in Vigouroux' Dict. de La Bible
[10] The best edition of the Acta sancti Thomae is that of Max Bonnet, 1884. According to Lipsius, this work dates from the close of the third century. (Lipsius, Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten, I, 346.)
[11] Clement of Alexandria, Pedagogus, II, i. 
[12] St. Gregory the Great, In I Regum 4:13; Socrates, H. E., I, xix.
[13] Roman Breviary, September 21.
[14] St. Isidore of Seville, De ortu et obitu Patrum, 76; Metaphrastes, Vita S. Matthaei, IV, 5.
[15] In Tischendorf's Acta apostolorum apocrypha, pp. 167-189. Cf. the Bollandists' Acta sanctorum, September, VI, 194-227.
[16] E.g., Clement of Alexandria.
[17] Acta sanctorum, February, III, p. 444.
[18] Cf. Tillemont, Mémoires, I, 387.
[19] Roman Breviary, October 28.
[20] Acta sanctorum, October 29, XII.
[21] Eusebius, H. E., III, i.
[22] Nicephorus, H. E., II, xxxix-xliv.
[23] Gondal, Au temps des apôtres, p. 320.
[24] The arrest, interrogation, condemnation, and martyrdom of St. Andrew are related in the celebrated Letter of the Priests and Deacons of Achaia on the Martyrdom of St. Andrew (Tischendorf, Acta apostolorum apocrypha, p. 155). The authenticity of the letter is defended by the best critics: Noel Alexander, Galland, etc. Tillemont questions its integrity. In places it seems to be an oratorical amplification of details taken from authentic documents. No reliance is to be placed on The Adventures of Matthias and Andrew in the Country of the Cannibals (Tischendorf, op. cit., p. 132). See Flamion, Les Actes apocryphes de l'apôtre André, Louvain and Paris, 1911.
[25] Bossuet, Panegyrique de saint André, 2d point.
[26] Ibid.


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