28 June 2019


[S Philip Neri's] times were such as the Church has never seen before nor since, and such as the world must last long for her to see again; nor peculiar only in themselves, but involving a singular and most severe trial of the faith and love of her children. It was a time of sifting and peril and of the fall and resurrection of many in Israel. Our gracious Lord, we well know, never will forsake her; He will sustain her in all dangers, and she will last while the world lasts; but, if ever there was a time when He seemed preparing to forsake her, it was not the time of persecution, when thousands upon thousands of her choicest were cut off, and her flock decimated; it was not in the middle age, when the ferocity of the soldier and subtlety of the sophist beleagurered her, -- but it was in that dreary time, at the close and in the the fulness of which St Philip entered upon his work. A great author, one of his own sons, Cardinal Baronius, has said of the dark age, that it was a time when our Lord seemed to be asleep in Peter's boat; but there is another passage of the Gospel still more wonderful than the record of that sleep, and one which had a still more marvellous accomplishment in the period of which I have to speak. 
To be continued, Dv, tomorrow.


frjustin said...

The saintly cardinal does not refer to an earlier "time of sifting and peril" after the "time of persecution" and before the middle age, which was also a "trial of the faith and love of [the Church's] children".

In the year 613, St. Columban wrote a letter to Pope Boniface IV, rebuking him for inciting a schism in northern Italy with his opposition to the Three Chapters. The letter was translated in a 1914 book entitled "The Life and Writings of St. Columbanus", by George Metlake. It bears some remarkable similarities to much more recent documents. Some excerpts:

"If you do not wish to lose the honor due to your apostolic office, preserve the apostolic faith; confirm it by your testimony; fortify it by a written instrument; cover it with the authority of a synod, and no one will have the right to resist you.

“Make a public profession of the true faith before a synod, and thus purge the Chair of Peter from every stain of error, should any, as is alleged, have crept into it. It would indeed be a subject of grief and dismay, if the Apostolic See, the chief seat of orthodoxy, did not maintain the rule of faith, and were on this account to be pointed at with the finger of scorn. For the love of Christ, I beg of you, defend your good name, which is being torn to shreds among the nations, and do not draw down upon yourself the charge of treason by persisting any longer in silence.

“Take away the confusion that covers the face of your sons and disciples, who are reviled on your account; take away, above all, the suspicion that envelops the Chair of St. Peter. For it is not a small matter that is laid to your charge. It is your fault if you have turned aside from the true faith, if ‘you have made void your first faith’.

“For only so long as right reason is on your side, will your authority remain undisputed: the true keeper of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven is he who opens the gates to the worthy and closes them against the unworthy. If he did the contrary of this he could neither open nor close. All the world knows that the Savior gave the keys of Heaven to St. Peter; but if you are puffed up on this account, and claim above others some unheard of power in divine things, remember that such presumption will lessen your authority in the sight of God.

“Once more I entreat you, because many doubt the purity of your faith, to remove this stain from the beauty of the Holy See. For surely the charge of inconsistency raised against her, as if she could be turned from the firmness of the true faith, must not be allowed to rest on the Roman Church, the Church for which so many martyrs shed their blood, preferring to die rather than to prove traitors."

It is gratifying to note that the pope is now known as Pope Saint Boniface IV, and is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology of 2001 for May 8: "Romæ apud Sanctum Petrum, sancti Bonifatii papæ Quarti, qui templum Pantheon a Phoca imperatore impetratum in ecclesiam vertit ac in honorem beatæ Mariæ omniumque martyrum Deo dedicavit et valde de monastica disciplina meritus est."

William Tighe said...

"In the year 613, St. Columban wrote a letter to Pope Boniface IV, rebuking him for inciting a schism in northern Italy with his opposition to the Three Chapters ... It is gratifying to note that the pope is now known as Pope Saint Boniface IV, and is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology of 2001 for May 8"

Somehow you forgot to mention that Pope St. Boniface IV upheld both the condemnation of the Three Chapters and the authority of the council that condemned them (Constantinople II, AD 553), and that the "schism in northern Italy," known as the Istrian Schism because of the region where it persisted longest, ended in 698 with the submission of the (self-styled) "Patriarch of Aquileia," the head of the Istrian Schismatics, to Rome.

frjustin said...

I thought my reference to the Three Chapters would be enough to give the context for what would be quite a long post, and that readers could always look up the term for such further information as you provide.

I did forget to include page numbers in Metlake's book. In Part IV, "In the Kingdom of of the Lombards", there is an entire chapter entitled "St. Columban and the Affair of the Three Chapters" on pages 204-216.

Tony V said...

The book referenced is available here.

heracletian said...

Off topic, but rejoicing in the news of a date set for B. John Henry Newman's canonization, something has struck me about some English St Johns and their connection to the East Riding of Yorkshire. Of course, we begin with St John of Beverley whose holy life combined erudition, pastoral zeal and care for students. Then there is St John of Bridlington, born some 700 years later in Thwing in the East Riding. The last English saint to be canonized before the Reformation, he was noted for his humility and integrity - and, interestingly enough, as a patron saint for women in difficult labour. A century later begins the story of St John Fisher, born in Beverley. 'Incomparable for uprightness of life, for learning and for greatness of soul', he dedicated great energy to scholarship and university education before courageously turning his back on an English establishment moving from Rome. Then, half a millennium on, we move to B. John Henry Newman, soon to be, Deo gratias, St John Henry Newman. Will he be the first English saint post Reformation? He seemed to combine in his life much that marked the stories of the St Johns that went before. Humble, learned, care for students, zeal for university education, setting his face against the Establishment, and so on. The second miracle attributed to his intercession was in answer to the prayers of a woman in difficult labour. But he was born in London, people will say. True, but in a brief letter to one of the Wilberforces in 1871, he offered condolences on the death of R I Wilberforce who, Newman wrote, 'knew my father's family well, for we belong to Cottingham near Beverley'.