Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday's Saint - March 30: Saint Quirinus of Neuss

Saint Quirinus of Neuss (German: Quirin, Quirinus), sometimes called Quirinus of Rome (which is the name shared by another martyr) is venerated as a martyr and saint of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. 

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a Roman martyr named Quirinus was buried in the Catacomb of Prætextatus on the Via Appia. The Martyrologium Hieronymianum (ed. De Rossi-Duchesne, 52) mentions Quirinus' name and place of burial. The Itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs (Giovanni Battista De Rossi, "Roma sotterranea", I, 180-1) also mention these two pieces of information.

Quirinus is introduced into the legendary Acts of Sts. Alexander and Balbina, where it is said he was a tribune (Dufourcq, loc. cit., 175). He is said to have been decapitated in 116. Legends make him a Roman tribune who was ordered with executing Alexander, Eventius, and Theodolus, who had been arrested by order of Trajan. Quirinus converted to Christianity, however, after witnessing miracles performed by these three saints, and he was baptized along with his daughter Balbina. He was then martyred on March 30 by being decapitated and was then buried catacomb of Prætextatus on the Via Appia.

According to a document from Cologne dating from 1485, Quirinus' body was donated in 1050 by Pope Leo IX to an abbess of Neuss named Gepa (who is called a sister of the pope). In this way the relics came to the Romanesque Church of St. Quirinus at Neuss (Quirinus-Münster) which still exists. A statue of Quirinus sits atop the church (which Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte attempted to plunder during the Napoleonic Wars).

Inhabitants of that city invoked him for aid during Siege of Neuss by Charles the Bold that occurred in 1474-5. His cult spread to Cologne, Alsace, Scandinavia, western Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, where he became the patron saint of Correggio. Numerous wells and springs were dedicated to him, and he was invoked against the bubonic plague, smallpox, and gout; he was also considered a patron saint of animals. Pilgrims to Neuss sought the Quirinuswasser (Quirinus water) from the Quirinusbrunnen (Quirinus spring or pump-room).

A farmers' saying associated with Quirinus' feast day of March 30 was "Wie der Quirin, so der Sommer" ("As St. Quirinus' Day goes, so will the summer").

Quirinus, along with Hubertus, Cornelius and Anthony, was venerated as one of the Four Holy Marshals ('Vier Marschälle Gottes) in the Rhineland. Portraits of Quirinus and of St. Valentine appear at the top of the recto of the Nuremberg Chronicles (Folio CXXII [Geneva]).

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Wednesday's Word - March 27: Satan

Because he goes by many names, we're also going to look at "devil".

Satan noun
Sa·​tan | \ ˈsā-tᵊn  \

From merriam-webster:
1 : the angel who in Jewish belief is commanded by God to tempt humans to sin, to accuse the sinners, and to carry out God's punishment
2 : the rebellious angel who in Christian belief is the adversary of God and lord of evil

proper name of the supreme evil spirit in Christianity, Old English Satan, from Late Latin Satan (in Vulgate in Old Testament only), from Greek Satanas, from Hebrew satan "adversary, one who plots against another," from satan "to show enmity to, oppose, plot against," from root s-t-n "one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary."

In Septuagint (Greek) usually translated as diabolos "slanderer," literally "one who throws (something) across" the path of another (see devil (n.)), though epiboulos "plotter" is used once.

In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. [Elaine Pagels, "The Origin of Satan," 1995]

devil noun
dev·​il | \ ˈde-vᵊl,  \

From merriam-webster:
1 often capitalized : the personal supreme spirit of evil often represented in Christian belief as the tempter of humankind, the leader of all apostate angels, and the ruler of hell 
2 : an evil spirit : DEMON

Old English deofol "a devil, a subordinate evil spirit afflicting humans;" also, in Christian theology, "the Devil, a powerful spirit of evil otherwise known as Satan," from Late Latin diabolus (also the source of Italian diavolo, French diable, Spanish diablo; German Teufel is Old High German tiufal, from Latin via Gothic diabaulus).

The Late Latin word is from Ecclesiastical Greek diabolos, which in Jewish and Christian use was "the Devil, Satan," and which in general use meant "accuser, slanderer" (thus it was a scriptural loan-translation of Hebrew satan; see Satan). It is an agent noun from Greek diaballein "to slander, attack," literally "to throw across," from dia "across, through" (see dia-) + ballein "to throw" (from PIE root *gwele- "to throw, reach").

Jerome re-introduced Satan in Latin bibles, and English translators have used both words in different measures. In Vulgate, as in Greek, diabolus and dæmon (see demon) were distinct, but they have merged in English and other Germanic languages.

Last Wednesday's word was katholikos, which explained the universality of the Church. There was a unity in Christianity that existed for over a thousand years. Even after then, one could argue that the Church was still universal - there was still a shared understanding of sacraments and most doctrines of the faith. It wasn't until after the reformations which began in the 1500s that the Body of Christ became truly broken. 

When I was a Protestant I used to get offended when something like this was brought up. I was a luke-warm Christian, at best. But still, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. I certainly wasn't responsible for participating in the harm done to His mystical body. I kind of had a Rodney King attitude about it all. "Can't we all just get along?" 

The problem was, that's democratic thinking. That's thinking that was cultivated in a pluralistic, consumeristic society. The different flavors of Christianity were just different products to be consumed. I had my preference. Others had their preferences. We all accepted Christ and should just unite in His saving grace. 

The greater problem was, that's demonic thinking. Hold on. I certainly wasn't demonic. I just wanted everyone to respect everyone else's Christianity. If we're centered on Christ as our Savior, that's really all that matters. How can that be demonic?

To start to lift the veil on this, let's keep in mind the word definitions and origins above and let's look at what Satan wants. Primarily, he wants the destruction of souls. He wants to pull people away from Christ. Since the Church is the mystical body of Christ, he wants to destroy Christ's Church in order to destroy Christ's body. You may recall how he tried this once before. The outcome, of course, was the resurrection and Satan's defeat. Jesus, of course, knew of Satan's strategy when he established His Church (Matthew 16:18). He also knew that the Church, which would never be destroyed, would be attacked by Satan and would face division. If he couldn't destory it completely, Satan figures, he'd do as much damage as he could. Jesus forewarned us of this when He prayed for unity (John 17).

Unfortunately, humans tend to do a better job listening to Satan than we do listening to God. The really unfortunate part of this is we don't even realize we're listening to Satan. He knows us so well he can disguise himself as the voice of reason, of intellect, of enlightenment. We can go all the way back to our first parents (Genesis 3) to understand the main page in his playbook. Deceived by Satan, our first parents thought they were making a good choice. What happened? Division.

Fast forward to the "fruits" of the Reformation and we see the same thing happening with our first Protestant parents. They thought they were making a good choice. What happened? Division.

Let's step back a bit and take a short, high level look. A more thorough study of the history of the Church will show Satan's tactics time after time, but let's stay at 30,000 feet for the sake of brevity. After 1000 years of a Church that was apostolic in nature, a Church that rested on the authority of the apostles and their successors, a Church - infused with the Holy Spirit - which created the Bible, a Church which continues to this day, Satan launched another assault in an attempt to harm the body of Christ. His victory in that battle was partial. He convinced the Eastern Patriarchs that the successor of Peter was not primary among the bishops. This was only a small victory for Satan because, through the continuance of apostolic authority, the Eastern Orthodox Churches managed to maintain a high degree of doctrinal harmony with the Universal (Catholic) Church.

Some 500 years later, Satan launched another massive attack on the Church. This time he decided not only to try to do away with the primacy of Peter, but with apostolic succession altogether. By stealing the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19), he could unravel the foundations of the faith. He could become the unHoly Spirt guiding and transforming the faith to his own. Now travel through the 500 years of subsequent reformations as Satan continues this assault, attempting to destroy even those churches that fell away from the universal church. Division after division. 

Satan is a scholar of scripture. He knows it better than any human that has ever lived. And he knows how to use it for his advantage. The Holy Spirit made sure to warn us of this (Luke 4). Yet, even with this warning, we've allowed Satan to successfully deploy one of his greatest tactics for division: Sola Scriptura. This doctrine is our modern forbidden fruit. Humans face the same temptation time and time again. Time and time again we fall. 

Looking back at my Protestant perspective, I can now see how I was duped into believing non-scriptural concepts of what the church ought to be. I was born into 500 years' worth of indoctrination - propaganda that was written by the master of lies himself. Yet, those arguments seemed so valid to me....because I wanted them to be valid. It was so enticing to think that all I needed was the Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide me. Why? Pride - the very same weakness that led to Satan's fall and which was used by that very devil to bring about the fall of humans is still used by Satan to corrupt Christianity. Sola Scriptura allowed me to be my own Pope, my own magisterium and, in all honesty, my own Holy Spirit. 

This is exactly how Satan wants us to be. We become experts in Scripture (or our own interpretation thereof) and can use it for our own purposes citing chapter and verse, but out of context, just as Satan does. Think of the many different and contradictory "Christian" doctrines that have developed since the Reformation. "The great sign of the demonic is scattering," says Bishop Barron in the video above. There is only one Holy Spirit. Either he suffers from multiple personality disorder or the spirit guiding contradictory interpretations of Scripture isn't the Holy one. 

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of awesome Protestants out there, many of whom are more devout, more faithful and better models of Christianity than many Catholics or Orthodox. This post isn't a judgment on the people or their faith. It's an analysis of Satan's tactics in the war in which we're all soldiers - soldiers who have been conditioned and trained to think and act certain ways.

The leader of the opposing side has launched his assaults on many fronts. He has infiltrated our ranks. He's infiltrated the Church itself. While he continues to divide and scatter with Sola Scriptura, he also operates at the highest ranks of the universal Church. Even Peter himself was shown as an example of Satan's tactics (Matthew 16:23), not to mention Judas (Matthew 26:20-25), so it's no wonder that the successors of the apostles would continue to be targets of Satan.

In reality, there is only one Christ and only one mystical body of Christ, but it is badly broken. While we all have different roles within the body (1 Corinthians 12), when we try to make the finger the head, we break the body. We search for unity, the same unity for which Jesus prayed. But we're deceived by the devil who convinces us that such unity is found in vague altruistic statements. With such a mindset, true unity cannot be achieved. Only with the humility to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit, to be led and guided by the successors of the apostles can we repair the body of Christ. 

God, however, is a better strategist than Satan. Even in evil, God brings about good. "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). While Satan tries to destroy the Church, while he infiltrates it, God utilizes those who are in tune with Him, regardless of where they are, to bring about a rebirth, to stoke a renewal, to launch a counter attack. But we mustn't just stop after the first mission, after the first objective is obtained. We must be allowed to be led to the mission's end.

Please, my Protestant brothers and sisters, continue in your fervor, continue in your passion, continue in your faith in Christ. But please, also be open to coming home (Luke 15:11-32). Be willing to contemplate the role of Satan in the division of the Church, in his desire to harm the body of Christ by causing division and scattering.  Shed 500 years of indoctrination and knock on the door (Matthew 7:7). Your presence and influence will be well received and your relationship with Christ will flourish even more than it is now.

Please, my Catholic brothers and sisters, do not succumb to the temptations of Satan in our desert. Do not abandon Jesus because of Judas. Do not let Satan's whispering of prideful thoughts lead you to believe you are smarter, holier, more enlightened or more in touch with the Holy Spirit than 2000 years of apostolic succession. Our Protestants brothers and sisters can teach us much about relationship, community and outreach and it's essential to seek truth where it may be found. But we mustn't leave Truth for other truths. We must incorporate (from Latin in- "into, in, on, upon" + verb from corpus "body") truths while we work to restore the body of Christ.

The broken body of Christ

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Saturday's Saint - March 23: St. Joseph Oriol

Saint Joseph Oriol (José Orioli) (Catalan: Sant Josep Oriol) (23 November 1650 – 23 March 1702) was a Spanish Roman Catholic priest now venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church who is called the "Thaumaturgus of Barcelona".

Apostle of Barcelona who lived on bread and water for twenty-six years. He was born in Barcelona, Spain. He studied at the University of Barcelona and received his doctorate in theological studies on 1 August 1674. He was ordained as a priest on 30 May 1676. In 1686, he made a pilgrimage on foot to Rome. 

A beloved figure in Barcelona, he was committed to helping the sick and the poor. Joseph was also a famed confessor, miracle worker, and prophet. The dying, the blind, the deaf and dumb, the lame, and the paralytic, were said to be instantly cured by him.

He is buried in the Santa Maria del Pi Church in Barcelona.

He was beatified under Pope Pius VII on 5 September 1808 and Pope Pius X later canonized him as a saint on 20 May 1909.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday's Word - March 20: Katholikos

katholikos adjective (Greek)
catholicus adjective (Latin)
catholic adjective (English)
cath·​o·​lic | \ ˈkath-lik \

Definition of catholic from Merriam-Webster:

1a often capitalized: of, relating to, or forming the church universal
 b often capitalized: of, relating to, or forming the ancient undivided Christian church

"Catholic" derives from Latin catholicus and from Greek katholikos both of which mean universal.

From etymonline:
mid-14c., "of the doctrines of the ancient Church" (before the East/West schism in 1054), literally "universally accepted," from French catholique, from Latin catholicus "universal, general," from Greek katholikos, from phrase kath' holou "on the whole, in general," from kata "about" + genitive of holos "whole".

Medieval Latin catholicus was practically synonymous with "Christian" and meant "constituting or conforming to the church, its faith and organization". With capital C-, applied by Protestants to the Church in Rome c. 1554, after the Reformation began. General sense of "embracing all, universal" in English is from 1550s. 

The unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17) existed for over 1000 years. The church, comprised of sinners, wasn't utopian by any means. There were heresies and challenges, but they were dealt with and mostly resolved through authoritative magisterial teaching and various Councils. There have been 21 ecumenical councils, following the example we find in scripture (Acts 15). The most recent council occurred in 1962-1965.

The first major blow to the universality of the church occurred in 1054. The Great Schism led to the Orthodox churches falling out of communion with the universal church. However, the "two lungs" of the church (as the Catholic and Orthodox churches are known today) continue to work toward reconciliation and reunification. Each retains valid, apostolic succession, and a shared understanding of the sacraments, including the Eucharist.

Sources: Wikipedia, Pewforum
The schisms which began in the 1500s (starting with Lutheranism) led to the development of the modern "denomination" system with which we're familiar - a system that has done the most damage to the universality of Christianity. Something to consider: denominations have existed only for a third of the time (500 years) that they didn't exist (1500 years). Stated another way, only one quarter of Christianity's history involves different denominations. "Catholicism" was not, and is not a Christian denomination. Rather, it is the original universal (catholicus) Christian church. Yet, the seeds of discord were planted deep and the roots of heresy have fed fruits of relativism leading to a cornucopia of Christianities, something far removed from the prayer of Jesus in John 17.

All is not lost, however. We have certainty that the universal church will remain (Matthew 16:18). Full unity can occur again, and is prayed for at every mass, but it will take a willingness among Christians to shred over 500 years of indoctrination, propaganda and socialization. It is a difficult journey and one which I am still on, still endeavoring to expand my understanding and still trying to grow in faith. It took me 35+ years before I took my first baby steps which eventually led me on a journey "home" to the universal church. I'll write more about my journey at another time, but the point here is this: it was my own self-centered ignorance, subjected to anti-Catholic indoctrination, fueled by pride and ego that prevented me from even considering Catholicism as an option. 

Next Wednesday, we'll explore a word that thrives on self-centered ignorance, loves to indoctrinate and seeks to boost pride and ego; a word that loves to cause division (denominations); a word that twists definitions (like "catholic") to subvert truth: Satan (John 17:15)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday's Saint - March 16: Saint Patrick

Ok...Saint Patrick's feast day is March 17. But I figured it might be good to learn about something more than shamrocks and green beer. Legend credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a three-leafed plant, using it to illustrate the Christian teaching of three persons in one God. The shamrock has since become a central symbol for Saint Patrick's Day.

Saint Patrick (c. 386 – 461) (Latin: Patricius; Irish: Pádraig [ˈpˠaːd̪ˠɾˠəɟ]; Welsh: Padrig) was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, the other patron saints being Brigit of Kildare and Columba. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Churches, and in the Eastern Orthodox Church as equal-to-the-apostles and Enlightener of Ireland.

According to the Confessio of Patrick, when he was about 16, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals; he lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Calpurnius, his father, was a decurion and deacon, his grandfather Potitus a priest, from Banna Venta Berniae, a location otherwise unknown, though identified in one tradition as Glannoventa, modern Ravenglass in Cumbria, in what is now England; claims have been advanced for locations in both present-day Scotland and Wales. Patrick, however, was not an active believer. According to the Confession of Saint Patrick, at the age of sixteen he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They took him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in the Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.

After six years of captivity he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away, where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days' sailing, they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a "wilderness" and becoming faint from hunger. After Patrick prayed for sustenance, they encountered a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. After returning home to Britain, Patrick continued to study Christianity.

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."

A.B.E. Hood suggests that the Victoricus of St. Patrick's vision may be identified with Saint Victricius, bishop of Rouen in the late fourth century, who had visited Britain in an official capacity in 396. However, Ludwig Bieler disagrees.

He studied in Europe principally at Auxerre, but is thought to have visited the Marmoutier Abbey, Tours and to have received the tonsure at Lérins Abbey. Saint Germanus of Auxerre, a bishop of the Western Church, ordained him to the priesthood.

Acting on his vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. According to J. B. Bury, his landing place was Wicklow, Co. Wicklow, at the mouth of the river Inver-dea, which is now called the Vartry. Bury suggests that Wicklow was also the port through which Patrick made his escape after his six years' captivity, though he offers only circumstantial evidence to support this. Tradition has it that Patrick was not welcomed by the locals and was forced to leave and seek a more welcoming landing place further north. He rested for some days at the islands off the Skerries coast, one of which still retains the name of Inis-Patrick. The first sanctuary dedicated by Patrick was at Saul. Shortly thereafter Benin (or Benignus), son of the chieftain Secsnen, joined Patrick's group.

Much of the Declaration concerns charges made against Patrick by his fellow Christians at a trial. What these charges were, he does not say explicitly, but he writes that he returned the gifts which wealthy women gave him, did not accept payment for baptisms, nor for ordaining priests, and indeed paid for many gifts to kings and judges, and paid for the sons of chiefs to accompany him. It is concluded, therefore, that he was accused of some sort of financial impropriety, and perhaps of having obtained his bishopric in Ireland with personal gain in mind.

From this same evidence, something can be seen of Patrick's mission. He writes that he "baptized thousands of people". He ordained priests to lead the new Christian communities. He converted wealthy women, some of whom became nuns in the face of family opposition. He also dealt with the sons of kings, converting them too. The Confessio is generally vague about the details of his work in Ireland, though giving some specific instances. This is partly because, as he says at points, he was writing for a local audience of Christians who knew him and his work. There are several mentions of travelling around the island, and of sometimes difficult interactions with the ruling elite. He does claim of the Irish:

Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!

Patrick's position as a foreigner in Ireland was not an easy one. His refusal to accept gifts from kings placed him outside the normal ties of kinship, fosterage and affinity. Legally he was without protection, and he says that he was on one occasion beaten, robbed of all he had, and put in chains, perhaps awaiting execution. Patrick says that he was also "many years later" a captive for 60 days, without giving details.

After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461. He died at Saul, where he had built the first Irish church. He is believed to be buried in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Looking Back

In my first treasure hunt book, Seek and Ye Shall Find, I mentioned the time I spent studying in London, England in 1993 as part of an MSU study abroad program. Recently, thanks to a family outing, I've been reminiscing quite a bit about it. It's amazing to realize that 26 years ago, at this time, I was residing in that mesmerizing city.

Last Saturday, my family and I went to a local "pub" call Bud & Stanley's (best burgers in Grand Rapids, IMO). Their sign said they'll be having live Irish music on March 17 (St. Patrick's Day). Inspired by the thought of listening to live Irish music in a pub again, I recalled my Friday night ritual from another life.

It was 1993. The internet was in its infancy and mobile phones were still attached to cars. About a dozen of us from Michigan State University ventured over to London to participate in an MSU study abroad program. No electronic devices (except for a shoulder held video camera and a 35mm film point and shoot camera). We took up residency in a three story flat on Kilburn Park Road that MSU had arranged for us. Our professors lectured in our living room every day. Those were the days.

To find out what was going on in London (remember: we didn't have the internet), we'd pick up an issue of Time Out London, a weekly magazine that had all the goings on around London. That's where we saw a listing for live Irish music at the Victoria pub every Friday night. Looking it up now, I can see after numerous name changes throughout the years, it's again the Victoria Tavern and it looks a lot different, both inside and out. Click here for a Google street view - change the dates to see some of the more recent iterations. In a way, it makes me kind of sad to see the "old" pub feel may be lost in that special place.

The Band

The band was called Chanter. We went and had a blast. It was dark, dingy and smoky, yet somehow perfect. The music was loud and good. We'd get there early so we could claim a table right up front.  Chanter were fun. Great singing, great energy. Some humor thrown in. They had a good time while we had a good time. 

Their playlist was filled with song after song that you could sing along with. The Old Triangle, Johnny Cope, Down on the Glen,  The Star of the County Down / Soldier’s Joy and more. One of my favorite songs was an original twist they had on  "Fiddlyoory" (or "Poor Paddy Works on the Railway"). The lyrics went something like this:

In eighteen hundred and forty one, me corduroy breeches I put on
Me corduroy breeches I put on, to work upon the railway, the railway
I'm weary of the railway, poor Paddy works on the railway
Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay to work upon the railway.

In eighteen hundred and forty two, from Bartley Pool I moved to Crewe
And I found meself a job to do, workin' on the railway
I was wearing corduroy britches
Digging ditches, pulling switches, dodging hitches
I was workin' on the railway
Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay to work upon the railway.

Each verse progressed the story through the years...1841, 1842, 1843, 1844, 1845, 1846 and then....

In eighteen hundred and forty seven poor Paddy was thinkin' of goin' ta heaven
Poor Paddy was thinkin' of goin' ta heaven, to work upon the railway, the railway

At this point, the band put a slight spin on it and switched to "Stairway to Heaven", singing - 
"And he's building a railway to Heaven"
And then they'd kick it back to the 
Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay, Fiddlyoory-oory-Ay to work upon the railway.

It was kind of one of those wait for it, wait for it moments that was great every time.

The Journey Home

As the evening wrapped up, on our walk to the Holloway Road tube (subway) station, we'd stop by a local fish & chips shop to buy some chips (french fries), wrapped in newspaper (without the print) and covered with malt vinegar. That little treat made the 30 minute journey underground much more enjoyable.

After going to the Victoria almost every weekend for about 2 months the brevity of our time in London became a reality. To capture the memories, we asked if we could record the show one evening. We were pleasantly surprised when the band agreed. So there I stood for roughly two hours with that giant video camera on my shoulder. Kids these days, with their cell phones, will never understand the struggles.

When my family and I returned home from dinner last weekend, I found that old VHS tape. Sadly, the quality has degraded a lot. Watching that fuzzy video that blacked out every ten seconds or so was sadly metaphorical for my own memories. I jumped on the internet to see what I could find about Chanter. Did they release any more albums? Did they keep performing? What ever happened to them? I mean it's been 26 years since I recorded this video:

Plot Twist

They released an album last year. You can listen to samples and buy it on Amazon or other music download sites. They also have a website, through which I sent a moderately lamenting and mostly reminiscing email to them. I received a nice, sincere and humorous response from Roddy Rogers (one of the members of Chanter who also has some solo albums).

Really, do yourself a favor and buy their new album John Barleycorn.

You won't regret it (especially if you like some mad fiddling).

Album notes: 

John Barleycorn is a new album from celtic band Chanter. The band is celebrating 40 years of live performances and recordings, and has chosen to record a range of mainly traditional songs from its back catalogue.

The core of the band, Malcolm and Roddy Rogers, have been joined across the years by a cast of brilliant musicians, ranging from the great tinwhistle playing by Brian Aldwinckle to the stellar drumming of Hughie Flint (of McGuiness-Flint and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers fame) and Mickey Waller (of Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart fame!).

This album has set out, and hopefully succeeded (you judge!), in faithfully reproducing some of the best arrangements of traditional material we've played over the years. 

Recorded by Roddy Rogers, Malcolm Rogers and Steno Vitale, the album features vocals, guitars, fiddles, mandola, keyboards and drums - kit, bodhran and djembe.

For Chanter's original material, in the same genre, please see 'The Journey' on Chanter's own website, and also look for Roddy Rogers on CD Baby and the usual downloading and streaming services.

Wednesday's Word - March 13: Quadragesima

Quadragesima noun
Quad·​ra·​ges·​i·​ma | \ kwädrəˈjesəmə \

Definition of ash from Merriam-Webster:

1 or Quadragesima Sunday: the first Sunday in Lent
2: the 40 days of Lent

From Latin, feminine of quadragesimus meaning fortieth.

First off, Lent. The word "lent" comes from Middle English "lente" meaning springtime. The rest of the world uses a Latin-derived word like "Quadragesima". So, to get to the core of it, let's explore Quadragesima.

Quadragesima denotes a season of preparation by fasting and prayer, to imitate the example of Christ (Matthew 4). Several such seasons were observed by the early Christians (for example, leading up to  Christmas and Easter). The Greeks had four, the Maronites six, and the Armenians eight. The major, before Easter, is commonly known. It is mentioned in the fifth canon of the Council of Nicæa (325 AD), in the sixty-ninth of the Apostolic Canons (around 500 AD), and in the Pilgrimage of Ætheria (380 AD; this narrative of a Christian pilgrimage is the earliest such text which survives to us. It is an important source of information about early Christian practices.  Listen to the free audio book).


Today's Lenten practice, specifically, is not spelled out in the Bible. However, in the Bible we do find many occurrences of being instructed to follow the teachings and traditions of the apostles and their successors.

Paul tells the Corinthians, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2), and he commands the Thessalonians, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15). Further on he says, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).

To make sure that the apostolic tradition would be passed down after the deaths of the apostles, Paul told Timothy, “[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

Some of those "others" are often referred to as the Church Fathers, successors of the apostles who continued the apostolic traditions and taught new ones, in line with Scripture, in order to address issues and cultural challenges as they emerged. The Holy Spirit, the advocate, guides successors of the apostles as promised by Jesus.

Following are quotes from some of these Church Fathers during an era when unity, for which Jesus prayed, was maintained.

“Papias [A.D. 120], who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he, moreover, asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly, he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions [concerning Jesus]. . . . [There are] other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition” (fragment in Eusebius, Church History 3:39 [A.D. 312]).

Eusebius of Caesarea
“At that time [A.D. 150] there flourished in the Church Hegesippus, whom we know from what has gone before, and Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, and another bishop, Pinytus of Crete, and besides these, Philip, and Apollinarius, and Melito, and Musanus, and Modestus, and, finally, Irenaeus. From them has come down to us in writing, the sound and orthodox faith received from tradition” (Church History 4:21).

“As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same” (Against Heresies 1:10:2 [A.D. 189]).

“That is why it is surely necessary to avoid them [heretics], while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. . . . What if the apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?” (ibid., 3:4:1).

“It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors to our own times—men who neither knew nor taught anything like these heretics rave about.

“But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul, that church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles.

“With this church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree—that is, all the faithful in the whole world—and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition” (ibid., 3:3:1–2).

Clement of Alexandria
“Well, they preserving the tradition of the blessed doctrine derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God’s will to us also to deposit those ancestral and apostolic seeds. And well I know that they will exult; I do not mean delighted with this tribute, but solely on account of the preservation of the truth, according as they delivered it. For such a sketch as this, will, I think, be agreeable to a soul desirous of preserving from loss the blessed tradition” (Miscellanies 1:1 [A.D. 208]).

“Although there are many who believe that they themselves hold to the teachings of Christ, there are yet some among them who think differently from their predecessors. The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the apostles and remains in the churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition” (The Fundamental Doctrines 1:2 [A.D. 225]).

Cyprian of Carthage
“[T]he Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with [Pope] Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way” (Letters 75:3 [A.D. 253]).

“Again we write, again keeping to the apostolic traditions, we remind each other when we come together for prayer; and keeping the feast in common, with one mouth we truly give thanks to the Lord. Thus giving thanks unto him, and being followers of the saints, ‘we shall make our praise in the Lord all the day,’ as the psalmist says. So, when we rightly keep the feast, we shall be counted worthy of that joy which is in heaven” (Festal Letters 2:7 [A.D. 330]).

“But you are blessed, who by faith are in the Church, dwell upon the foundations of the faith, and have full satisfaction, even the highest degree of faith which remains among you unshaken. For it has come down to you from apostolic tradition, and frequently accursed envy has wished to unsettle it, but has not been able” (ibid., 29).

Basil the Great
“Of the dogmas and messages preserved in the Church, some we possess from written teaching and others we receive from the tradition of the apostles, handed on to us in mystery. In respect to piety, both are of the same force. No one will contradict any of these, no one, at any rate, who is even moderately versed in matters ecclesiastical. Indeed, were we to try to reject unwritten customs as having no great authority, we would unwittingly injure the gospel in its vitals; or rather, we would reduce [Christian] message to a mere term” (The Holy Spirit 27:66 [A.D. 375]).

Epiphanius of Salamis
“It is needful also to make use of tradition, for not everything can be gotten from sacred Scripture. The holy apostles handed down some things in the scriptures, other things in tradition” (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 61:6 [A.D. 375]).

“[T]he custom [of not rebaptizing converts] . . . may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:23[31] [A.D. 400]).

“But the admonition that he [Cyprian] gives us, ‘that we should go back to the fountain, that is, to apostolic tradition, and thence turn the channel of truth to our times,’ is most excellent, and should be followed without hesitation” (ibid., 5:26[37]).

“But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from Tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept, either by the apostles themselves or by plenary [ecumenical] councils, the authority of which is quite vital in the Church” (Letter to Januarius [A.D. 400]).

John Chrysostom
“[Paul commands,] ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or by our letter’ [2 Thess. 2:15]. From this it is clear that they did not hand down everything by letter, but there is much also that was not written. Like that which was written, the unwritten too is worthy of belief. So let us regard the tradition of the Church also as worthy of belief. Is it a tradition? Seek no further” (Homilies on Second Thessalonians [A.D. 402]).

Vincent of Lerins
“With great zeal and closest attention, therefore, I frequently inquired of many men, eminent for their holiness and doctrine, how I might, in a concise and, so to speak, general and ordinary way, distinguish the truth of the Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical depravity.

“I received almost always the same answer from all of them—that if I or anyone else wanted to expose the frauds and escape the snares of the heretics who rise up, and to remain intact and in sound faith, it would be necessary, with the help of the Lord, to fortify that faith in a twofold manner: first, of course, by the authority of divine law [Scripture] and then by the tradition of the Catholic Church.

“Here, perhaps, someone may ask: ‘If the canon of the scriptures be perfect and in itself more than suffices for everything, why is it necessary that the authority of ecclesiastical interpretation be joined to it?’ Because, quite plainly, sacred Scripture, by reason of its own depth, is not accepted by everyone as having one and the same meaning . . .”

“Thus, because of so many distortions of such various errors, it is highly necessary that the line of prophetic and apostolic interpretation be directed in accord with the norm of the ecclesiastical and Catholic meaning” (The Notebooks [A.D. 434]).

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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Saturday's Saint - March 9: Saint Frances of Rome

Frances of Rome, Obl.S.B., (Italian: Santa Francesca Romana) (1384 – March 9, 1440) is an Italian saint who was a wife, mother, mystic, organizer of charitable services and a Benedictine oblate who founded a religious community of oblates, who share a common life without religious vows.

Frances was born in 1384 in Rome to a wealthy and aristocratic couple, Paolo Bussa and Iacobella dei Roffredeschi, in the up-and-coming district of Parione and christened in the nearby Church of St. Agnes on the famed Piazza Navona. When she was eleven years old, she wanted to be a nun, but, at about the age of twelve, her parents forced her to marry Lorenzo Ponziani, commander of the papal troops of Rome and member of an extremely wealthy family. Although the marriage had been arranged, it was a happy one, lasting for forty years, partly because Lorenzo admired his wife, and partly because he was frequently away at war.

With her sister-in-law Vannozza, Frances visited the poor and took care of the sick, inspiring other wealthy women of the city to do the same. Soon after her marriage, Frances fell seriously ill. Her husband called a man in who dabbled in magic, but Frances drove him away, and later recounted to Vannozza that St. Alexis had appeared to her and cured her.

When her mother-in-law died, Frances became mistress of the household. During a time of flood and famine, she turned part of the family's country estate into a hospital and distributed food and clothing to the poor. According to one account, her father-in-law was so angry that he took away from her the keys to the supply rooms; but gave them back when he saw that the corn bin and wine barrel were replenished after Frances finished praying.

During the wars between the pope in Rome and various anti-popes in the Western Schism of the Catholic Church, Lorenzo served the former. According to one story, their son Battista was to be delivered as a hostage to the commander of the Neapolitan troops. Obeying this order on the command of her spiritual director, Frances took her son to the Campidoglio. On the way, she stopped in the Church of the Aracoeli located there and entrusted her son's life to the Blessed Mother. When they arrived at the appointed site, the soldiers tried to put her son on a horse to transport him to captivity. However, the horse refused to move despite heavy whipping. The superstitious soldiers saw the hand of God in this and returned the boy to his mother.

During a period of forced exile, much of Lorenzo's property and possessions were destroyed. In the course of one occupation of Rome by Neapolitan forces in the early part of the century, he was wounded so severely that he never fully recovered. Frances nursed him throughout the rest of his life.

Frances experienced other sorrows during her marriage to Lorenzo. They lost two children to the plague. Chaos ruled the city in that period of neglect by the pope and the ongoing warfare between him and the various forces competing for power on the Italian peninsula devastated the city. The city of Rome was largely in ruins, and wolves were known to enter the streets. Frances again opened her home as a hospital and drove her wagon through the countryside to collect wood for fire and herbs for medicine. It is said she had the gift of healing, and over 60 cases were attested to during the canonization proceedings.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "With her husband's consent St. Frances practiced continence, and advanced in a life of contemplation. Her visions often assumed the form of drama enacted for her by heavenly personages. She had the gift of miracles and ecstasy, as well as the bodily vision of her guardian angel, had revelations concerning Purgatory and Hell, and foretold the ending of the Western Schism. She could read the secrets of consciences and detect plots of diabolical origin. She was remarkable for her humility and detachment, her obedience and patience".

On August 15, 1425, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, she founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of pious women, under the authority of the Olivetan monks of the Abbey of Santa Maria Nova in Rome, but neither cloistered nor bound by formal vows, so they could follow her pattern of combining a life of prayer with answering the needs of their society.

In March 1433 she founded a monastery at Tor de' Specchi, near the Campidoglio, in order to allow for a common life by those members of the confraternity who felt so called. This monastery remains the only house of the Institute. That July 4, they received the approval of Pope Eugene IV as a religious congregation of oblates with private religious vows. The community later became known simply as the Oblates of St. Frances of Rome.

Frances herself remained in her own home, nursing her husband for the last seven years of his life from wounds he had received in battle. When he died in 1436, she moved into the monastery and became the superior. She died in 1440 and was buried in Santa Maria Nova.

On May 9, 1608, she was canonized by Pope Paul V, and in the following decades a diligent search was made for her remains, which had been hidden due to the troubled times in which she lived. Her body was found incorrupt some months after her death. Her grave was identified on April 2, 1638, (but this time only the bones remained), and her remains were reburied in the Church of Santa Maria Nova on March 9, 1649, which since then has been her feast day. Again, in 1869, her body was exhumed and has since then been displayed in a glass coffin for the veneration of the faithful. The Church of Santa Maria Nova is now usually referred to as the Church of St. Frances.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wednesday's Word - March 6: Ash

ash  noun
\ ˈash \

Definition of ash from Merriam-Webster:

1: something that symbolizes grief, repentance, or humiliation
2a: the solid residue left when combustible material is thoroughly burned or is oxidized by chemical means
  b: fine particles of mineral matter from a volcanic vent
3 ashes plural : the remains of the dead human body after cremation or disintegration

Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, "she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying" (2 Samuel 13:19). The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. In Job 42:3–6, Job says to God: "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: "O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes" (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God: "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3). Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: "That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes" (1 Maccabees 3:47; see also 4:39).

Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: "If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes." 

Christians have continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) said that confession of sin should be accompanied by lying in sackcloth and ashes. The historian Eusebius (c. 260/265 – 339/340) recounts how a repentant apostate covered himself with ashes when begging Pope Zephyrinus to readmit him to communion.

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer, fasting, and repentance. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. 

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations. 

Because it is the first day of Lent, many Christians, on Ash Wednesday, often begin marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake in until Easter Sunday arrives.

In the Catholic Church, Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance – a day of contemplating one's transgressions. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (whose health enables them to do so) are permitted to consume one full meal, along with two smaller meals, which together should not equal the full meal. Some Catholics will go beyond the minimum obligations put forth by the Church and undertake a complete fast or a bread and water fast until sunset. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are also days of abstinence from meat (mammals and fowl), as are all Fridays during Lent (which is why you see all those Friday fish specials at restaurants). Some Catholics continue fasting throughout Lent, as was the Church's traditional requirement, concluding only after the celebration of the Easter Vigil. 

Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians on Ash Wednesday, either by being sprinkled over their heads or, in English-speaking countries, more often by being marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. The words (based on Genesis 3:19) used traditionally to accompany this gesture are, "Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris." ("Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.") This custom is credited to Pope Gregory I the Great (c. 540–604). In the 1969 revision of the Roman Rite, an alternative formula (based on Mark 1:15) was introduced and given first place "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" and the older formula was translated as "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time. The newer formula makes explicit what was only implicit in the old.

Various manners of placing the ashes on worshippers' heads are in use within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the two most common being to use the ashes to make a cross on the forehead and sprinkling the ashes over the crown of the head. Originally, the ashes were strewn over men's heads, but, probably because women had their heads covered in church, were placed on the foreheads of women. In the Catholic Church the manner of imposing ashes depends largely on local custom, since no fixed rule has been laid down. Although the account of Ælfric of Eynsham shows that in about the year 1000 the ashes were "strewn" on the head, the marking of the forehead is the method that now prevails in English-speaking countries. In its ritual of "Blessing of Ashes", this states that "the ashes are blessed at the beginning of the Eucharist; and after they have been blessed they are placed on the forehead of the clergy and people." On Ash Wednesday, the Pope, who is the Bishop of Rome, traditionally takes part in a penitential procession from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where, in accordance with the custom in Italy and many other countries, ashes are sprinkled on his head, not smudged on his forehead, and he places ashes on the heads of others in the same way.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of a 40-day period which is an allusion to the separation of Jesus in the desert to fast and pray. During this time he was tempted. Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, and Luke 4:1–13. While not specifically instituted in the Bible text, the 40-day period of repentance is also analogous to the 40 days during which Moses repented and fasted in response to the making of the Golden calf.(Exo. 34:27–28) (Jews today follow a 40-day period of repenting in preparation for and during the High Holy Days from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kippur.)

Ash Wednesday is exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday, a moveable feast based on the cycles of the moon. Since Sundays are considered "little Easters", they are not counted in the days of Lent, which gives us the 40 days of Lent. The earliest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 4 February (which is only possible during a year with Easter on 22 March), which happened in 1598, 1693, 1761 and 1818 and will next occur in 2285. The latest date Ash Wednesday can occur is 10 March (when Easter Day falls on 25 April) which occurred in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943 and will next occur in 2038. Ash Wednesday has never occurred on Leap Year Day (29 February), and it will not occur as such until 2096. The only other years of the third millennium that will have Ash Wednesday on 29 February are 2468, 2688, 2840 and 2992. (Ash Wednesday falls on 29 February only if Easter is on 15 April in a leap year starting on a Sunday.)

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Saturday's Saint - March 2: Saint Agnes of Bohemia

Agnes of Bohemia, O.S.C., (Czech: Svatá Anežka Česká, 20 June 1211 – 2 March 1282), also known as Agnes of Prague, was a medieval Bohemian princess who opted for a life of charity, mortification of the flesh and piety over a life of luxury and comfort. Although she was venerated soon after her death, Agnes was not beatified or canonized for over 700 years.

Agnes was the daughter of King Ottokar I of Bohemia, making her a descendant of Saint Ludmila and Saint Wenceslaus, patron saints of Bohemia. Agnes' mother was Constance of Hungary, who was the sister of King Andrew II of Hungary, so Agnes was a first cousin to St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

When she was three years old, Agnes was entrusted to the care of St. Hedwig of Andechs, the wife of Duke Henry I the Bearded of Silesia. Hedwig placed her to be educated by a community of Cistercian nuns in a monastery which she herself had founded in Trzebnica. Upon her return to Prague, Agnes was entrusted to a priory of Premonstratensian Canonesses to continue her education.

At the age of eight, Agnes was betrothed to Henry, son of the Emperor Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry was ten years old and had just been crowned King of Germany. According to custom, Agnes should have spent her childhood at her future husband's court. Emperor Frederick, King of Sicily, had his court in Palermo, but his son Henry, King of Germany, lived in Germany at the palace of Archbishop Engelbert in Cologne.

Agnes was sent to the court of Duke Leopold VI of Babenberg. Leopold, however, wanted the young Henry to marry his own daughter, Margaret. After being betrothed for six years, Henry and Agnes's betrothal contract was cancelled. Like other noble women of her time, Agnes was a valuable political pawn. In 1226, Agnes's father Ottokar went to war against the Babenbergs as a result of the cancelled betrothal. Ottokar then planned for Agnes to marry Henry III of England, but this was vetoed by the Emperor, who wanted to marry Agnes himself.

Agnes refused to play any more part in a politically arranged marriage. She decided to devote her life to prayer and spiritual works, for which she sought the help of Pope Gregory IX. Emperor Frederick is said to have remarked: "If she had left me for a mortal man, I would have taken vengeance with the sword, but I cannot take offence because in preference to me she has chosen the King of Heaven."

On land donated by her brother, Wenceslaus I, King of Bohemia, she founded the Hospital of St. Francis (circa 1232-33) and two friaries for the Franciscan friars, who had just come to Bohemia at her brother's invitation. Through them, Agnes learned of Clare of Assisi and her Order of Poor Ladies, the monastic counterpart of the friars. She began a correspondence with Clare (which lasted for over two decades), which led to Clare's sending five nuns from the monastery in Assisi to Prague to begin a new house of the order. This was the first Poor Clare community north of the Alps.

Agnes built a monastery and friary complex attached to the hospital. It housed the Franciscan friars and the Poor Clare nuns who worked at the hospital. This religious complex was one of the first Gothic buildings in Prague. In 1235, Agnes gave the property of the Teutonic Knights in Bohemia to the hospital. She herself became a member of the Franciscan Poor Clares in 1236. As a nun, she cooked for and mended the clothes of lepers and paupers, even after becoming abbess of the Prague Clares the following year. As can be seen in their correspondence, Clare wrote with deep maternal feelings toward Agnes, though they never met.

A lay group working at the hospital was organized by Agnes in 1238 as a new military order, dedicated primarily to nursing, known as the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, following the Rule of St. Augustine. That next year, Agnes handed over all authority over the hospital she had founded to these monastic knights. They were recognized as an order by Pope Gregory IX in 1236-37.

Agnes lived out her life in the cloister, leading the monastery as abbess, until her death on 2 March 1282.

In 1874, Pope Pius IX had Agnes beatified. Pope John Paul II canonized Blessed Agnes 12 November 1989. While she was known by her contemporaries because of her supposed visions and healing, such as her prophecy that King Wenceslaus would be victorious in his battle against the Austrians, her canonization was based on her practice of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity to an extraordinary degree, and the Church's view is confirmed either through a miracle granted by God in answer to the saint's prayers, or as in this case, by the continuing devotion of the Christian faithful to a saint's example across centuries.

Though Agnes died in 1282, she was still venerated by Christians around the world more than 700 years later. She was honored in 2011, the 800th anniversary of her birth, as the Saint of the Overthrow of Communism, with a year dedicated to her by Catholics in the Czech Republic.

Source: Wikipedia