Today, in our on-going series of this abridged History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church over a 2000 year span called 2000 YEAR VOYAGE ON THE BARQUE OF PETER, we illustrate the Pope and times that laid the foundation for the "century of the saints" which the 13th century was famous for. The Sovereign Pontiff was Pope Innocent III who we covered briefly in his dealings with the Crusades in the last installment. This time we feature him more prominently for he is the one who brought the Church into this "century of the saints" and made it possible for such holy luminaries as Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic, to name a few, to establish a missionary endeavor that has forever served the Church well through the fruits of these saints and the Pontiff who first recognized their gifts and God's Will. For Installment forty - The century of saints dawns during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III, see BARQUE OF PETER
But politics aside, Innocent saught to establish the Pope as master of Rome and recover many of the lands confiscated by the German kings. Though many Roman aristocrats resented Innocent's superiority, they rallied behind him in their common battle against German influence in Italy. This also would open the door for France to enter Sicily and the unholy alliance there that would prove to be a thorn in the side of the Holy See. That is because the young Frederick II, son of the late king of Sicily Henry IV and his wife Constance, had been entrusted to Pope Innocent III before their deaths and young Frederick was being groomed in affairs of the Church and state. This would eventually come back to haunt the Vatican. Meanwhile in France the king was Philip II and in England King John who in 1215 would be forced to sign the Magna Carta a landmark document that would usher out the medieval times and give rise to various philosophies, most notably the Renaissance two centuries later. Already there were conflicts throughout Europe beginning with Philip II in France who remarried without Church sanction. When he refused Innocent's command to separate from his new wife because his divorce was not recognized, the Pope excommunicated him and placed all of France under interdict, refusing the sacraments to the French people. They rose up as one to rebel and pursuade Philip to comply. The same situation occurred in England when King John refused to recognize the Pope's personal appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Innocent, not one to waste time, showed the force of the papacy by excommunicating the English monarch and placing an interdict on all of England. He even went so far as to offer all of England to France. That wised the king up fast and he came with hat in hand to the Holy Father, offering England as a fiefdom by agreeing to pay Rome an annual tribute. This, in actuality, established the English king as a vassal to the Pope and weakened the English monarchy for many years to come in the eyes of many. It also contributed to his weakened position at the bargaining table in having to concede much through the Magna Carta. Though it strengthened the authority of the Pope in dealing with royalty throughout Europe, there would be chinks in the armor that would eventually give way to rust and corrosion as we shall see in future installments.
Meanwhile in Assisi there was another type of Magna Carta being formed for a young nobleman had turned his back on his family's wealth and embraced poverty, laying out a rule that would revolutionize the world for Christ. He was, of course, the beloved Saint Francis of Assisi and so intent was he in founding a religious order of men that would fulfill what Jesus was asking of him, that he hiked on foot all the way from the climes of the mountainous Umbrian regions of Assisi down to Rome where he sought an audience with Innocent. Innocent initially turned the gristled, dust-ridden friar away but in a dream realized his great error and recalled Francis while enroute back to Assisi. Once Francis arrived back in the eternal city, Innocent III heartily gave the young friar his papal blessings for the Order of Friars Minor to begin. Like a fresh wind streaming across the earth, the Franciscans grew in numbers unprecedented in those days. Today they remain one of the largest and most effective religious orders in the Church. One of Francis' closest friars was Saint Anthony of Padua and, though Francis had longed to be a martyr in the Crusades, he and Anthony both preached the Crusade fostered by Innocent, going to Morocco, Egypt and Palestine. Five Franciscans were martyred but not Francis who returned to his village of Assisi where, with Saint Clare, he founded the Poor Clares.
While Francis was doing wonders preaching the Gospel in Italy and elsewhere, another great saint had formed a priestly order of homilists or Preachers who became the white-robed Dominicans after their founder Saint Dominic from Spain who had been born in 1170. He too received initial papal approval from Innocent though the Order of Preachers would not be officially approved until Innocent's successor issued a papal bull in 1218. Also during this period would be born two other great saints - Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor in England and Saint Bonaventure, a Franciscan Doctor of the Church. Both will be covered in future installments.
Before completing the illustrious papacy of Innocent III, we must mention his calling the Twelfth Ecumenical Council in 1215. Here at the Fourth Lateran Council another Crusade was planned as we covered in the last installment, and a Christian's "Easter Duty" was established as mandatory for the universal Churhc. In addition the Council instituted the word for confecting the bread and wine: Transubstantiation. In addition, Albigensianism was condemmed, a heresy that taught that sacraments were invalid and ushered in sexual promiscuity because of that false belief in matrimony. Albigensianism also denied the Trinity and taught more of a Zoroaster theology of good and evil. Those who would not comply would be subject to punishment. While Innocent's successor is responsible for officially beginning the Inquisition, it had its roots at this Council. Pope Innocent III was also highly influential in bringing the Armenian and Maronite churches back in union with Rome where they remain today.
Following the Council and enroute to Perugia to settle differences between the warring seaport cities of Genoa and Pisa, Innocent contracted a fever and died on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16, 1216. He was entombed in Perugia until 1891 when Pope Leo XIII ordered his remains reburied in a transept of the Lateran where his memory could be properly reverenced. His memory remains to this day that of the man who ushered in the century of the saints that marked the end of the "medieval papacy" and the dawn of a new, fresher, more spiritual direction for the Church which would brighten under Innocent's successor Pope Honorius III as we shall see next week.
Today we bring you the Holy Father's Angelus from this past Sunday where the Holy Father addressed the multitudes in St. Peter's Square immediately after his unprecedented and historic Mea Culpa in St. Peter's Basilica during his Papal Mass. In his address he reiterated the necessity and sincerity in this universal pardon and reemphasized that it in no way impugns those Church members who have preceded us but is a cleansing process before God in order to allow all Catholics to clear their consciences and proceed in this new millennium as "credible witnesses of Hope." Because the Pope is on his annual Lenten Papal Retreat, he did not have his regular Wednesday Papal Audience. See THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
1. Today we have celebrated the Day of Forgiveness in the framework of faith of the Great Jubilee. This morning in St. Peter's Basilica, I presided over a moving and solemn penitential act. On this first Sunday of Lent, in the name of all the Christian people, Bishops and ecclesial communities in different parts of the world have knelt before God to implore his forgiveness.
The Holy Year is a time of purification: The Church is Holy because Christ is her Head and Spouse, the Spirit her vivifying soul and the Blessed Virgin and the saints her most authentic expression. However, the children of the Church know the reality of sin, whose shadows are reflected in her, darkening her beauty. For this reason, the Church does not cease to implore God's forgiveness for the sins of her members.
2. This is not a judgment on the subjective responsibility of brothers who preceded us: this is something that corresponds only to God Who, unlike us human beings, is capable of "scrutinizing the heart and mind." Today's act is a sincere acknowledgement of the faults committed by the children of the Church in the remote and recent past, and a humble supplication for God's forgiveness. This will undoubtedly awaken consciences, enabling Christians to enter the third millennium more open to God and his plan of love.
As we ask for forgiveness, we forgive. This is what we say every day when we pray the prayer Christ taught us: "Our Father... forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." May this Jubilee Day bring all believers the fruit of reciprocal forgiveness given and received!
From forgiveness reconciliation flowers. This is what we desire for the whole ecclesial community, for the ensemble of all believers in Christ, and for the whole world.
3. Forgiven and ready to forgive, Christians enter the third millennium as more credible witnesses of hope. After centuries characterized by violence and destruction, and after this particularly dramatic one, the Church presents to humanity, which crosses the threshold of the third millennium, the Gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation, as the premise to construct an authentic peace.
Be witnesses of hope! This is also the theme of the Spiritual Exercises that I will begin this afternoon with my collaborators in the Roman Curia. Beginning now, I thank those who will accompany me in these days of prayer and I invoke the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Divine Mercy, to help all of us to live fruitfully the time of Lent.
Today we continue with our new series in the search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith. Today we present the first part of the catechesis on Venial sin, one that weakens us and eats away at sanctifying grace, making us sad and prey for satan to pounce in trying to drag us into mortal sin. This sin, while somewhat grievous still allows us to partake in the Sacraments and is pardonable through absolution, a good Act of Contrition, true penitence and good works. For part two in the 132nd installment, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH
Although venial sin is not a grievous offense against God, it is nevertheless a great moral evil, next alone to mortal sin. It is like a drop of ink in a glassful of clear water; the ink, however little, takes away the clearness.
If often committed, venial sin weakens the will, lessens our power to resist evil, and makes it easier for us to fall into mortal sin. "He that condemneth small things shall fall by little and little" (Ecclesiastes 19:1). "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in a very little thing is unjust also in much" (Luke 16:10). A great fire is started by a tiny breeze. Venial sin, by weakening the will, makes up indisposed for good, and lukewarm in God's service.
Venial sin deprives us of many actual graces we need for resisting temptation. When a mirror is dusty, it cannot reflect the image clearly; similarly the mirror of the soul, when dusty with venial sin, cannot reflect the light of grace and justice. God will not bestow his blessings and graces on one whose soul is disfigured by venial sin, as a distinguished personage is not expected to embrace a man who is disfigured by a skin disease.
Venial sin deprives us of Heaven for a time. If we die with venial sins on our souls, or without fully satisfying for them, we have to expiate for them in Purgatory. A great desire not to offend God in the least is the best proof of love and loyalty towards our Heavenly Father.
Holy Scripture shows many instances of God's hatred for venial sin, which He punishes severely even on earth. For her curiosity, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. "But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).
We can keep from committing sin by praying and by receiving the sacraments; by remembering that God is always with us; by recalling that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit; by keeping occupied with work or play; by promptly resisting the sources of sin within us; by avoiding the near occasions of sin.
Prayer and the sacraments protect us from sin. They are like a strong fortress against which the enemy strikes in vain, and within which the soul remains safe in the grace of God. When the Apostles were in danger on the Lake of Genessareth, they had recourse to prayer. We are ever in danger from sin while we live; let us build up around us a rampart of prayer. God will protect us, as He protected the Apostles; He will answer our prayer. The soul nourished by the sacraments is strong, and will not easily succumb to sin; as a healthy body does not easily succumb to disease.
Even good people fall into sins, frequently because they forget God's presence. Let us remember that the eye of God is always upon us, every single moment. Then, if we love Him, we would never sin, never insult His presence by sin. If we had a distinguished personage before us, would we commit indecent acts? Would we steal, or use bad language? But is not God the most distinguished of all persons, and is He not always looking on us?
When we are in the state of grace, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in it as Jesus Christ lives in the tabernacle. If we remember this always, we shall be greatly helped in avoiding sin.
The most practical way of avoiding sin is to keep occupied with work or play. Man must do something; if he does not do something good, he will do something evil. A busy instrument cannot be used in doing mischief. Robbers will hesitate to enter a house where the occupants are busy. If we are occupied in doing good, we have no time to sit idly and wag our tongues in gossip. In other words, idleness is the devil's workshop.
Tomorrow: Occasions and Sources of Sin part one
On this day two years ago the Vatican published the document "We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoa" which was the Church's way of saying they commiserate with the Jewish people for the terrible treatment delivered on the children of the Covenant and any lack of Christian spiritual or corporal help during those trying times. Yet many radical Jewish factions wanted more blood and expected the Vatican to admit all-out guilt when, in truth, she was one of the Jews' strongest empathizers. Despite this sensitive document, many liberal Jews called for the head of Pope Pius XII. For other time capsule events that happened in Church history on this date, see MILLENNIUM MILESTONES AND MEMORIES
The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I marries Bianca Sforza, the daughter of Italian powerbroker Francesco Sforza
Close of the Fifth Lateran Council by Pope Leo X where the Council Fathers declared nul and void the Council of Pisa. Events in the aftermath of this council and Leo's actions led to Martin Luther's revolt.
Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Philippines and declares them for Portugal and Holy Mother Church. The faith has remained strong in these islands on the northern edge of Oceania.
Martyrdom of Jesuit missionaries in East Africa.
The Vatican releases the long-awaited document "We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoah" that is still under scrutiny by radical Jewish factions who insist on placing the blame of the Holocaust on the Catholic Church because they assumed the Holy See and Catholic people didn't do enough when, in truth, it was the Catholic Church who not only stood with the Jews in the concentration camps, but clandestinely stole many a member of the Covenant out of harm's way by hiding them from the Nazis.
Historical Events in Church Annals for March 16:
Death of Saint Heribert, abbot . Canonized by Pope Gregory VII in 1074.
1494 A.D. The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I marries Bianca Sforza, the daughter of Italian powerbroker Francesco Sforza
1517 A.D. Close of the Fifth Lateran Council by Pope Leo X where the Council Fathers declared nul and void the Council of Pisa. Events in the aftermath of this council and Leo's actions led to Martin Luther's revolt.
1521 A.D. Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Philippines and declares them for Portugal and Holy Mother Church. The faith has remained strong in these islands on the northern edge of Oceania.
1561 A.D. Martyrdom of Jesuit missionaries in East Africa.
1998 A.D. The Vatican releases the long-awaited document "We Remember: A Reflection of the Shoah" that is still under scrutiny by radical Jewish factions who insist on placing the blame of the Holocaust on the Catholic Church because they assumed the Holy See and Catholic people didn't do enough when, in truth, it was the Catholic Church who not only stood with the Jews in the concentration camps, but clandestinely stole many a member of the Covenant out of harm's way by hiding them from the Nazis.
Today and tomorrow we observe the Lenten liturgy with tomorrow's Optional Feast of Saint Patrick of Ireland, Bishop and Apostle of the Emerald Isle. Though it is optional, the majority of the parishes across the country will celebrate this feast with many bishops giving a dispensation from meat on this day of cornbeef and cabbage. For the readings, liturgies, meditations, and profile on Saint Patrick, see DAILY LITURGY.