DAILY CATHOLIC   WEDNESDAY    June 2, 1999    vol. 10, no. 106


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      In this journey on the Barque of Peter, we continue to detail the evolution of the Mass and the Church from the early Christian times to our present day so that all may better understand the true meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our faith - the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today we cover the period from Pope Saint Leo the Great until the early sixth century and the advent of modern monasticism with Saint Benedict in the wings. The fall of the Roman Empire and the invading hordes throughout Europe plunged the known world and the Church into a dark void better known as the "Dark Ages" for several centuries. It would only be by the light of the faith that many would be able to find their way.       We will be using various sources, but the best are four books that are out of print but provide so much solid material: "My Catholic Faith - A Manual of Religion" (1949) by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, S.T.D. from My Mission House ; "The Glories and Triumphs of the Catholic Church" (1907) from Benziger Brothers; "The Catholic Church Alone the One True Church of Christ" (1902) from the Catholic Educational Company; and "Cabinet of Catholic Information" (1904) from Duggan Publishing Co. In addition we will be using material gleaned from "The Oxford Dictionary of Popes" by J.N.D. Kelly; The Papal Princes: A History of the Sacred College of Cardinals" by Glenn D. Kittler; "Pontiffs: Popes who shaped history" by John Jay Hughes; "The Mass of the Roman Rite" by Fr. Josef Jungmann, S.J.; "The Story of the Church" from Tan Books by Fr. George Johnson, PhD; "The Story of the Mass" by Fr. Pierre Loret; "Rubrics of the Mass" by Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas; "The Wonders of the Mass" by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.; and the Code of Canon Law", as well as the "Catechism of the Catholic Church"; "Baltimore Catechism"; Catholic Encyclopedia (Thomas Nelson Publishers); "Catholic Dictionary" by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.; "Dictionary of Saints" by John J. Delaney; "Butler's Lives of the Saints" from Benziger Brothers; "Saints of the Roman Calendar" by Enzo Lodi and Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP; "1999 Catholic Almanac" from Our Sunday Visitor, and numerous missals and references.

      With a better perception of what the Church stands for and what the Mass truly is, we will not so easily be swayed by new-fangled gimmicks and liturgical abuses being introduced by individual celebrants and ICEL, the International Committee for English in the Liturgy. We will discover why the basis for the use of vestments and sacred vessels, the purpose for the Rubrics of the Mass, the logic of Church Scholars and Popes through the ages for fending off changes that would water-down the faith and the Holy Sacrifice and even invalidate the greatest remembrance Christ gave to His Church.

Installment Thirteen

Apostles of Europe shed the light of faith as the world enters the Dark Ages

          With the death of Pope Saint Leo the Great, the 45th successor of Peter, the Roman Empire continued to be ravaged by barbarian hordes throughout Europe. Through the generosity of Constantine, the Church flourishes as basilicas and ornate churches are built to accommodate the growing faith. Various liturgies of the Mass would sprout from the different rites and it would be left to Pope Saint Gregory the Great, one of the great and holy Doctors in Church History to package a liturgy that would be acceptable to all parties late in the sixth century. His mixture of Gregorian Chant, pageantry, devotion, and reverence for the Liturgy would unify the Church against the various schisms threatening Christ's True Church on all sides. From the conquests and migration of warring tribes, intermarriages and the thirst for peace, the door for Christianity is opened and allowed to take root in the far regions of the Roman Empire as the populace turns to the Holy See for both spiritual and political direction.

          In the last installment, we dealt with the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity thanks to Constantine the Great. When this emperor moved the seat of his empire to Constantinople, (today known as Istanbul), Rome was pretty much abandoned and left vulnerable to the prey of successive hordes of barbarians. Without an emperor, the Romans turned to the Popes as their only governors and protectors. Pope St. Leo the Great became legendary for saving Rome from Attila the Hun, known as 'The Scourge of God" and later from Genseric the hated Vandal. After years of religious persecution by the Roman emperors, the barbarian invasions took their toll with the populace.

          Though victorious, the Popes were still forced to try to compromise with the horde leaders for anarchy reared its ugly head in all regions. This came about because those who feared the barbarians would flee to other regions. Yet they sadly became the very things they were running from, pillaging, and looting others in order to exist. Chaos became the norm and despair hit an all time high. Many believed the end was near including Saint Augustine when the hordes were laying siege to his beloved area of North Africa. Some accounts say that this renowned Doctor of the Church died assuming it was the tribulation prophesied in the Apocalypse.

          It signaled the beginning of the "Dark Ages" throughout Europe - a time when the early ardor of religious life waned, due largely to the confusion and devastation caused by the wholesale barbarian invasions that had greatly upset the natural order of the Church's progression.

          Yet, throughout history when things look the bleakest God is always there to rescue His creatures. This He did by allowing the Angle clans from northern Europe to invade Britannia overpowering the Celtic tribes. Strange though it may seem, these conquering clans made it possible for Christianity to spread - for their culture was more conducive to accepting the Gospel since they had already been exposed to it. Besides, in times of conquests intermarriages become more prevalent. The bloodlines had been drawn. It was left to the Church to pick up the pieces and reconstruct civilization fostering the fruits of persecution and hardship through the rise of monasticism, great schools and ultimately the affluence of Gothic architecture, which would manifest itself in future centuries.

          The Bishop of Rome has from Apostolic times been looked upon as the universal head of the Church. From the beginning appeals were made to the Popes and disputes were settled by the pontiffs. There have been many appeals throughout the long history of the Church. In the fifth century the Bishop in the East, Saint Theodoret was deposed and appealed to the Pope who in turn ordered him reinstated. Though the saint was martyred, the papal proclamation proved that both in the east and west the Pope was recognized as the head of the Church. This was accepted until great schism of the Eastern church in the ninth century. In every case, they were always referred to Rome. Leo the Great had solidified the power of the Sovereign Pontiff in Rome and it would be left to his successors to carry this out as the Church expanded to further regions of the expanding Roman empire. Leo's successor was Pope Saint Hilary who was elected on November 19, 461 and served as 46th in the line of Peter until his death on February 29, 468. He was a carbon copy of Leo in political thought and came to the decision that a certain level of culture was necessary in the formation of the priesthood and also that popes and bishops should not name or nominate their successors. He also firmly established the Church in the far reaches of Spain by instituting an apostolic vicariate there.

          Pope Saint Simplicius followed Hilary on March 3, 468 and ruled for fifteen years. It was during his pontificate that the great Roman Empire fell and the schism slithered in which led to the founding of the Churches of Armenia, Syria and the Coptic Church in Egypt. In later years most would return to the fold. Simplicius, born in Tivoli, regulated the distribution of offerings to pilgrims and allocated these funds for new churches.

          His successor was Pope Felix III, elected three days after Simplicius' death. It was left to Felix to try to restore peace in the disturbed Eastern Church. Felix was married before celibacy was mandatory for clergy and fathered several sons, one of which would become the father of the famous Saint Gregory the Great. Very little else is known of this 48th successor of Peter who died on March 1, 492. On the very same day he died Pope Saint Gelasius I was chosen to lead the Church. His pontificate lasted four years until September 21, 496. Gelasius is called the "Father of the Poor" because of his sincere charity to the people. Gelasius instituted the Code for the uniform regulation of ceremonies and rites and is remembered fo rmaintaining supremacy of the Church over that wielded by monarchs and other rulers. It was Gelasius who inserted the Greek Kyrie eleison into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and established the Feast of the Purification.

          Gelasius was followed by the first non-canonized pope in the nearly five hundred year line of popes when Pope Anastasius II was elected as the 50th successor of Peter. Born in Rome, he was elected on November 24, 496 and died two years later. It is amazing that Anastasius was not a saint considering it was he who brought about the conversion of King Clovis, monarch of the Franks which included the Frankish people and ultimately all of France which to this day remains Catholic. Many believe because he was weak with the schismatics that he was never canonized. In the middle ages, when the satirical poet Dante placed Anastasius in hell in his "Inferno", that did not endear anyone to this misunderstood pontiff who ruled only for two years.

          His successor was Pope Saint Symmachus who would not only return the line of pontiffs to the status of saints for the next succeeding popes, but also bring the Church into the Sixth Century for he was elected on November 22, 498 and would oversee Holy Mother Church until his death on July 19, 514. Symmachus, the 51st in the line of Peter, was born in Sardinia and, as pope, ransomed all the slaves he could, giving them their desired freedom through consolidation of Church property. He also established a permanent benefices for the support of the clergy. To St. Symmachus is attributed the first construction of the Vatican Palace.

          In the next installment we shall cover the first half of the Sixth Century, the Century of the growth of monasticism when Saint Benedict would become the father of western monasticism with the establishment of his Order of Benedictines.

Next Week: Installment Fourteen: The Church grows in unity and diversity

June 2, 1999       volume 10, no. 106


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