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 in which the Church evolves into a power thanks to Constantine the Great as the persecutions cease during the fourth century in IN HOC SIGNO VINCES, part two.
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.
IN HOC SIGNO VINCES
The first pontiff of the fifth century was Pope Saint Innocent I who followed Pope Saint Anastasius I. The former had died on December 19, 401 after a two year pontificate that bridged the centuries. Pope Saint Innocent was born in Albano and elected on December 22, 401. During his pontificate Rome was sacked by the Goths of Alaric, but that did not prevent him from establishing the observance of the Roman rite. While the city of Rome was diminishing, the Church of Rome was gaining strength. He also managed to persuade the Roman Emperor Honorius to cease gladiatorial contests in the arena. He died on March 12, 417. It was during his reign that a British monk, Pelagius spread the
heresy of rejecting the doctrine of original sin, stressing the natural
over the supernatural that man could attain heaven without grace. Sounds
familiar to some of the modernist teaching of today and new age belief that
man can obtain salvation by himself! The great doctor of the Church Saint
Augustine teamed with Pope Innocent to condemn this heresy of Pelagianism
at the Council of Carthage in 411, the Council of Milevis in 416 and
finally at the Council of Ephesus in 431 through the inspired Augustinian
The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity.
With this and other heresies occupying much of the Church's time, they
didn't realize the seriousness of the barbarian threat until it was late.
During the reigns of Innocent's successors Pope Saint Zosimas, Pope Saint Boniface I and Pope Saint Celestine I the hordes inched closer and closer to Rome.
Pope St. Zosimas succeeded Innocent on March 18, 417 and died a little over a year later on December 26, 418. He was headstrong in insisting that the rights of the Church were paramount in the face of foreign interference. He was of very strict morals and decreed that illegitimate children could not be raised to the priesthood. It was Zosimas who dispatched the first apostolic vicars to the Franks.
His successor was Pope Saint Boniface I who was elected the 42nd successor of Peter on December 28, 418. His pontificate lasted until his death on September 4, 422. It was during his papacy that the secular power interference first raised its ugly head with the interference of Charles of Ravenna in regards election of the Popes. Boniface's consecration was delayed for several months because of opposition presented by Charles.
Pope St. Celestine I followed him on September 10, 422. His pontificate would last ten years in which he would convene the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 in which the divine maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary would be declared dogma and Nestorianism - what the followers of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople preached would be condemned along with Pelagianism. It was Celestine who would send Saint Patrick to Ireland and it was during his papacy that the mention was first made of the "pastoral staff."
Celestine's successor was Pope Saint Sixtus III who was elected on July 31, 432 four days after Celestine's death. Sixtus would enlarge and embellish the Basilicas of Saint Mary Major and Saint Lawrence. This 44th Vicar in the line of Peter authored several epistles and upheld the jurisdiction of Rome over Illyria against the Easter Emperor who wanted Illyria dependent on Constantinople.
On the death of Sixtus, Pope Saint Leo the Great was the chosen 45th successor of Peter and consecrated on the feast of St. Michael in God's providence. St. Leo I enjoyed the longest reign of any pontiff to date - 21 years. But he needed that time for there were many trials ahead such as more heresies and threatened schisms, specifically the heresy of Eutychianism, so named after another powerful monk - this time in the court of Constantinople - who professed there was only one nature in Jesus. This was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Fourth Ecumenical Council called by Leo. He also called the Fifth Ecumenical Council at Constantinople two years later in which the Three Chapters were condemned. From there it was "out of the frying pan into the fire" for a few years later Attila the Hun, known to all as the "Scourge of God", paraded his hordes to the gates of Rome. There Leo went out bravely to meet this feared despot who was drooling in anticipation of capturing this most prized city. Leo prevailed upon Attila to turn back. With Heavenly intervention in which Attila was allowed see both Saint Peter and Saint Paul standing behind Pope Leo, Attila turned and ordered his men not to attack to everyone's astonishment,
including the Hun leader's own chiefs. But Attila knew he was dealing with more than mere mortals here and thus Christianity was saved at the gates of Rome as this barbaric leader turned on his heals, retreating all the way back to the Danube River. Leo passed to his eternal reward on November 10, 461.
As we will learn in next week's installment, Rome and the entire
continent of Europe eventually fell under the darkened veil of barbarism,
but the missionaries and teachers of the Church mingled with the barbarians
and brought the light once more out of the darkness through their faith,
patience, understanding, and love. Great saints rose up such as St.
Patrick who migrated to Ireland, Saint Augustine to England, Saint Boniface to
Germany. The rest is history as these nations along with Italy, Spain and
France were converted to Christianity opening the door for the Golden Age
of the Mass, which we will explore in following installments as we follow
the development of the Eucharistic Liturgy during the fourth, fifth and
Next Week: Installment Thirteen: Apostles of Europe