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 second 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 and the time leading up to the Gregorian era which we cover today in chronicling the achievements of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
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.
The Agony and ecstasy of the Church after Pope Gregory the Great - Part One
The first 300 years following the Gregorian Era
Next Wednesday: Installment Twenty-five: Agony and Ecstasy of the Church after Gregory the Great part two: The Apostolic Line of Peter from 604 to 900 A.D.
After docking for awhile in detailing the Tools of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we resume our voyage on the Barque of Peter after the Gregorian era as the Church embarks on a Holy Campaign to solidify her supremacy in bitter clashes with enemies of the Church.
The Church underwent severe growing pains from the time of Pope Saint Gregoryīs death through the thirteenth century and beyond. The split with the Eastern Church and the festering boils of heresies such as Iconoclasm, Monotheietsm, and the worst fears of all - the bloody swath of Islam which slashed its way across the continent of southern Asia, Africa and inflitrated Europe. To stave off this deadly threat to Christianity, the Popes organized a series of Crusades to recoup the land conquered by Mohammedīs Saracens - especially the sacred ground where Christ walked in the Holy Land. For over 200 years these "Holy Wars" were staged, some successful under the leadership of such stalwart commanders as Richard the Lion-Hearted, Emperor Frederick and Saint Louis, King of France. Some, such as the third and sixth Crusades were most successful, but others were bungled and poorly planned. Yet the campaign held the Muslims at bay and opened the door for commerce to the East as well as filling the coffers of many merchants, who in turn contributed to the Church and which, in turn, allowed the Church to fund numerous missionary endeavors and build new monastries and churches. Of the Churchīs 21 Ecumenical Councils held throughout her history, eight were convened during the tumultous period we will cover now.
Though the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself did not undergo any dramatic changes after Pope St. Gregory the Great had firmly established - by his papal authority - a set ritual and rubrics to accompany the reverence for this austere and supreme sacrifice, the Church did undergo many trials from 604 to 1300 AD.
As many saints and scholars have said down through the ages: "The Church is the Mass and the Mass is the Church," so therefore the history of the Roman Catholic Church has a significant role in how and why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the focal point of all praise and honor due the Blessed Trinity. From the Last Supper and the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary to this present day of the Novus Ordo, no one observance is more vital, more grace filled than the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through all the trials in her nearly 2000-year-old history, Holy Mother Church gained the necessary strength through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to persevere against all assaults, assured by her Founder Jesus Christ that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"(Matthew 16:18).
During the three hundred years after Pope St. Gregory, the Church was aided by many great saints who fostered the faith, converting thousands upon thousands of pagans. Notable among these saints were: Saint Boniface who brought the Word to countless Slavs in Germany; Saint Bathildes, queen of France who forbade the enslavement of Christians and Saint Omer who baptized thousands of Franks Saint Isidore, a Doctor of the Church; Saint Wulfran who converted countless Normans; Sts. Lambert and Hubert who converted Austria; Saint Ludger responsible for the manifold conversion of countless Saxons; Saint Willibrord who carried on the conversions begun by Saint Patrick in Ireland; and Saint Eligius, a prophet who foretold of what was to come in the next few decades.
They all played a significant role in the conversion to the true faith in the Celtic countries, then England, and later to the heathen tribes of Europe. The great Concil of Nicea (II) took place during this period - 787 in which the true doctrine of the Church was defined. This seventh Ecumenical Council helped exterminate the heresy called Iconoclasm which was fostered by the Greek emperor Leo in 727 when he forbade the veneration of all images as idolatry. This led to many mobs forcibly breaking into churches and destroying priceless works of Christian art and statues. In the year 867 a council of Eastern bishops was held resulting in the breakaway of the Eastern Orthodox Church from Rome. It was not so much doctrinal as political and material, desiring to have more power and jealous of Western influence. But the Church survived despite the great loss in numbers and in the same year Constantinople broke away, the Church of Rome had reached all the way to Kiev in Russia.
In 754 the Lombards invaded Italy, threatening the seat of Christianity. Pope Stephen II begged Pepin, the Frankish king to help. On defeating the Lombards, he deeded the conquered provinces to the Pope. Pepinīs successor Charlemagne, who ruled early in the ninth century, also gave the Popes title to more land and with the king of the Franksī influence, the way was paved for the Latin Mass to spread throughout continental Europe and beyond.