Speaking of victory, the weapon of the baseball bat has been used this year for what it was meant to be utilized for - hitting the horsehide out of the park rather than battering heads in domestic disputes and gangland violence. Credit men like Mark "Big Mac" McGwire and Sammy "Say it's so" Sosa who gave us all plenty of thrills and chills in a season never to be forgotten; a season that brought to the surface what's right with America in the face of the atrocities in Washington, D.C. But now Sammy and Mark have put their bats aside as four other teams play on for the ultimate crown of Major League Baseball. The perennial favorite is the American League's New York Yankees with their millions-dollar lineup and record wins total going against last year's runner up the Cleveland Indians who came oh-so close to beating the Marlins. In the National League you've got the traditional October participants in the Atlanta Braves and that Cinderella San Diego team from the left coast who gets no prime time respect from the networks. But that's okay, we're pretty giddy around here today because our Padres are in the National League Championship Series against the dreaded Braves owned by pro-abortionist Ted Turner. While we're pulling for our swingin' friars to upend Turner's boys and then put it to the Yanks or Tribe, a Heavenly world series would have been the Padres and Angels - a I-5 series since the two teams are just 75 miles apart in Southern California. The Pads have been to the promised land once back in 1984 when they lost to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. The Anaheim Angels have never made it to the ultimate show to the chagrin of its previous owner Gene Autry who passed away fittingly on the Feast of the Guardian Angels this past Friday at the age of 91. Like another great American cowbow Roy Rogers who we wrote about a few months ago in these pages, Autry was an icon. In fact, he was the last of the Cowboys who, oddly enough got his start back in 1920 through the help of probably America's most famous cowboy Will Rogers who will forever be remembered for "I never met a man I didn't like." Talk about Christ-like! With the passing of Autry, we're left with yet another void of good people who influenced the youth of America in the right way. It's another sign of the times that all the good role models are dying out. While it is our loss that ol' Gene is gone, now he's with that great team above where victory is assured because the Angels always win!
Very few are pulling for the Angels baseball team now because it is owned by that conglomerate known as the Disney Corporation which is a far cry from another who gave us values and hope as youngsters - Walt Disney. Today Disney is a megamogul who controls practically everything, including the ABC Network. That is why it was surprising that Sunday night on 20/20 they did such an excellent job in bringing viewers a 45 minute feature on little Audrey Santo, the paralyzed victim soul in Massachusetts. Our thanks to Sister Mary Lucy Astuto for notifying us of it being on television. She has visited little Audrey numerous times and was the first to inform us about her experiences years ago. We'd always known about Audrey and the mystical oils that flow throughout Audrey's room but the piece Sunday night revealed something not everyone truly knew - that Audrey's mother Linda Santo is the real saint through all this. Talk about a female Job! She never gave up her faith despite her husband leaving her for a time, her daughter in a permanent coma, contracting breast cancer, having to sell her home and raising not only Audrey but five other kids as well. Through it all she remains stronger than ever in her faith, always there for Audrey, always there for her family, always there for her husband who, like the prodigal son, returned repentant, and always there for those who come in fervent prayer and hope. Nevermind the rock, movie and sports idols, Linda Santo is the true role model! Despite the cynicism of skeptical 20-20 host Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer seemed genuinely convinced and the piece by correspondent Lynn Schurr was A++. The best aspect of this heart-rendering piece was that all subjects interviewed were sincerely convinced that these phenomenas surrounding Audrey are from God. An even better result was that they didn't ask the opinion of perennial American Catholic expert Richard McBrien, the liberal, radical priest from Notre Dame who seems to be the media's darling for bashing the Church from within. We do know that several years ago McBrien on the same network during a Nightline segment said, and we quote, "The sooner we get rid of the rosary beads, the better off the church will be." What's so sad is so many Catholics believe him. Evidently he never heard of Lepanto. Evidently he doesn't realize what victory really means. Evidently he has no concept of the word "intercession." And, because of that, even though he is a theologian, he must have skipped Mariology 101. No victory is possible without a price and the price of victory is only possible through prayer - especially the Rosary!
He sought to make a name on the international scene and this proved to be his achilles heel. He tried to intervene as an arbitrator between England's King Edward I and France's King Philip IV. Both in Britain and France the Church was being pressed to help finance and support the war and the bishops and clergy complained bitterly that they were being squeezed for funds that were being taken away from the Church and their own projects. The Pope got tough and issued a papal bull which forbid the clergy from contributing to the monarchs without papal approval. But he was in over his head because Edward retaliated by forbidding the clergy from practicing the faith, including the Sacraments and Philip cut off shipments of gold out of the country. The latter was a crucial move because the Holy See received considerable revenue from France through the exporting of the precious metal. Realizing he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Boniface blinked and relented. In order to appease Philip IV he made the gesture of canonizing the king's grandfather King Louis IX who truly deserved the acclimation as saint for the life he lead as ruler, crusader, father, husband and friend of the poor and downtrodden.
Meanwhile, the Colonna family, intent on revenge, took advantage of Boniface's misfortune and circulated throughout Europe a long list of the crimes they felt Boniface was guilty of committing. But this backfired because of the Boniface's crafty collusions with other powerful barons who convinced many of the European princes that the charges were false. While Boniface gloated over this trump he failed to see what was sneaking up behind him. Two of the Colonna-influenced cardinals took up refuge in Philip's court and convinced the king that Boniface was plotting against the monarch. Philip used that to turn the tables on the Church and began milking the clergy for more than the allotted tithing. Boniface countered by ordering the bishop of Pamiers, France to preach a crusade against the king. Philip's move was to have the bishop incarcerated, then composed a counterfeit papal bull which really put Boniface in a bad light: In it the Pope was supposed to have decreed that he was the head of France and that all Frenchmen had to bow to the Pope. Boniface rallied by issuing a real Papal Bull warning the French monarch of such treachery and deceit, withdrawing the exemptions he had granted earlier, and called a synod of the French bishops in 1302 to meet in Rome to determine what direction to take with this dilemna with the king. During the synod is when Boniface ushered his landmark Papal Bull Unam sanctam which basically stated that the Pope is not in charge of secular matters but in all things relating to the Church he is in charge. This decree has withstood the test of time as it is the case today as then that all Catholics are subject to the Pope in regards faith and morals.
During this time the Flemish dealt Philip a brutal defeat at the Battle of Coutrais, but that did not deter the French ruler from remaining stubborn to Boniface's actions. Boniface threatened to deliver the final blow of bell, book and candle to the French monarch with his prepared Papal Bull Super Petri solio if reconciliation could not be reached, but Philip didn't blink. He had already recruited the armies of the Colonna family headed by Sciarra Colonna aided by Guillaume de Nogaret, Philip's new advisor, to march into Anagni where Boniface's quarters were and capture the Pope, which they did. Boniface was quite willing to be the martyr, exclaiming to Nogaret, "Here is my neck, here be my head, I offer it to you as God so deigns." Fearing he would be remembered as a martyred Pope that would further his own political cause in the eyes of the people, Nogaret opted to imprison him instead. Sciarra and others within the Colonna family hated Boniface so much that they argued vehemently that Boniface should die. This fued between Nogaret and Sciarra proved to be Boniface's break for while they were fighting in-house, one of the anti-Colonna leaders Cardinal Nicholas Boccasini from the rival Orsini family rescued him and drove the Colonna family from Anagni. After resting in the Orsini refuge, Boniface returned to Rome on September 25, 1303 under protection of the Orsini family but, demoralized over the events that had transpired and spent physically from the ordeals, died on October 11th, 1303.
While Boniface's exploits politically were ruthless and cunning and met with deserved defeat, his contributions spiritually were surprisingly pious and did contribute somewhat to the growth of the Church. He was known to go in prayer at least for two solid hours daily and used his brilliance as a canon lawyer to compose the third part of the Corpus of Canon Law as well as extending the five books of Pope Gregory IX's Liber extra with his Liber sextus. It was Boniface who reorganized the curial administration and gave a catalog system to the Papal Library as well as setting up a new system for the Vatican archives. While he greatly curtailed the progress made by mendicant orders and gave more preference to the diocesan secular priests, he did establish universities , most notably the Sapienza University in Rome. He was a fervent patron of the arts and commissioned many works of art including numerous statues of himself which should not be so surprising considering his personal vanity and pride. In the long run, this man of intelligence was not as smart as some may have given him credit for since he was often blinded by revenge, insensitivity to others and, basically, had no real friends. In the end he died alone and friendless and few mourned his death as they had so many pontiffs before and after him, such as Pope Blessed Benedict XI who we shall cover next week.