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March 3, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 44

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air...

     Though they didn't have such firepower as rockets or bombs in the thirteenth century, nevertheless the fireworks that Pope Gregory IX faced throughout his papacy with the rebellious emperor Frederick II left a glare on the landscape that would have set Europe back had it not been for the saints who sprouted from the seeds of the Orders founded by the great Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. Gregory fostered holiness among the religious and is known as the "Canonizer" for elevating the two previously mentioned founders as well as Saint Anthony of Padua and others as we continue our on-going chronological mega series on the Church through the ages. Click on THE HISTORY OF THE MASS AND HOLY MOTHER CHURCH


     The pontificate of Pope Gregory IX was marked with agony and ecstacy; agony at the dealings and political machinations with the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II who Gregory was embroiled in bitter struggle throughout his papacy, excommunicating the spoiled ward of Pope Innocent III to whom Constance wife of Emperor Henry had entrusted when Frederick was a young boy. For his struggles with Frederick, as well as officially implementing the institution of the "Holy Inquisition," Gregory received the moniker - the "Excommunicator." But as low as those points were, the high points of Gregory's nearly fourteen year papal reign were his canonizations of such luminary saints as Saint Francis, Saint Anthony, Saint Dominic and a host of others, as well as promoting religious life throughout all of Europe. For this he was nicknamed the "Canonizer." Gregory approved the collection of Divine Offices and prepared the Sixth Crusade while failing in his bid to reunite East and West.

Pope Gregory IX: Canonizer and Excommunicator

     The death of Pope Honorius III prompted the College of Cardinals to act quickly. Within one day they had chosen their man - a Pope who would rule for fourteen years and establish stability within the Holy See through his forthrightness, piousness and strictness that would award the holy and punish the wicked. This man was Cardinal Ugolino, who was the nephew of Pope Innocent III and the son of the Count of Segni. Born around 1155 in Anagni, he was nurtured in ecclesiastical circles - first in canon law and theology at the University of Paris, then Bologna where he was eventually elevated to cardinal deacon by Innocent in 1198 and then cardinal bishop of Ostia in 1206. Innocent employed him as papal legate to deal with political leaders in Italy, Lombardy, Tuscany and Germany as well. It served him well throughout his papacy. On March 19, 1227 - the feast of Saint Joseph - he was installed as the one hundred and seventy eighth successor of Peter and chose the name Pope Gregory IX in honor of the pontiff Pope Gregory VIII who lived only a few months in 1187, the same year Ugolino was made a bishop. His choice of the name Gregory ended the string of seven of eight predecessors who had chosen a name with III after it.

     One of Gregory's greatest passions was his zeal for the mendicant orders. He is known as the "Canonizer" for not only was a personal friend of Saint Dominic and Saint Francis, but he also canonized his dear friends. It was Gregory who presided at the funeral Mass of St. Dominic in 1221 in Bologna. He elevated Francis to sainthood on July 16, 1228 and followed that up the next day by laying the cornerstone for the basilica in Assisi that bears Francis' name and where he is buried in the crypt today. It is the same church which sustained heavy damage during the most recent earthquakes in the Umbria region late last Fall. Gregory is credited as well for fostering the growth of both the Franciscans and Poor Claires, as well as other established orders for he truly realized the importance of these spiritual warriors in the life of the Church. He canonized Francis' most faithful follower Saint Anthony of Padua on May 30, 1232, then Saint Virgil of Salzburg, a bishop known as the Apostle of Carinthia on June 10, 1233. A year later the Pope was privileged to raise his good friend St. Dominic on August 8, 1234 to sainthood. He followed two years later by canonizing Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia at ceremonies in Perugia. Besides being the "canonizer," he encouraged holiness among those who had taken up the robes of religious life, promoting fourteen of them to the rank of cardinal including Saint Francis Nonatus and Saint Mary of Oignies. He staunchly upheld the Holy Rules, initially approved by Innocent and then Honorius, of the Dominicans, Franciscans and Carmelites. He gave great help to the Cistercians and gave approval for the formation of the Religious Order of Our Lady of Mercy, tied in with the Crusades to convert and redeem captured Moslems. In his zeal to bring all into the fold, he opened communications with the Eastern Church and held out feelers about reconciliation of the Western and Eastern Church. It went so far as for the latter to call a synod of patriarchs to vote on the proposal offered by Gregory. For a while things looked hopeful, but at the last minute the Greek church balked at the "Filioque" issue and the question of consecration of the Host. While this prevented the entire Eastern Church from being reunited, a few patriarchs did reconcile with Rome out of respect for Gregory. But in future years and different personality Popes, they would again bolt from Rome. What Gregory had hoped would be his and his Church's finest hour turned into bitter disappointment.

     Another disappointment was his dealings with the Emperor Frederick II - that thorn in the side of Honorius whom Frederick had cajoled and patronized. His problems with Frederick would span his entire pontificate with Gregory's death spurred on by Frederick's march on Rome in retaliation. One of Gregory's first major acts as pontiff was to take the lacksadaisacal and mischievous Frederick II to task for his failure to support the Crusades by excommunicating him. Gregory, from his work in promoting the Crusades for Honorius, had seen enough of Frederick's underhandedness. Frederick thought he was untouchable - especially by the Holy See because he had been a personal ward of Innocent III's. But the mild-mannered way of Honorius which Frederick used and manipulated for his own ends while constantly lying to the pontiff had now turned to the stern, no-nonsense policies of Gregory. The final straw was when Frederick concocted a story of a fellow officer getting sick so that he had to withdraw the troops from their intended Crusade three days after starting out. Gregory was no fool and saw right through the lies and deceit of Frederick, a sniveling coward. On September 20, 1227 he issued the bell, book and candle to Frederick II and the repercussions quickly spread throughout Europe. This Pope would take no prisoners! Already people were being extremely cautious with the institution by Honorius of the Inquisition. Yet Frederick, rather than being repentive, flared back at the Pope behind his back by sending an accusatory letter to all the princes condemning Gregory IX. Weaker Popes may have succumbed to his treachery and underhandedness, but Gregory was no weakling. He stood his ground despite protests and insults from insurrectionists in Rome. Fearing for his life, Gregory fled to Perugia. Frederick, showing his immaturity, decided to "show the Pope" and set out once again for the Holy Land in the summer of 1228, but he was not only not given the blesssing by Gregory but his excommunication reinforced and all warriors under Frederick were freed by the Pope of obedience to the Emperor. This finally woke Frederick up that the only way he could remain Emperor with the people's respect would be to peacefully settle with Gregory. Gregory, also a stubborn man, wanted to reject Frederick's advances for he had been at work installing another as Emperor - Otto, Duke of Brunswick, but this met with opposition from the bishops who were not in accord either with each other or Rome. Here God stepped in as He always does. The Roman families were beginning to reassert their power and many feared their dominance they enjoyed with unyielding power a century before would resurface, but God sent a flood of mammoth proportions that caused the Tiber River to swell and threaten homes. The people turned back to God and petitioned Gregory to return to Rome. This he did in 1230 and that same year in late summer Gregory and Frederick reconciled at Anagni after a treaty had been signed by both at San Germano. The agreement was that some of the papal states and territorial possessions in Sicily would be restored to the Vatican. Frederick, who had already defeated Gregory's papal troops in Sicily, could have held out and tried to muscle his way to more power, but as he matured he realized it was politically expedient to compromise in hopes of restoring his prestige and power not only in Germany but throughout all of his kingdom, not to mention all of Europe. But after a few peaceful months, distrust raised its ugly head for Frederick tried to resurrect the age-old crisis of Church vs. state in respect to monarchies interfering in ecclesial matters. This did not sit well with Gregory, not to mention the fact that rather than siding with the Pope in battle, Frederick reverted back to his old tricks of begging off and not being there when he was needed. On top of that, he clandestinely encouraged and provided secrets to the enemies of the Pope's army in hopes the Pope would be soundly defeated and embarrassed. When Gregory was finally able to unravel all the treachery and trickery, he was furious and once again he lowered the ax of excommunication on Frederick II on March 12, 1239. To solidify his ban, Gregory organized a crusade throughout Germany to make sure word got out he was no longer a member of Holy Mother Church. The Pope was hopeful the people would rid themselves of an apostate emperor and elect one who was in union with the Church. Besides, Frederick was associated with the Sicilian link where he was born and raised. However many bishops were in Frederick's pocket and they thwarted Gregory's efforts at every turn they could. Furious, Gregory declared a council would be held in Rome in late March 1241, but those bishops who were loyal were prevented from going, held as prisoners non communicado by Frederick's men and not allowed contact with the people or the Pope. Knowing the Pope was in ill-health and realizing the supreme pontiff would not have a quorum of loyal bishops in Rome because Frederick had detained so many, he decided to mass his troops and lead an assault himself on Rome out of sheer rage and hatred for the man who had dismissed him from the Church. As he marched on Rome, word reached him that Gregory had died. Perhaps he died of a broken heart for he had truly wanted to unite the kingdom and feed the hungry flocks, but was prevented by so many machinations of Frederick and turn-coat bishops. Perhaps he died because of old age for he was at least 86 years old. Whatever reason, God knew it was time to bring His faithful Vicar of Christ home after after a lifetime of loyal service to His Church, capped by the final fourteen as supreme pontiff. It would be left to his successor who was elected by only ten cardinals because of Frederick's incarceration of so many red hats.

Next installment: Pope Celestine IV the "Conclave Pope"

To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.

Gave proof through the night, that our faith was still there!

     The Liturgy of Holy Mother Church bears this out and two saints that made it through the "night of temptation and the world" to uphold the faith were Blessed Katherine Drexel, whose optional feast we commemorate today along with Saint Casimir tomorrow, the patron saint of Poland. More the readings, liturgy, meditation and vignettes on these saints click on LITURGY OF THE DAY

TUESDAY, March 3, 1998

Blessed Katharine Drexel

     The same year our Blessed Mother appeared at Lourdes in France Blessed Katherine Drexel was born across the sea in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After her mother died at childbirth, Katherine was well taken care of by her wealthy banking father who later remarried a loving stepmother who loved Katherine as well. Katherine was afforded the best education money could buy and traveled extensively. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore solicited the rich to contribute to the missions serving the Indians and Blacks in America. Because of her family's wealth, Katherine became deeply involved in this ministry which took her all the way to the Vatican and a private audience with Pope Leo XIII who convinced her to become a missionary to these people herself. Spurred on by his encouragement she entered the Pittsburgh novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy and, after solemn profession, she founded her own religious congregation of nuns in 1891 - the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. That same year her family established the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia. Katherine took notes and dedicated to educating the Blacks and Indians, founded Xavier University in New Orleans as an all-Black college in 1915. Katherine lived through six pontiffs from Pius IX to Pius XII and it is estimated that upon her death in 1955, she had donated over 12 million dollars toward the apostolate for Blacks and Indians. She was beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II who set her date for observance on March 3.

WEDNESDAY, March 4, 1998

Saint Casimir

     The patron saint of Poland was a saintly young prince named Saint Casimir. He was known for his virginal chastity and for truly living what he preached for the 26 years he lived on this earth. Born in 1458 into nobility, his mother Elizabeth of Austria raised him in the True Faith. At 13 he was elected King of Hungary in hopes of toppling the rival king Matthias Corvino. However, through Casimir's prayers, peace and compromise were reached and the Hungarians were reconciled with Corvino. This enabled Casimir to abdicate the throne and devote his life to prayer as he preferred over the life of royalty. Yet while his father was in Lithuania, Casimir was again promoted - this time to the office of regent in Poland. Though he preferred a more contemplative lifestyle, he accepted this office with dignity and despite his youth, showed wisdom beyond his years in administering with great prudence and virtue. Casimir nurtured a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, dedicating his life to her and turning down an offer of marriage to the daughter of the German Emperor Henry III. In 1843 Casimir was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Lithuania and shortly after that contracted the fatal disease of tuberculosis, passing on to his Heavenly reward on March 4, 1484 at the young age of 26 in the court of Grodno. Amid great grief and pomp the Polish people honored him, burying him under the altar in the Chapel of Our Lady in the castle of Vilna. He was canonized 37 years later in 1521 by Pope Leo X, but it wasn't until 1602 that the Poles and Lithuanians realized Casimir had been made a saint since the original bull never reached Poland since Leo's successor Pope Hadrian VI had assumed Leo X had sent it and therefore did not follow-up. As it were, Leo died before he could dispatch the original bull and it was lost in the shuffle. Once it was discovered, Pope Clement VIII took care of officially notifying the Polish people by reissuing the papal bull. Almost immediately the Polish King Sigismund III began erecting a chapel honoring Casimir in Vilna and it was completed by his successor King Wladislaus IV.


Today's prayer is the Opening Prayer commemorating Blessed Katherine Drexel.
     Ever-loving God, You called Blessed Katharine Drexel to teach the message of the gospel and to bring the life of the Eucharist to the African American and Native American peoples. By her prayers and example, enable us to work for justice among the poor and the oppressed, and keep us undivided in love in the eucharistic community of Your Church.
For more devotions of Lent, click on WAY OF THE CROSS

Medjugorje Monthly Message for February 25th

      Dear children! Also today I am with you and I, again, call all of you to come closer to me through your prayers. In a special way, I call you to renunciation in this time of grace. Little children, meditate on and live, through your little sacrifices, the Passion and Death of Jesus for each of you. Only if you come closer to Jesus will you comprehend the immeasurable love He has for each of you. Through prayer and your renunciation you will become more open to the gift of faith and love towards the Church and the people who are around you. I love and bless you. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

668 and counting, hoping and praying..

WORLDWIDE NEWS & VIEWS with a Catholic slant



     VATICAN (CWN) -- Sister Lucia, the final survivor among the three Portuguese children to whom the Virgin Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, has caused a sensation by saying that Pope John Paul II forestalled a nuclear war when he consecrated Russia to May in 1984. Sister Lucia also said that the famous third secret of Fatima, the subject of so much speculation over the years, is not intended for public revelation. Finally, she said that when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev asked Pope John Paul II for forgiveness when the two men met in December 1989. However, the Vatican denied this last report.

      The rare interview with Sister Lucia, scheduled for television broadcast in Spain on Sunday, March 1, also furnished the material for numerous radio and press reports in Europe over the weekend.

      The Vatican press office issued a statement on March 2 contradicting Sister Lucia's report that Gorbachev had "knelt at the Pope's feet and asked for pardon for the sins he had committed during his life." Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the spokesman for the Holy Father, said that report was completely inaccurate.

      Sister Lucia said that the third secret of Fatima was never intended to be made public, but "it is only destined for the Pope and the ecclesiastical hierarchy close to him."


     VATICAN (CWN) -- Cardinal Antonio Quarracino of Buenos Aires died in Argentina on Saturday, February 28, after a long illness.

      Born in Argentina in 1923, Cardinal Quarracino was ordained to the priesthood in 1945, and became Bishop of Nueve de Julio in 1962. He was then assigned to the Archdiocese of La Plata in 1985, and to Buenos Aires in 1990. In 1992, he was elevated by Pope John Paul II to the College of Cardinals.

      In a telegram of condolence to the Argentine Church, Pope John Paul- - who had conveyed his best wishes to the ailing prelate just last week-- saluted Cardinal Quarracino for his service of the Church, mentioning his contributions to the Latin American bishops' conference CELAM.

      Cardinal Jean Balland of Lyons, the primate of the Gauls, died at night on Saturday, February 28-- just one week after having received the cardinal's red hat.

      Cardinal Balland's declining health had been obvious at the consistory, when he had difficulty climbing the steps to receive the red hat from Pope John Paul II. But he had been energetic enough to greet well-wishers at a reception hosted by the French ambassador to the Holy See that evening.

      Born in the town of Bue, near Bourges, in 1934, Cardinal Balland was ordained as a priest in 1961, and became Bishop of Dijon in 1982. He moved to the Diocese of Reims in 1988, and from there to Lyons in 1995. He was hospitalized last year with a pulmonary infection, which forced him to curtail his working schedule. But his death came as something of a shock to the Vatican.

      Pope John Paul II expressed his "profound sorrow" at the news of the news of the cardinal's death. The Pope spoke of the deceased prelate's "zeal and generosity" in leading his archdiocese, and his fatherly attention for the priests and seminarians under his care.

      The death of Cardinal Balland leaves the total number of cardinals eligible to vote in a papal conclave at 120-- the maximum number prescribed under rules promulgated by Pope Paul VI.


     FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (CWN) - Rebel soldiers loyal to the ousted military government released seven Westerners, including five Catholic missionaries, they were holding hostage, local Catholic officials said on Saturday.

      The five missionaries included three Spaniards, one Austrian, and one Italian, and the two others were a Frenchman and a Canadian with the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres. "They were released yesterday afternoon, after the mediation of the Bishop of Makeni," Father Ercole Marcellini of the Xaverian Brothers order in Freetown. "I'm told that they are in good condition, that they are well."

      The hostages were taken two weeks ago after West African peacekeepers expelled the junta troops from the capital of Freetown. Father Marcellini said up to 50 church workers, including more than 20 foreigners, remained trapped in the northern town of Makeni.

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"Man may make plans in his heart, but what the tongue utters is from the Lord."

Proverbs 16: 1

For all other standard features, articles and columns, click on Archives

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March 3, 1998 volume 9, no. 44         DAILY CATHOLIC