St. Martin and the Thief’s Ghost

The main role of ghosts in the literature of the early church was to display the power of the saints. While Augustine was still alive, Sulpitius Severus wrote The Life of St. Martin, in which we find the following tale of Martin confronting and vanquishing the evil ghost of a thief who was being worshiped by mistake:

Not far from the town and very close to the monastery was a place [a village called Calitonnum] which enjoyed a certain sanctity because of the mistaken opinion that martyrs were buried there. Even an altar was maintained, erected there by former bishops.

Reliquary for the head of St. Martin

Reliquary for the head of St. Martin

But Martin was disinclined to believe what was uncertain. He kept asking those who were older, priests and clerics alike, to reveal the name of the martyr and the date of his martyrdom. He felt, he said, considerable scruple in the matter, since nothing certain had been handed down by any reliable report from his predecessors. He himself abstained from visiting the place for a while: he neither disparaged the cult, since his own position was uncertain, nor granted the populace the support of his authority, lest he fortify a superstition.

One day, taking a few of the brothers with him, he went to the place. He stood upon the tomb itself and prayed to the Lord to reveal who was buried there and what his merits were.

He then turned to the left and saw standing near him a grim, unclean spirit. He ordered him to speak out his name and his deserts. The spirit announced his name and confessed his criminal life: formerly a brigand, he had been executed for his crimes and was receiving veneration through the mistaken opinion of the populace; he had nothing in common with the martyrs—heavenly glory was their portion; punishment, his.

Strange wonder: those who were with Martin heard the voice, yet saw no one.

Martin then recounted what he had seen and ordered the altar which had been in that place to be removed. Thus he freed the people from the error of that superstition.

Augustine’s view of ghostly visions—both waking and oneiric—dominated discourse from the 4th century until about the 10th. The unseen world was divided between God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels and saints on the one side and Satan and demons on the other. Between the unseen and material worlds, there was little place for intermediary spirits or ghosts except for those doing work for God or the Devil.

Gradually, however, this bright line between this world and the next began to fade. Hagiography continued to depict saints vanquishing demons and evil spirits, and the niceties that vexed St. Augustine’s subtle mind were gradually cast aside. His concerns about the barrier between the living the dead, the nature of a being that could be perceived after death, the type of vision the witness used to see them: none of these could withstand the vigorous European culture that would see a flowering of creative forces in the Carolingian Renaissance.

Tertullian’s Deceiving Devils [Ghosts and the Church]

In De anima, Tertullian acknowledges the extensive literature about ghosts, but rejects it as a “fraud.” He has specific pagan lore in mind: the idea that some could “call back from Hades the souls of those who are sleeping out their destined time, those who died through violence and those deprived of burial.”

His explanation reveals just what the early Church made of these encounters: they were demonic:

What are we to say, then, of these pretensions of magic, except what everyone says—that it is a fraud. Christians are the only ones to see through this fraud, since we have come to know the evil spirits, not, of course, by consorting with them, but by the knowledge that unmasks them; not by trying to solicit their assistance, but by a power which subjugates them. Thus do we deal with that universal pollution of the human mind, the inventor of all falsehood, that plunderer of the soul’s salvation. By magic, a second form of idolatry, the demons pretend to be dead men [come to life], just as in ordinary idolatry they pass themselves off as gods. And that is reasonable, since the gods are dead. [De anima, 57]

Tertullian specifically cites the aoroi and the biaiothanatoi in this section as spirits to whom people pray. Aoroi were those who died in youth. Biaiothanatoi were those who died violently. Both were invoked by people to bring harm to enemies. The idea was that their untimely or violent deaths made them thirsty for revenge on the living.

This is where Tertullian gets interesting, because although he dismisses the notion of spirits of the dead being summoned by magic to get vengeance on the living, he does allow demons a similar power:

The demons inhabit those souls especially in whom they used to dwell when they were alive and whom they drove to this kind of untimely end. We have already suggested that every man is attended by a demon and many are aware that sudden and horrible deaths, which usually pass for accidents, are really work of demons.

And, I think we can prove that the evil spirit tries to deceive us by hiding in the persons of dead men, from the facts that come to light in exorcisms. We know that the demon tries to pose as a relative of the person possessed, or sometimes as a gladiator or as a fighter of the beasts, or even as a god. And, in this, his object is always to disprove what we are here affirming, namely, that all souls go down to Hell at their death, and to weaken our faith in the Judgment and Resurrection. Yet, the Devil, after trying to deceive the bystanders, is overcome by the power of Divine Grace, and at last, much against his will, admits that he is an evil spirit.

I have to pause here to explain Tertullian’s use of the word “Hell.” He believed that only the great saints went straight to heaven. Everyone else went to “Hell” until the resurrection. Clearly, this is not an orthodox view (there’s a reason Tertullian is a Church Father but not a Saint), but what Tertullian is describing as “Hell” functions somewhat like Purgatory. Souls wait in Hell for the Second Coming, when they will get their reward (heaven) or punishment (damnation).

Pacher: St. Wolfgang and the Devil

Pacher: St. Wolfgang and the Devil

Tertullian goes on to explain another trick of the devil, in which he “brings back the souls of the dead and exhibits them to view.” This is a more effective deceit, since it offers the witness a visual stimulus: namely, the physical form of the deceased, which the devil has possessed. As he says, “it is easy to deceive the eyes of a man whose mind is so easily taken in.”

Intriguingly, he says that “even now” (in his lifetime) the followers of Simon Magus are attempting to use magic to bring back the “Prophets from Hell.”

Like other Fathers, Tertullian grants the devil one great power: the power to deceive. It’s the same power wielded by the Witch of Endor, but it is only the power of lies. “God forbid we should believe that any soul, much less a Prophet, could be called forth by a demon.” What Saul saw, therefore, was a demon in disguise, not Samuel.

This seems to contradict the previous passage, where he suggests that the devil can bring back the souls of the dead to exhibit for view. Though he’s not particularly clear here, he seems to saying the devil does have a measure of control over the souls he has possessed, but that souls cannot be “called forth” by a mere demonic or magical agency. He also appears to distinguish between those who died peacefully in their own time and the aoroi/biaiothanatoi. (Clarifying this point is difficult because my two translations contradict each other, and I find several passages in the original Latin confusing.*)

Tertullian concludes by addressing dreams of the dead. This has unsavory connotations for him since the pagans practice such things as incubation (sleeping on graves), which is deeply offensive. Thus, he rejects the idea with an explanation that a modern skeptic would embrace: “These things are not real because they are seen, but because they are fulfilled. A dream is true because it works out, and not because a vision is seen.” Essentially, the fulfillment of the vision makes the dreamer believe he has been contacted by the dead with a prophetic utterance.

The basis of all his theology is the story of Dives and Lazarus, which closes on the door on the notion of people returning from the afterlife. Any apparitions people claim to witness, therefore, is due to the work of the devil or “the trickery of magicians.” We’ll see this developed in more depth when we get to St.  Augustine.

Related posts on Ghosts.

*Esoteric language point: My Latin is gawdawful, which means I don’t like to rely on my own translations of difficult passages. The sentence in question reads “Publica iam litteratura est quae animas etiam iusta aetate sopitas, etiam proba morte disiunctas, etiam prompta humatione dispunctas euocaturam se ab inferum incolatu pollicetur.” Arbesmann/Daly translate “etiam prompta humatione dispunctas euocaturam se ab inferum incolatu pollicetur” as simply “those deprived of burial,” while Thelwall renders it as “had even been buried with full rites and proper ceremony.” Those are, I’m sure you’ll agree, completely opposite translations, but I think Thelwall has it right.

Ghostly Visions in the Early Church

Perpetua_FelicitasThe early church fathers were acquainted with ghosts and ghostly visions, as the previous entries on ghosts in Old and New Testaments make clear. Two notable examples of ghosts in the literature of the early church show how they tended to function and be regarded.

It’s important at this point to note that visions of the dead in dreams (oneiric apparitions) and waking sightings of ghostly figures were both considered types of spectral encounters. The deep meaning attached to dream-figures, particularly of real people delivering important messages, was considered not merely a psychological byproduct of deep sleep, but as supernatural events. We’ll get to this more fully when we discuss Augustine.

Our first ghost appears in The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, an important early account of martyrdom. Prior to their execution in Carthage on March 7th 203, Perpetua experiences something unusual. While she is waiting in prison, the name of Perpetua’s dead little brother Dinocrates comes to her mind unbidden during prayer, and she thinks this is significant. That night, she has a vision of him:

I beheld Dinocrates coming forth from a dark place, where were many others also; being both hot and thirsty, his raiment foul, his color pale; and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother in the flesh, seven years old, who being diseased with ulcers of the face had come to a horrible death, so that his death was abominated of all men. For him therefore I had made my prayer; and between him and me was a great gulf, so that either might not go to the other. There was moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, a font full of water, having its edge higher than was the boy’s stature; and Dinocrates stretched up as though to drink. I was sorry that the font had water in it, and yet for the height of the edge he might not drink.

She prays for her brother every day and night, that he may be released from this torment. It is interesting that the language clearly evokes the story of Dives and Lazarus, suggesting the impossibility of Dinocrates getting any relief in the afterlife. Nonetheless, Perpetua continues to pray for him.

Days later, she has another vision:

I saw that place which I had before seen, and Dinocrates clean of body, finely clothed, in comfort; and the font I had seen before, the edge of it being drawn to the boy’s navel; and he drew water thence which flowed without ceasing. And on the edge was a golden cup full of water; and Dinocrates came up and began to drink therefrom; which cup failed not. And being satisfied he departed away from the water and began to play as children will, joyfully.

And I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from his pains.

This is a powerful scene for such an important early Chrisitan text. Here we have a vision of the dead that suggests the fate of the departed in the otherworld, complete with an image of living water that “flowed without ceasing.” The state of Dinocrates, and the ability of Perpetua’s intercessory prayers to free him from it, is a powerful early witness to Purgatory and prayers for the dead.

These appearances of the dead in dreams—almost always pregnant with meaning and Christian symbolism—are repeated in ghostly and visionary literature for the next thousand years and beyond.

We fine another ghostly dream vision in the apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, composed in the 2nd century. (The linked translation is by MR James, master of the classic ghost story.) St. Thecla, inspired by Paul to pursue a life of virginity, survives various attempts to execute her for her faith.

After her sentence of death, she is given into the care of a “rich queen” name Tryphaena in order to preserve her virginity until execution. The authorities attempt to feed Thecla to the lions, but they refuse to attack, instead licking her feet.

After this first attempt to kill her, Thecla is returned to the keeping of Tryphaena, whose had lost a daughter named Falconilla. The daughter comes to Tryphaena in a dream, saying:

“Mother, thou shalt take in my stead Thecla the stranger that is desolate, that she may pray for me and I be translated into the place of the righteous.”

When therefore Tryphaena received her after the procession, she alike bewailed her because she was to fight the beasts on the morrow, and also, loving her closely as her own daughter Falconilla; and said: Thecla, my second child, come, pray thou for my child that she may live for ever; for this have I seen in a dream. And she without delay lifted up her voice and said: O my God, Son of the Most High that art in heaven, grant unto her according to her desire, that her daughter Faleonilla may live for ever. And after she had said this, Tryphaena bewailed her, considering that so great beauty was to be cast unto the beasts.

Tryphaena grows fond of Thecla, regarding her as a second daughter. When Thecla survives a second attempt to kill her, the queen comes to believe in Thecla’s God and believes her daughter’s soul has been redeemed by Thecla’s prayers.  Her whole household converts and Thecla goes on her way.

Thus do we see intercessory prayer for the dead and a suggestion of purgatory in another piece of early Christian literature. In these two accounts, ghosts act as witnesses to the state of the dead in the afterlife, as they plead for prayers to move them on to salvation. It’s a motif we’ll see repeated for centuries, from ghosts both oneiric and phantasmal. Even more interesting is that we have clear early indications of purgatory and prayers for the dead a full millennium before some scholars (such as le Goff) argue that purgatory was “invented.”

Related posts on Ghosts.

 

A Novena For Asthma Sufferers

St. Bernadette Soubirous contracted cholera as a child and afterwards suffered from asthma for the rest of her life. It almost certainly contributed to her death. Thus, St. Bernadette is a good choice as the patron saint of those suffering from asthma and other diseases of the lung.

A recent medical crisis prompted me to write the following Novena for Asthmatics, and I thought I’d share it. I don’t tend to like fussy novenas, so this one is short and sweet. Add as many thees and thous and Memorares as you see fit. bernadette4

A Novena to St. Bernadette For Asthma and Other Respiratory Ailments

St. Bernadette, you felt the struggle to breathe throughout your short life, and thus know the suffering of those who have asthma and other diseases of the lung. Our Lady gave you the gift of a vision, and from that vision burst a spring of healing water that washed away the pain of thousands. Please join us in prayer to the Blessed Mother and her Son, to bring healing and comfort to [N], so that [she/he] may breathe freely again. We ask this through the immaculate heart of the Virgin Mary, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Our Father
Hail Mary
Glory Be

The Tunics of St. Ambrose

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, first consecrated in 379, was built by St. Ambrose at a site where Christians had been executed. For at least a thousand years (and almost certainly longer) the church has held several silk tunics which tradition associates with the great saint and Father.

Now, a team of archaeologists from the University of Bonn, along with restorers, are studying and preserving the tunics.

“These are marvelously beautiful vestments of sumptuous silk that have been ascribed to the saint,” says Professor Dr. Sabine Schrenk of the department of Christian Archaeology at the University of Bonn. One of them has intricate depictions of hunting scenes with trees and leopards, while the other valuable textile is keptrather simple. There is yet no conclusive proof that these tunics date to the late 4th century, though they certainly cannot be dated very much later. Hence they are very significant testimony for the Late Antique and Early Christian periods.

In the course of many centuries, time took its toll on these famous textiles. “If these fragile silk threads are to be preserved for a long time to come, it is critical to remove harmful layers of dust,” says Cologne textile restorer Ulrike Reichert, who has headed her own restoration workshop in the Dellbrück neighborhood for many years, specializing in preserving early silk textiles. The cloth is painstakingly cleaned with a tiny vacuum cleaner and delicate brushes. “For this we have had to carefully free the material from the protective glass that had been laid over it,” says Professor Schrenk’s colleague Katharina Neuser.

Professor Schrenk and the team of restorers have taken their mobile lab to Milan several times in the last two years, with support from the Gielen-Leyendecker Foundation, to learn more about the origin and history of these textiles beyond the restoration works. “These pieces were revered as the tunics of St. Ambrose probably by the 11th century,” says Professor Schrenk. Aribert, the Archbishop of Milan, arranged for the placement of a textile band on the site where the tunics were kept. “It’s a kind of woven museum label indicating the significance of the relics,” says the Bonn scholar. Presumably, however, a red cross had already been sewn onto one of the vestments much earlier, as an indicator of their significance for the Church.

These tunics have been kept and exhibited in various ways over the centuries. For a while they were stored packed in a chest, sandwich-like, between two other layers of fabric. Until the Second World War, the relics were kept in a frame mounted to an altar in the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio; they then got new glass frames in the Basilica’s museum, where they remained until a few years ago. To protect them from the light they were then placed in storage drawers. “The pressure of heavy glass plates only aggravated the effect of many centuries of deterioration,” says Professor Schrenk. So the decision to have these valuable silks restored was made.

While the project’s researchers and restorers have already made tremendous progress, they will still have their hands full in the coming years. “Based on the textiles, the Ambrose project reveals the evolution of early relic worship in a surprising way,” says Professor Schrenk. The project will also shed new light on the economic history of Late Antiquity. It is well known that silk was not yet produced in 4th-century Europe and Asia Minor; the expensive thread was imported from China. However, Professor Schrenk is skeptical about the scholarly consensus that all silks of the time were woven in the eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Syria. “Milan at the time, being the emperor’s residence, had access to ample patronage, and used silk in grand fashion. I would be very surprised if there had not been silk workshops there at the time,” says the archaeologist.

 

They Have Drunk of The Everflowing Life

 There’s a paradox in martyrdom that we must accept even if we can’t reconcile ourselves to it: those being killed because of their faith in Christ are simultaneously tragic victims of injustice and barbarism, and glorious witnesses entering into everlasting life because of their sacrifice. Christ promised little more than this in the world, which would hate us because it hated him first.

In his Exhortation to Martyrdom, St. Cyprian praises those who die for the faith:

And lest anyone become frightened and disturbed at the difficulties and persecutions which we suffer in this world, it must be proved that it was formerly predicted that the world would hold us in hatred and would stir up persecutions against us, so that from the very fact that these things happen the faith of the divine promise is manifest in the benefits and the rewards to follow afterwards, and that whatever happens to Christians is nothing new, since from the beginning of the world the good have labored and the just have been oppressed and slain by the unjust.

The thing is, I don’t want to die for my faith. I don’t even want to suffer for it. I doubt very much that the Christians of Iraq do either. They want to be left alone in their homes in peace to live and love and worship as they choose. These aren’t airy abstractions and pious plaster saints: these are real men, women, and children being brutally murdered.

Antonio Ciseri's Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees

Antonio Ciseri’s Martyrdom of the Seven Maccabees

Few saints sought martyrdom, though many embraced it when the time came. That’s why they’re saints. It’s not that many people have wanted to die for Christ, but that, when pushed to the point of decision, grace gave them strength to hold firm in faith and say, This far and no farther. The promise of something greater awaits.

Christians like to imagine what it would have been like to walk with Jesus in Jerusalem and sit at the Master’s feet. Given what we know of the times, the ministry of Jesus, and human nature, it’s more likely than not that most modern Christians would have been lining the via dolorosa and paying their “homage” not with bent knee and palm branches, but with jeers and spitting. His own friends and followers turned on and abandoned him. Do we think we’re any better?

If I am to be honest with myself, then I must assume that I would have been holding the scourge that drew flesh from His back or the hammer that drove in the nails. Anything more would be hubris. I know what it took for God to drag me back to the foot of the cross from the deeps where I was drowning. I have no illusions about what I would have done had the Master come along with his band of holy outcasts and said “Follow me.”

Likewise, Christians prefer to think we’d embrace that final cross if the time came. I certainly hope I would. I hope my faith would overcome my instinct for self-preservation. If  it did, it would only be by the grace of God, which is the most we can hope for when the time comes. We all die, and each only once. Only God can grant us the strength to die on our feet as Christians rather than on our knees as an apostates.

Far worse for the parent is the idea of watching your children not merely die for the faith, but be tortured for it. This is why the story of the mother and her seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7 was an important text for the Church fathers. St. Cyprian references it in his Exhortation, as do St Gregory Nazianzen, St Ambrose, St Augustine, and others in various texts.

The chapter depicts a mother and her seven sons who are tortured and executed by Antiochus for refusing to eat pork in violation of the Law. They are steadfast in their faith, and one after another the mother urges each to keep that faith even as her heart breaks to watch them die. One offers his hands and says

“I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.”

The mother, “her woman’s reasoning [fired] with a man’s courage,” says to them

“I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”

She urges her last child to “accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.”

As a late text which assumes the resurrection of the body as the reward for faith, 2 Maccabees offers a striking prelude to the gospel, and this was not lost on the Church Fathers when they used it for preaching. The youngest son even suggests that their sacrifice will be an expiation not merely for their own sins, but for the sins of the nation:

“For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of everflowing life under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. 37 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, 38 and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation.”

We are told in the final line that “last of all, the mother died, after her sons.” A mother would choose to die rather than watching her children killed before her eyes, so we have to wonder at the faith and courage she showed until the end.

She knew what every parent should know in our hearts: our primary goal is not to make our children smart, successful, or accomplished (although these are all worthy goals), but to get them to heaven. Again and again, seven times in all, the mother of Maccabees dashed herself against the ragged stones that were the heart of the king. She did not want fear of a “brief suffering” to keep her children from drinking of the everflowing life offered by God.

As the world continues to mint new martyrs, may we do everything in our power to protect their lives, but may we also pray for them to be strong the last, that faith may sustain them in the darkest hours and that, having suffered, they will attain a reward no army could ever take away.

A Novena to Saint Edith Stein

Saint_Edith_SteinOn August 9th, 1942, Edith Stein (St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) was gassed to death at Auschwitz along with perhaps a thousand others. This brilliant and holy woman, a Carmelite nun and convert from Judaism, was one of many Hebrew Catholics rounded up by the Nazis after the Dutch bishops protested the racist policies of Germany. Pope Pius XII had prepared a similar condemnation, but fearful that it would lead to an even larger loss of life in all areas under German control, he decided against issuing it.

I just completed this novena to St. Edith, recommended to me by Damien Fisher, and it’s powerful stuff. It follows the course of St. Edith’s journey in stark and moving detail, from her capture to her death

When we discovered the scope and scale of the Holocaust, civilization said “never again.” We didn’t reckon on those people who prowl the world outside of civilization, seeking to drag us all back into bloody barbarism. We should have known the proper response to genocide, but “never again” became, “well, maybe sometimes, as long as they’re just Christians or Africans.”

The life and death of St. Edith Stein is a witness to why that attitude must be cut from the human heart. Her novena is a prayer for our time, and as history shows us, it will, tragically, be a prayer for all times.

St. Swithun: Weather Man


Happy St. Swithun’s Day! Is it raining today? Then according to old British lore, it will rain for the next 40 days. We know this is true because a poem says so:

St. Swithun’s day if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain,
St. Swithun’s day if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare.

St. Swithun (Stowe Breviary). As for the guy in the marginals…I don’t even…

Makes about as much sense as waiting for an overgrown weasel to see its shadow.

Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the 9th century, and much of what we know of him comes from later hagiography. His fame came about a century after his death, when his remains were transferred from an outdoor grave (where he wished to be buried so people could walk over his resting place) to Winchester Cathedral. This is supposed to have irritated the Saint, who made the day of the transfer of his relics (his current feast day: July 15th) notoriously rainy, and it remained so ever after.

In fact, Swithun is not alone in the power of weather forecasting at this time of the year. In June and July, St. Medard (France), The Seven Sleepers (Germany), and St. Godelieve (Flanders) are attached to similar lore in placse, which may in fact originate in in pre-Christian times: a kind of a pagan Farmer’s Almanac. It’s not that far-fetched. Weather can fall into patterns in July that last through August. We read the Farmer’s Almanac, and they manage to predict weather patterns for a year in an advance with an accuracy that often is uncanny.

Since we had a torrential downpour and tornadoes last night around the time that it was turning into July 15th in England, I’m hoping St. Swithun is wrong this year.

The saint also got attached to the phrase “from now until St. Swithun’s day” to indicate a really long time. Or maybe it was just something Col. Potter said on MASH.

“And that’s not horse hockey.”

 

Philadelphia Gets a Visit From a First-Class Relic of St. John Paul II

The first-class relic of St. John Paul II touring the US is stopping in Phillie this weekend. I hope to make it there, if time allows. Here’s the press release from the Diocese:

A precious Relic of the recently canonized Pope Saint John Paul II will be exposed for public veneration between all of the Masses at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul 18th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

Schedule:

Saturday-Sunday, July 19-20, 2014

  • 5:15 p.m. (Saturday Mass in Basilica)
  • 8:00 a.m. (Sunday Mass in Cathedral Chapel)
  • 9:30 a.m. (Sunday Mass in Basilica)
  • 11:00 a.m. (Sunday Mass in Basilica)
  • 12:30 p.m. (Sunday Spanish Mass in Cathedral Chapel)
  • 3:00 p.m. (Divine Mercy Chaplet in Basilica)
  • 6:30 p.m. (Sunday Mass in Basilica)

At the conclusion of each Mass on Saturday and Sunday, there will be a blessing with the Relic of Pope Saint John Paul II asking for his heavenly intercession. Everyone is welcome to the Cathedral Basilica for this weekend of devotion.

The Relic is of the Holy Father’s blood, which remains in a liquid state. The Knights of Columbus have been entrusted with this Relic to foster devotion to Pope Saint John Paul II.

 

My Favorite John XXIII Quip

Asked how many people worked at the Vatican, St. John replied, “About half of them.”

Anyone who has worked for the Church knows how true this is. Our motto should be “employing the unemployable.” (And, yes, I’ll include myself among that group.)

Catholic News Service has a few Pope John jokes I hadn’t heard before. I liked this one:

When a cardinal complained that a rise in Vatican salaries meant a particular usher earned as much as the cardinal, the pope remarked: “That usher has 10 children; I hope the cardinal doesn’t.”

 

Related: John XXIII and the Jews