St. Matthias Gets No Respect!

St. MatthiasMatthias has the distinction of being the only one of the Twelve Apostles to have not been called directly by Christ. After Judas Iscariot hung himself in shame for betraying Christ, the Apostles gathered together and, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose Matthias to replace him. The event is recorded in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry…For it is written in the book of Psalms, `Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and `His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us — one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Bar Sabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.”

And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.-Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 RSV

From this we know that Matthias was a follower of Christ from the time of His baptism. This makes it likely that he was originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist, as were Sts. Andrew and John, but this is by no means certain. Traditionally, Matthias is identified as one of the Seventy Disciples mentioned in St. Luke’s Gospel, and this seems likely, but it is not directly corroborated in Scripture.

No Matthias in A.D. The Bible Continues

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If you were to ask someone to name the Twelve Apostles, not including Judas, it is likely that they would have trouble remembering Matthias. In fact, the recent, surprisingly well done miniseries A.D.: The Bible Continues (a.k.a. Kingdom and Empire) completely omits the choosing of Matthias to replace Judas. In many ways this makes sense. Matthias suddenly appears, replaces Judas, and disappears again. There is no mention of him anywhere else in the Bible. Even the otherwise obscure apostle Jude has an epistle named after him. Matthias has nothing.

Obscurity is actually the fate for many of the Twelve. The Synoptic Gospels focus primarily on the Big Three: Peter, James and John. Andrew gets mentioned a little more simply because he is Peter’s brother and Matthew is significant because he was a tax collector. St. John’s Gospel gives a bigger role to Andrew, Phillip, Thomas and Nathaniel but these fade back into the background in Acts. Phillip and James the Less have continued prominence, but it is likely that the Phillip and perhaps the James who are mentioned in Acts are not the same men as the apostles. And of course, all the apostles give way to Paul, who dominates the second half of Acts and wrote almost two-thirds of the epistles that follow.

No Matthias in the Basilicas of Rome

Because of this, some have argued that Peter jumped the gun and the real replacement for Judas was Paul. If one were to travel to the heart of the Church, the Eternal City of Rome, one might be convinced that was actually the case. Walking into the Pope’s cathedral, the archbasilica of St. John Lateran, one is confronted by gigantic, literally breathtaking (at least for me) sculptures of the Twelve Apostles.

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Statue of St. Paul in the Basilica of St. John in the Lateran

The symbolism behind this is powerful. The basilica is a microcosm of the entire Church and the statues of the Apostles stand within it like pillars, demonstrating how Christ founded His Church upon His Apostles, and their witness supports that Church to this day. These statues include the St. Paul the Apostle. However, the number of statues remains at twelve. That means one of the Apostles has to be left out. Any guesses as to which one that is?

(Some may argue, that because the names Matthew and Matthias are both variations of the Hebrew Mattiyahu that the statue of Matthaeus could do double duty. However, it’s pretty clear that it is intended to be a statue of St. Matthew. He has a book, which is the standard iconography for an evangelist. John has one too.)

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Statue of St. Matthew

My favorite basilica, St. Paul Outside the Walls, has a set of (significantly smaller) statues as well, and these too omit Matthias in favor of Paul. The omission is understandable in Rome. After all, St. Paul was martyred there. He has long been considered, with St. Peter, as a twin founder of the church at Rome, making the two into a Christian version of Romulus and Remus. There is a reason that they honored together on the same day and that day is a Solemnity, instead of a Feast like all the other Apostles. (If you want to know the exact difference between a Solemnity and a Feast, check this out.)

This omission, however, can be found elsewhere. The cupola of the incredibly beautiful St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia includes stained glass windows depicting each of the Twelve Apostles in pairs. Peter is of course paired with Paul, leading to the omission, once again, of Matthias.

Second Tier of the Roman Canon

The most glaring omission of Matthias is not, however, in sacred sculpture or stained glass but in the liturgy itself. Before the Second Vatican Council, the First Eucharistic Prayer was the only Eucharistic Prayer and it was known as the Roman Canon of the Mass. Every priest, from about the fifth century onward, would have used this prayer when he offered the Sacrifice of the Mass, at least in the Latin Rite. This would have included many saints. Sadly, most priests have abandoned this unbroken tradition in favor of the novelty of the Second and Third Eucharistic Prayers, which dilute the sacrificial language of Mass. I can remember only a handful of times I have heard a priest using the First Eucharistic Prayer before moving to Louisiana.

One of my favorite aspects of the Prayer, especially when I was young, are the two long lists of saints, known as Intercessions. The First Intercession comes before the Consecration and the Second comes after. The First Intercession clearly focuses on commemorating members of the different states of life and clerical orders in the Church; starting with the Apostles and continuing through the first seven popes, an important bishop (St. Cyprian), deacon (St. Lawrence), and laymen (Sts. John and Paul, Sts. Cosmos and Damian). The Intercession pairs and gives them a special prominence to Peter and Paul. (The priest is allowed to shorten the Canon somewhat by not going through the entire list of saints, but he is required to always commemorate Peter and Paul). The First Intercession mentions all the Apostles except Matthias, who is relegated to the Second Intercession. There is some consolation that Matthias is mentioned along with important New Testament saints such as John the Baptist, Stephen and Barnabas (Barnabas was also technically an apostle but like Paul he was not an original disciple and unlike Matthias he is never specifically commissioned as one.) and that his name cannot be omitted but it still seems like he is on some kind of second tier, separated from the actual Apostles and replaced by Paul. (Interestingly, the seven female martyrs who are mentioned in the Canon are all mentioned in the Second Intercession. Make of that what you will…)

Sts. Matthias and Pope Damasus I

In the end, this too can be largely explained by the same reasons as the omission of Matthias from the sculptures of the basilicas in Rome: it’s Rome. As one of the twin founders of the Church there, St. Paul was much more important to the Christian history of the city than St. Matthias. Also, it is likely that the Roman Canon was developed during the pontificate of Pope St. Damasus I.

Pope_Damasus_IPope Damasus I is best known for epigraphs that he wrote to be placed over the tombs of important martyrs in Rome. In these, Damasus focuses on the Roman-ness of the saints. He argues that to be truly Christian is to be Roman and that those martyrs who were not native Romans became Roman by virtue of their martyrdom. This is especially noticeable in the epigraph Damasus composed for Sts. Peter and Paul. In it he writes, “The East sent the disciples, which we willingly admit. On account of the merit of their blood…Rome deserves to call them her citizens.”

Damasus also had a strong devotion to St. Paul individually and it is likely that construction of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls began during his pontificate. For these reasons, it makes sense for Damasus to have moved Matthias in the Canon to give a special prominence to Paul.

Ultimately, none of these really matters. St. Matthias does not resent St. Paul for being more recognized than him. They are both basking in the glory of the Beatific Vision along with the rest of the Church Triumphant, unworried about the level of veneration each is offered by the Church Militant.

Many times, we worry too much about honor and recognition. It would be better for us to follow the example of St. Matthias and focus instead on doing that work for which God has called and equipped us and do it the very best that we can. For that is how we will be sanctified and gain eternal life

Sts. Philip and James

St. James the Less

Since there are two apostles named James, they are traditionally identified as James the Greater and James the Lesser. James the Lesser is generally believed to have been the shorter, younger or simply the less well known of the two. James the Lesser is often identified in the Gospels as James, the son of Alphaeus. (Yaqov bar Hilfai) Alphaeus is thought to be a Greek form of the Aramaic Cleopas, who is identified as either the brother of St. Joseph or brother-in-law of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Either of these would make his sons the cousins of Our Lord, so James the Less is often conflated with James the Just, the “brother” of Jesus.

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Statue of St. James the Lesser in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope)

If this is the case, following the Ascension, James stayed in Jerusalem where he led the community of Jewish believers, who kept the Torah laws and believed it was necessary to do so for salvation. In this, he came into conflict with St. Paul, who stated that Gentiles who did became Christians did not have to follow the Torah. The issue was resolved in A.D. 50 by the Apostles and presbyters (elders) at the Council of Jerusalem where, after some discussion and a statement by St. Peter, James publically changed his mind on the issue. At some point, he also wrote the Epistle of James, one of the catholic epistles (not addressed to a specific group).

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Flavius Josephus

According to the historian Josephus, James was killed in A.D 62. Knowing him to be a strict follower of the Torah, a group of priests and Pharisees urged him to address the people during Passover from the parapet of the Temple and inform them about “the truth concerning Jesus.” James did so, preached to the people that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. In anger, the Pharisees rushed up to the parapet and flung James down into the courtyard of the Temple where some of the people began to stone him. Finally, he was killed when someone struck him in the head with a fuller’s club. Many people believed that the attack and eventual conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans was God’s punishment for the unjust killing of James the Just.

 

Some scholars, however, have questioned the identification of James bar Alphaeus with James the Just, “brother” of Jesus. The reason for this is that the “brethren” of Our Lord, particularly James, are said to have not believed in Him until after His Resurrection.  While it is not entirely impossible, it would be highly unlikely for an unbeliever to be an apostle. Secondly, there is no mention of James the Less (or Simon the Zealot, Jude Thadaeus or Matthew, who are often identified with the Lord’s brethren as well) as being a “brother” of the Lord, which seems unusual if they, in fact, were.

If James the Less is not the same person as James the Just, brother of the Lord, then we know nothing about St. James the Less except that he was an apostle and is believed to have died a martyr’s death by stoning.

St. Philip

St. Philip has a bit more significant role than St. James, at least in the Gospel according to St. John. He was apparently a follower of St. John the Baptist before following Christ and is usually seen leading people to Jesus. He leads his friend Nathaniel to meet Jesus and later leads a group of Greeks to speak with Him. This makes sense because Phillip has a Greek name and possibly spoke Greek himself. Philip is also the apostle who tells Jesus how much money it would cost to feed the 5,000. At the Last Supper, Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father.

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Statue of St. Philip in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope)

Like St. James the Less, Philip is often conflated with another New Testament figure who shares his name. This Philip, often called the Evangelist, also ministered to non-Jews. He ran alongside the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch whom he overheard reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and after instructing him about Christ, baptizes him. Later, he preaches the Gospel in Samaria, where his miracles gained many converts, including Simon Magus.

It is even less likely that Philip the Apostle and Phillip the Evangelist are the same person than it is that James the Less and James the Just are the same person. Phillip the Evangelist is often identified with Philip, one of the original seven deacons. Because there deacons were ordained in order to lessen the Apostle’s burden of ministering to the widows of Hellenistic Jews, it makes little lessen for Phillip to both an apostle and a deacon. Furthermore, while Philip is able to baptize many converts in Samaria, he waits for Peter and John to arrive in order to “bring the gift of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands.” Since this is very clearly the earliest reference to the sacrament of Confirmation, usually administered by a bishop, a successor of the Apostles, it makes zero sense for Philip to have to wait for Peter and John to arrive to administer it if he himself were also an apostle.

According to tradition, Philip was martyred by being crucified, possibly upside down, in the city of Hierapolis in the Roman province of Phyrigia.

A Tale of Two Popes: St. Cornelius and St. Damasus I

The Epigraphs of Damasus

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Pope St. Damasus I

Pope St. Damasus I wrote a series of epigraphs for the tombs of martyrs and other Christians which allowed him to literally leave his mark on the Eternal City. He employed Furius Dionysius Filocalus to do the actual engraving of the epigrams. Filocalus had distinguished himself early during the pontificate of Liberius with his completion of the Chronography of 354. The Chronography is a series of smaller documents. One of these documents is the Deposito Episcoporum, which lists the reigns and burial places of the popes from Lucius (c. 253-254) until Liberius, who was reigning at the time.

Although Damasus had knowledge of the burial sites of his predecessors going back one hundred and twelve years, he did not choose to honor every one of his predecessors. Damasus honored three popes who are buried in the Catacombs of Callistus with individual inscriptions: Xystus (II), Cornelius and Eusebius. In so doing, he carefully selected those popes that had some aspect of their pontificate with which he could identify personally.

The overall aim of the epigraphic program of Damasus was to honor the martyrs of Rome, but Xystus is the only one honored by Damasus who is included in the Deposito Martyrum. The Deposito is another document within the Chronography that is essentially a church calendar and lists the burial places and natales, or dates of commemoration, for the martyrs. The Deposito did not include popes who had suffered exile but were not martyrs in the strict sense. With his epigrams, Damasus was the first to consider these exiled popes to be martyrs.

In the epigram that Damasus wrote in honor of St. Hippolytus, he refers to him as a “presbyter in schism” but identifies the schism as that of Novatian. This is an anachronism, since the schism of Novatian took place during the reign of Cornelius. Damasus additionally states that when an unidentified persecution began, Hippolytus confessed the Catholic faith and died a martyr, although Damasus characteristically does not give details of the martyrdom. H.P.V. Nunn argued, “Nothing better illustrates the confusion and obscurity which enveloped the history of the Roman Church owing to the destruction of the records in the persecution of Diocletian than the fact that Damasus had to depend on uncertain oral tradition in writing the epitaph of this celebrated person.” However, the Chronography of 354, which Damasus most likely used as a source for his epigrams, mentions Hippolytus as a presbyter who shared the exile to Sardinia with Pontian. Damasus may have honestly been unaware of the discrepancy. At any rate, the epigram of Hippolytus can be seen as an indirect exhortation for current schismatics, with whom Damasus contended throughout his pontificate, to be rejoined in communion with the bishop of Rome.

St. Cornelius and the Schism of Novatian

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Pope St. Cornelius

Incidentally, the epigraph that Damasus wrote for Cornelius makes no mention of Novatian, whose schism was the most significant aspect of the pontificate of Cornelius. In the wake of the Decian persecution, Cornelius supported the re-admittance of lapsi to the Church, a practice opposed by a rigorist minority centered mostly in North Africa. Adherents of the minority view elected a Roman presbyter named Novatian as a bishop in opposition to Cornelius.

The Luciferians, who were in open schism during the pontificate of Damasus, opposed the receiving back into the Church of former Arian heretics. Damasus too had faced the opposition of an antipope, Ursinius, whose following could be described as rigorist, in a situation very similar to that faced by Cornelius. Like that of Hippolytus, the placement of this epigram by Damasus indicates that he wanted to remind the Roman people of these similarities. Furthermore, Damasus wished to vindicate himself by identifying with the martyred Cornelius. Shepherd reported that, in addition to writing the elogium Cornelii, “Damasus arranged more commodious space about his tomb and a more convenient stairway to it.”

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Pope St. Eusebius

Like Cornelius, Pope Eusebius and his predecessor Marcellus I, faced a crisis in the Church regarding the attitude toward the lapsi following a serious persecution. The election of Marcellus took place after a considerable interregnum following the martyrdom of the similarly named Marcellinus in the persecution under Diocletian. According to the epigram that Damasus composed for him, Marcellus, in contrast to Cornelius, required the lapsi to perform serious penances in order to gain readmission.190 Many of them rebelled violently in response and the ensuing unrest caused Maxentius to banish Marcellus. His successor Eusebius faced a situation more similar to that of Cornelius. The otherwise unknown Heraclius opposed the reception of lapsi back into the church, much as Novation had done. The resulting unrest caused Maxentius to banish Eusebius from Rome as well.

Ultimately, Damasus chose to honor Cornelius because he identified with his predecessor. Cornelius had faced a schism as did Damasus, and by identifying himself with his predecessor, Damasus hoped to demonstrate that his Ursinian and Luciferian opponents were in the wrong as the Novatianists who had opposed Cornelius had been. Both the tales of Pope Sts. Cornelius and Damasus demonstrate the importance of not breaking away from the Church,  even when the Pope might be in error, perhaps grievously, over the proper application of the mercy of God.

Slain at the Altar: Pope St. Sixtus II and Companions

A small congregation is gathered to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest offering the Mass is none other than the bishop of Rome, the Pope, assisted by all but one of his deacons. The Holy Father prays the prayers of the Mass with due solemnity, but with a noticeable quickness and in a hushed tone. Finally, he reaches the summit of the Mass, the Consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Suddenly, just as the Holy Father elevates the Sacred Host, armed intruders burst into the holy place. The deacons move to protect the Holy Father, who swiftly consumes the Body of Christ to prevent desecration. The intruders throw the deacons to the ground and lay violent hands upon the Vicar of Christ, dragging him from the altar. Already on their knees, the congregation is easy to subdue. The intruders force the Holy Father and his deacons outside and order them to kneel. The Holy Father encourages the deacons to remain steadfast and follow the example of the deacon and Protomartyr, Saint Stephen. He then kneels, kisses the ground and thanks God. Then, before the helpless and horrified eyes of his flock, the intruders decapitate the Holy Father, followed by the deacons.

Nothing is New Under the Sun

The event described above took place in the year of Our Lord 250. During the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Valerian, a squad of Roman soldiers broke into the catacombs where Pope Xystus II (Sixtus is the Latin version) was offering Mass and summarily executed him and the deacons Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, Stephanus, Felicissimus and Agapitus. Today, in the year of Our Lord 2019, Pope Francis is unlikely to suffer the same fate.

Yet such a horrific scene is no longer relegated merely to hagiographies and history books. on the day after the feast of Saint James the Great, known as Matamoros, “Moor Slayer” in Spain, ISIS operatives burst into a church in Normandy, France and slit the throat of Fr. Jacques Hamel as he offered Mass. In response to this, apparently forgetting the history of his nation’s revolution, François Hollande stated that “To attack a church, kill a priest, is to profane the Republic.”

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An icon of the first priest martyred in the 21st century

Nevertheless, the day after the funeral of Fr. Hamel, Parisian riot police stormed the church of St. Rita and forcibly removed parishioners who had gathered to celebrate Mass in protest of the demolition of the church, going so far as to drag the priest, by his vestments, from the altar and throw him to the ground.

For the past decade, or so, religious freedom and liberty has been under siege in our own country as well. While the worst may have been averted by the defeat of the acolyte of the Moloch worshipping death cult known as Planned Parenthood in the 2016 election, who aims to expand access to that death cult’s abominable sacrament on an unprecedented scale, that is only temporary. The man who defeated her is, like the Caesars of old, the Pontifex Maximus of his own imperial cult. While offering lip service (and a Vice-President) to the cause of life, he will certainly move against any Catholic or other Christian who fails to offer his pinch of incense in support of his policies on account of their faith, as demonstrated when Catholics protesting his immigration policies were arrested in D.C.

Pope St. Damasus I

Pope St. Damasus I reigned from A.D. 366 until 384. In his lifetime, Damasus saw Christianity go from a viciously persecuted minority sect to the state religion of the Roman Empire. Damasus was born sometime between the years 304 and 306, during the Great Persecution of Diocletian.The persecution undoubtedly had a formative impact on the young Damasus. Years later, when Damasus composed the epigram for the tomb of the martyrs Marcellinus and Peter, he recalled hearing the story of their execution from the man who carried it out. “Your executioner reported your triumph to me, Damasus, when I was a boy.

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Pope St. Damasus I

Having that personal connection to the martyrs, Damasus felt compelled to carry on the tradition of their memories. In A.D. 380, four years before the death of Damasus, Emperor Theodosius the Great (I)  issued an edict from Thessalonica that decreed that the religion “which is now professed by the pontiff Damasus” i.e. Roman Catholicism, would be the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

For centuries, the Church had found her identity in her martyrs. Now, the Age of Martyrs was officially over. As those in living memory of the events of the persecutions died, the risk arose that these heroes of the faith, whose blood was the seed of the Church, might be forgotten. Damasus endeavored carry on the tradition that he had received and to ensure that these martyrs were remembered.

Damasus honored three popes who are buried in the Catacombs of Calixtus with individual inscriptions: Cornelius, Eusebius and Xystus II. Xystus is only pope honored by Damasus, other than Peter, who actually shed his blood for the faith. In the chapel in which Xystus is buried, now known as the Crypt of the Popes, Damasus included an epigram that references his martyrdom and that of his companions by saying that “they gave their necks to the soldiers.”  Damasus addresses the epigram to the “crowd of the pious” buried close to Xystus in the catacombs of Calixtus. “Here, I confess Damasus wished to bury my body, but I feared to disturb the ashes of the pious saints.” In addition to the elogium Xysti, Damasus composed a separate epigram for Felicissimus and Agapitus, two deacons of Xystus.

Interestingly, the Roman Canon, known today as the First Eucharistic Prayer, was likely composed during the pontificate of Pope St. Damasus. It commemorates both Cornelius and Xystus (Sixtus) along with the first four popes (Peter, Linus, Cletus, Clement).

Return to the Age of Martyrs

For the first three centuries of Christianity, followers of Christ were generally rejected, regarded with fear and suspicion if not outright hostility. From time to time, that hostility erupted into persecution, culminating in the Empire wide Great Persecution under Diocletian. During the pontificate of Pope St. Damasus I, Christianity it initiated an ascendancy that lead to a cultural and societal dominance that continued unabated until the last century or two. Now, we find ourselves in the same position as the first Christians, with societal hostility to the faith threatening to spill over into persecution.

We must ask: Would we will be willing to attend Mass if it were outlawed? If to do so would be to risk our earthly lives? Would we be willing to huddle in some secret place like the catacombs, knowing that any moment, godless men might burst in to mingle your blood, and that of your family, with the Precious Blood of your Lord and Savior, as it is offered on the altar for your sins and those of your killers?

Such questions have ceased being theoretical for many Christians, in places like Sri Lanka, Africa and Syria. Although the election of Trump may have stemmed the tide of persecution for some time, that is only a stop-gap, and the furor with which his opponents on the Left despise his supporters will inevitably lead to violent reprisals when (not if) the Democrats regain control in 2020 or 2024. Sooner rather than later, these questions may became those upon which the answer determines our eternal fate and that of the succeeding generations. Let us pray that God might grant us the grace to follow the example of the glorious martyrs, whose memory Pope St. Damasus preserved so well.

Pope St. Sixtus II and Companions, ora pro nobis.

Finnian and the Seven Mountains: A Review

Are you Catholic? Do you have a deep appreciation of history, especially in a Catholic context? Are you a fan of epic adventures like Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you will enjoy Finnian and the Seven Mountains, an ongoing comic series from Voyage Comics. If your answer to all these questions is yes (like me), then you will LOVE it.

Star Wars

In the first issue, Philip Kosloski is deliberately being evocative of Star Wars in the writing as is the artist Michael Lavoy, with one panel in particular being a blatant reference to Star Wars, which any keen eyed fan of the saga will notice right away. There are thematic references as well, particularly in the first issue, which features Skellig Michael, the first of the eponymous seven mountains. As Kosolki notes in an afterword, Skellig Michael was featured in the two most recent Star Wars movies as the planet Ahch-To, the location of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker’s self-imposed exile. The monks who inhabit the island are visually reminiscent of Jedi.

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The aforementioned panel is a reference to this scene…when you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about

The most notable theme that the comic series shares with Star Wars is what made the original saga so enduring: the Hero’s Journey. Like Luke, Finnian is an orphan, who receives a “call to adventure”…except instead of a message in old astromech droid, Finnian receives his call to adventure from St. Michael the Archangel himself. The quest upon which the Prince of the Heavenly Host sends Finnian involves a journey to seven different locations in order to recover a mystical weapon with power to defeat evil.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings also had a Hero’s Journey for a number of characters, particularly the hobbit Frodo Baggins. For the second issue, the influence of The Lord of the Rings on Kosloski is more in evidence than that of Star Wars, with the addition of a female warrior character clearly modeled (which, again Kosloski makes clear at the end) after Eowyn. Young girls whose brothers enjoyed the first issue will be happy to have a character with whom they can identify, and one that can not only hold her own but get the protagonist out of a jam as well! However, one line of dialogue in the second issue will clearly remind the reader that Star Wars is still a strong influence.

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“I AM NO MAN!”

Outstanding Overall

The art of Michael Lavoy is amazingly vibrant and probably the best thing about the series. Kosloski’s writing is solid, and the plot is interesting, though it can feel rushed at times. If there is a weakness, it is the dialogue, which tends to be clipped and at times, cliché. Overall, however this is an outstanding choice of comic for a young Catholic. During these sad times when even comic books are being infected by the cultural rot and books, movies and TV shows like the morally depraved Game of Thrones are seen as the next thing for a fan of epic fantasy to enjoy, Finnian and the Seven Mountains provides a worthy alternative.

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Having a double R initials does not make this guy the next Tolkien…not by any stretch of the imagination

It is also a powerful reminder that the fight against evil is no fantasy, it is real, and true heroes are the saints. Not does St. Michael, to whom I have a strong devotion, make an appearance but one of the main characters of the series is St. Brendan the Navigator. St. Brendan is a rather obscure saint but I am glad to see him included in this series, since my godson’s name is Brendan (after his father). I look forward to sharing the completed series of Finian and the Seven Mountains with him when he is old enough to enjoy them.

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With my godson at his baptism, almost five years ago

“The Moon Shall Turn to Blood…”

A “blood moon” (lunar eclipse) on the vigil of a feast of one of the most important virgin martyrs of the Church, which itself is the day before the day that we mourn (and the wicked celebrate) the Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion in the United States is fitting and poetic. But what if it is more than that? Could it be somehow prophetic?

2017

2017 was the centennial of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, and many were filled with expectation, especially those who did not believe that all her requests had been completely fulfilled.

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We don’t all look like this guy…I promise

Looking around at the situation in both the world and the Church, many thought that this would be the time that Our Lord, through His Mother, would step in in some powerful, miraculous way. To some, this expectation was bolstered by a series of celestial signs that began in 2013 but grew in intensity and multiplied in 2016 and 2017. All these signs are connected in some way to the Blessed Virgin Mary and through her, to the Apocalypse of Saint John, usually referred to as the Book of Revelation. They included:

  • Lightning striking the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica on February 11, 2013, which was not only the day that Pope Benedict XVI announced his abdication but the memorial (double major feast on the Tridentine calendar) of Our Lady of Lourdes
  • Lightning striking the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica a second time on October 7, 2016 which is the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
  • Two earthquakes that struck Mexico, the strongest of which struck Mexico City, the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of whom matches the description of the Woman in the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse.
  • Another earthquake hit Akita, Japan, site of an apparition considered by many to be a continuation of that of Our Lady of Fatima, on September 8, 2017 which is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • A total solar eclipse that occurred on the feast of Our Lady of Knock (August 21, 2017) and the vigil of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 22, 2017), as well as the first day of the 40 day period known as St. Michael’s Lent that ends on the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (September 29, 2017)
  • An astronomical conjunction that appeared in the sky on September 23, 2017 which is the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham (September 23, 2017), consisting of the constellations Virgo (the Virgin), Leo (the Lion), the sun, moon and the planets Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and Mars that matches first two verses of the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse with startling precision.
  • The Draconid meteor shower, originating in the constellation Draco (the Dragon), that occurred on October 7, 2017 which is the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and appear as stars falling from the Dragon, in line with the third and fourth verses of the Twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse.

“The Sun will be turned to darkness…”

Of these signs, the one that was talked about the most was the astronomical conjunction. It was unprecedented and was very similar to what some researchers believe was the Star of Bethlehem. More importantly, it perfected the description of the “great sign” in the sky in the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, which Catholics consider to be the Virgin Mary, and occurred in the lead up to the centennial of Fatima. However, it has become clear that the key to these signs is not the startling astronomical conjunction but the solar eclipse.

Solar eclipses happen all the time, but this one was significant because no total solar eclipse had been visible across the contiguous United States since 1918 (the year after Fatima!). When considering the eclipse, this Scripture verse comes to mind:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light”-Matthew 13:24

In His Mount Olivet discourse, Our Lord is alluding to this passage from the prophet Joel:

The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.” –Joel 2:30-31 RSV

Blood Moon

Last night’s blood moon was not the first since the Great American Eclipse, it was the second. The first occurred on July 27, 2018. This was the night before Pope Francis removed Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals. (Although at the time of the eclipse, it was already very early morning in Rome.) This was culmination of months of revelations that McCarrick had abused not only minors but seminarians from his archdiocese and that “everybody knew” but said nothing.

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McCarrick and Wuerl

And this was only the beginning of what came to be done as the “Summer of Shame.” Two and a half weeks later, on August 14, the vigil of the Assumption of Our Lady, the Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report that was both explosive and earth shattering. It revealed an epidemic of sexual abuse among the clergy of six Pennsylvania dioceses going back to at least the 50’s. Worse than that, it revealed a systemic and massive cover-up of those crimes, which implicated Archbishop Donald, Cardinal Wuerl during his time as bishop of Pittsburgh, before he succeeded McCarrick as Archbishop of New York. The content of this report revealed behavior of priests that is of course sickeningly disgusting.  However, beyond the simple fact that all sexual abuse is a powerful tool of Satan, the description of the crimes perpetrated is Satanic in a way that indicates that at least some of them were literal Satanists.

V for Vigano

However, the biggest bombshell came eight days later, on August 21, the vigil of the Queenship of Our Lady. This was the report by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former apostolic nuncio to the United States, that Pope Benedict XVI had put “restrictions” on McCarrick which had been lifted by Pope Francis, who then sought advice from McCarrick and episcopal appointments and creation of Cardinals for the United States. In short, Pope Francis knew about McCarrick and not only did nothing but rehabilitated the man.

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Archbishop Vigano does NOT approve

What is notable is that the Vigano report was released one year to the day after the Great American Eclipse.

Just before telling His Apostles what signs will portend His Coming, Our Lord tells them

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know the summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you that know that He is near, at the very gates.” –Mark 13:28-29 RSV

The Mount Olivet discourse takes place during Holy Week, following the triumphal entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. According to Mark’s Gospel, on Monday of that week, as Jesus and His disciples were coming from Bethany, where they were staying, to Jerusalem, Jesus saw a fig tree. He went and looked for figs, because He was hungry, but finding none, He cursed the tree.

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Seems like a bit of an overreaction, to be honest

And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And His disciples heard it.-Mark 11:13 RSV

When evening comes, they return to Bethany and returning by the same route the next day, they see that the tree has withered. This was a sign and a warning to the people of Jerusalem: the Lord had entered His city and not found the fruit He expected. Thus, eventually, the Temple would be destroyed and replaced.

You Have a Year…

In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Jesus delivers a parable concerning a Barren Fig Tree.

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, “Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?” And he answered him, “Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” –Luke 13:6-9 RSV

In other parables, the owner of the vineyard is seen to be God the Father, and the vineyard is Israel. The vinedresser here is Christ. This parable too was a warning as it was delivered a year before the events of Holy Week. Now, when Jesus enters the Holy City, he not only finds a random fig tree without fruit but He finds that His Chosen People and their Temple are without fruit. He curses the fig tree as a final warning to Jerusalem that they too will be destroyed and no one will eat fruit from them again, less than forty years after He is speaking.

What Does It Mean?

This makes the timing of Vigano’s report, McCarrick’s removal and total eclipses of both the sun and moon, visible in the United States, startling. Could the Great American Eclipse have been a sign, like the withering of the fig tree, that we had a year to show that we could bear good fruit? Is the Catholic Church in America about to be eclipsed? The hours of the eclipse matched those of the darkness while Christ hung on the Cross on Good Friday. Is the Church, not only in America, but in the entire world, about to endure a metaphorical crucifixion? Are we about to be destroyed, at least in the eyes of the world, as the Temple was?

Vigano’s report revealed that the corruption, or at least the cover up, in the Church went all the way to the very top, to Pope Francis himself. Francis was elected as a result of Benedict XVI’s abdication, right after which the first of the aforementioned signs occurred: lightning striking St. Peter’s. Could this be to what all those signs are pointing?

I do not claim to know. After all, Our Lord said

But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. –Mark 13: 32 RSV

But He also said

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars –Luke 21:25 RSV

And more importantly

Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.-Matthew 24:42 RSV

So I will continue to do what I believe all good Catholics, indeed all Christians, should do: watch and pray. However, I think it would be imprudent to not pick up one’s head and take closer notice of what is going on, even in the skies.

Sts. Marcellinus and Peter

Marcellinus and PeterMarcellinus and Peter were Roman martyrs during the persecution under the emperor Diocletian. Both Marcellinus and Peter were members of the clergy of the city of Rome. Marcellinus was a presbyter (priest) and Peter was an exorcist. (Prior to 1975, candidates to the priesthood were first ordained to a succession of minor orders which included acolyte, lector and exorcist. Nowadays, seminarians and diaconal candidates are still admitted to the minor orders of lector and acolytes, although their duties have largely been delegated to laypeople.)

Marcellinus and Peter are commemorated in the Second Intercession of the Roman Canon, known today as the First Eucharistic Prayer. The canon commemorates the “holy Apostles (although St. Matthias is frustratingly shuffled to the Second Intercession) martyrs.” The martyrs mentioned include people from all states of the Church: popes (the first four plus notables such as Sts. Cornelius, Alexander I and Xystus II), bishops (Sts. Ignatius of Antioch and Cyrian of Carthage), priests (St. Marcellinus), deacons (Sts. Stephan and Laurence), exorcists (St. Peter), and both laymen (Sts. Cosmos and Damian; John and Paul; and Chyrsogonus) and laywomen, both virgins (Sts. Agnes, Agatha, Lucy, Cecilia and Anastasia) and matrons (Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas).

Honored by Damasus

Like many of the saints commemorated in the Roman Canon, Marcellinus and Peter were commemorated in an elogium written by Pope St. Damasus I and placed over their tomb. Many of the martyrs commemorated by Damasus in his elogia were either connected in some way to the papacy of Damasus or Damasus himself personally. For example, Damasus was consecrated as pope in a basilica dedicated to St. Laurence, in whose honor Damasus composed a number of epigraphs.

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The tomb of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter in the Roman catacombs, which St. Damasus I adorned with an epigraph in their honor
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Pope St. Damasus I

In the case of Marcellinus and Peter, in the elogium Damasus composed for them, he states that “as a boy” that Marcellinus and Peter’s executioner told him the story of their martyrdom. The executioner was baptized by Pope Julius I, who had been the predecessor of Damasus’ own predecessor Liberius. St. Jerome wrote that Damasus was “about eight years old” when he died in A.D. 384, which places his birth sometime in A.D. 304/5. Thus, in the lifetime of Damasus, the Church went from viciously persecuted minority under Diocletian to the state religion of the Empire with the promulgation of the Edict of Thessalonica in A.D. 382.

The primary goal of the epigrammatic program of Damasus was to reclaim various locations in the city of Rome. A significant rigorist minority opposed the election of Damasus as pope by electing an antipope named Ursicinus and continued to oppose Damasus throughout his pontificate, despite imperial rebuke. (Ursicinus actually outlived Damasus)  A significant part of this conflict, particularly at the beginning, was the capture and occupation of strategic geographic locations in the city, such as the tomb of St. Agnes. By placing memorials to the martyrs, that included his own name, throughout the city, Damasus regained control of the city from the schismatics, in a way that would last long after Damasus himself died. At the same time, with the loss of paganism’s status as state religion, Damasus saw an opportunity to replace the pagan monuments and memorials in the city with Christian ones, turning Rome into a Christian capital.

The Testimony of Witnesses

However, it is also important to remember that being eighty at the time of his death, Damasus was most likely one of the very few for whom the Great Persecution was still within “living memory.” Since St. Luke composed his Gospel, the story of salvation has been passed on “by the testimony of witnesses.” Damasus knew that it would be very soon that no one, eyewitnesses or those to whom they had passed on their testimony, would be alive and the Persecution might be forgotten. To prevent this, and ensure that the martyrs were remembered for generations to come, Damasus composed the epigraphs for which he is famous, and probably the Canon of the Mass as well. And while there is no way to prove this with any degree of historical certainty, I believe that he was inspired to do this by his own experience of having heard the story of the martyrdom of Sts. Marcellinus and Peter from the man who carried it out and thus had firsthand experience.

St. Joseph and the Passion

My dad always used to say that he believed St. Joseph died before the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry because if he had been alive, St. Joseph would have tried to prevent it. I no longer think that this is true for a number of reasons.

  1. Had he been alive at the time of the Passion, Our Lady, who was always perfectly in tune with the will of God would have surely explained to him that this was all how it has supposed to happen. St. Joseph surely would have trusted Our Lady and followed her lead in accepting the Passion of his beloved foster-Son
  2. The Gospel according to St. Luke explicitly states that after the Holy Family returned to Nazareth following Passover in the twelfth year of Our Lord’s life, after His three days in the Temple, that Our Lord was subject to St. Joseph. In Jewish culture, Jesus would have been under St. Joseph’s authority until St. Joseph died. Thus, in order to speak with His own authority, St. Joseph would have had to have died.
  3. The death of St. Joseph, in the presence of Our Lord and Our Lady, is meant to be a model for our own deaths and is why St. Joseph is the patron for a happy death.

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    Image of the death of St. Joseph from the eponymous basilica of the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. Notice that Our Lord is blessing St. Joseph as Our Lady prays for him.
  4. As stated in this video, Sts. Bede the Venerable and Jerome (two of my favorite saints!) state that St. Joseph died in Jerusalem while there for the feast of Passover. He was buried there in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is a beautiful thought to think that Our Lord sought some solace on the night before His Passion by praying at the tomb of his earthly father.trevisani_agony_in_the_garden
  5. If St. Joseph had been alive at the time of His Passion, there would have been no need for Our Lord to commend Our Lady to the care of St. John from the Cross and thus we would not have the beautiful image of Our Lady as Mother of the Church and our Mother, with St. John representing every Christian.
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I don’t think St. John would have had a beard though

I get why my dad said what he did. Especially now that I am a father myself, the idea that St. Joseph would have done everything in his power to try to stop the death of his only Son to the point of dying alongside Him, appeals to our inborn desire to protect and be a hero. But ultimately, it does not give St. Joseph, nor the ultimate will and providence of God, enough credit. There were many reasons that it was God’s will that St. Joseph should die before Our Lord’s public ministry and not witness His Passion.

A thought upon which I like to meditate frequently is what the meeting between St. Joseph and Our Lord in Limbo must have been like. Would St. Joseph have been saddened to see His foster-Son there so soon after his own death (if the souls there even had a concept of time)? Would he have thought of the Blessed Virgin, now bereft of both son and husband? How all the other souls of the just there, from Adam to Abraham to David must have marveled when they realized that the prophesied Messiah had come as a new Moses to lead them to the eternal Promised Land and the first person to whom He went was a humble unknown carpenter that none of them knew or recognized?

sanctus iosephSt. Joseph, foster father of Our Lord, spouse of the Blessed Virgin and patron of the Universal Church

Ora pro nobis!

Reflections on St. Patrick and Vestment Colors

No Green

I have always found it ironic that despite the iconic color of Ireland-and therefore St. Patrick’s Day- being green the priest who offers Mass on the feast of St. Patrick will never be wearing green. This is because the latest possible date for Ash Wednesday is March 10 and the earliest possible date for Easter is March 22. Thus, March 17 always falls during Lent. Thus the priest will either wear violet, the color for the liturgical season, or white, the color for a confessor a.k.a. non-martyr. (Yes, I am aware there is probably some liturgical moron of a priest somewhere who would wear a green vestment on St. Patrick’s Day. But they shouldn’t. And even among priests guilty of all kinds of liturgical shenanigans, the color of vestments, if not their design, seems relatively sacrosanct.)

At Tara

St. Patrick at Tara (2)This becomes even more interesting when one contemplates various images of St. Patrick in sacred art, especially as found in churches. The city of Savannah, Georgia has a sizable population of Irish descent and one of the biggest celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day in the country (if not the world). In that city’s Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, St. Patrick is shown wearing vestments of the traditional green color.

 

 

A little less than two and a half hours to the northwest, a similar stained glass window in Macon’s church of St. Joseph depicts St. Patrick wearing what appears to be a gold chasuble with a red surplice a red miter.

St. Patrick at Tara (3)

Two hours to the almost direct south of Savannah, in Jacksonville’s (Minor) Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is another stained glass window depicting St. Patrick. In it he is wearing the same vestments as the one in Macon, but with a gold miter instead of a red one.

St. Patrick at Tara

Finally, the apse of the church of St. Patrick in Rome, Italy features an image of the saint dressed in fully red vestments.

St. Patrick at Tara (in Roma)

Patrick’s Pascha

What is interesting is that each of these images feature the same event in the life of St. Patrick: his preaching to the High King at the royal hill of Tara. All of them feature him using the iconic shamrock to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Of them, only the ones in Macon and Jacksonville he what he actually would have been wearing. According to the legend, the year that Patrick arrived in Ireland, Easter coincide with the Druidic festival of Beltane. On Beltane, all the fires throughout the kingdom would be extinguished. No fire was allowed to lit, under pain of death, until the High King lit the royal fire upon the hill of Tara. Flames would then be carried from that fire to light all the hearths throughout the land. It was a symbol of the regeneration of the world after darkness, cold and death of winter.

Unwilling to let a pagan feast deter him from lighting the Paschal Fire for the Easter Vigil, St. Patrick did so on the hill of Slane. It was spotted and the High King sent troops to arrest Patrick. The High King’s Druids warned him that “If this fire is not extinguished tonight, it will never be put out in Ireland.” The urged the High King to just kill Patrick and be done with it but the High King ordered Patrick to come before him in the morning. Thus, St. Patrick preached the Risen Christ to the High King at Tara on Easter Sunday.

Perhaps Pentecost?

White is the liturgical color for Easter, though it is such a high solemnity that it is often customary to wear gold vestments, if these are available. Thus, the stained glass windows in Macon and Jacksonville would be the most accurate. What is interesting about the image from Rome is that red is the color of martyrs (which St. Patrick was not though he certainly repeatedly risked becoming one) and of the Holy Spirit. It is worn at Pentecost.

Beltane is on May 1. This latest possible date for Easter is April 25 so it is not possible for Beltane to coincide with Easter. However, it could coincide with Pentecost. This has led many to consign the story of Patrick’s Pasha to mere legend. Yet, is it possible that is occurred on Pentecost? Could St. Patrick have lit a fire, not as a Paschal fire, but simply as a direct challenge to the darkness of Druidry as a symbol of the fire of the Holy Spirit?

The Date of Easter

It is also worth noting that Eastern Orthodox Easter can fall in May. This discrepancy is due to the Orthodox still computing Easter via the Julian Calendar because they do not accept the Gregorian Calendar promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Not only was St. Patrick alive long before the East-West Schism but Ireland and England did not really settle on a method for calculating Easter until about two hundred years after the death of St. Patrick. So, it is entirely possible that, based on the calculations and computations available to him at the time, Patrick celebrated Easter as close to when he thought it was supposed to be and therefore it coincided with Beltane.

Sts. Damasus I, Perpetua and Felicitas and the Development of the Canon of the Mass

In my previous post, I mentioned that, of the seven women (besides the Virgin Mary) mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, five are virgins. Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas, both being mothers, are not. The other way in each Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas differed from their fellow women in the Roman Canon is the location of their martyrdom. The other five are associated in some way with Italy (Two are associated with Rome and two with Sicily. Anastasia’s Roman credentials are fuzzy, but she is commonly associated with Rome as well). Perpetua and Felicitas are from Carthage in North Africa.

The Roman Canon

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Pope St. Damasus I

The Roman Canon was developed in the late fourth-century, likely during the reign of Pope St. Damasus I (A.D. 366-384). Damasus is most notable for a series of epigraphs he composed in honor of the Roman martyrs and had placed over their tombs. A significant number of those he so honored are named in the Roman Canon, including, in addition to the Apostles Peter and Paul, Clement, Cornelius, Xystus (Sixtus), Lawrence, Marcellinus, Peter and Agnes. Damasus started this epigrammatic program in effort to claim the city of Rome as a Christian city by creating a new cultural memory for the city by replacing the old pagan heroes with Christian martyrs.

Martyrs of Rome

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Sts. Peter and Paul

Agnes is the only one of the virgin martyrs whom Damasus explicitly recognizes with an epigraph. It s notable that she is the only one of the five, other than Cecilia, who was definitely martyred at Rome. Lucy and Agatha were both martyred in Sicily. (In fact, the story of St. Agatha also inspired St. Lucy, whose mother visited her Agatha’s shrine and received a miraculous cure.) Anastasia was martyred in Sirmium, despite being a native of Rome. Now, Damasus did not limit his epigrammatic program to martyrs who were originally from Rome. The epigram dedicated to Peter and Paul states,

“The East sent the disciples, which we willingly admit. On account of the merit of their blood…Rome deserves to call them her own citizens.”

Maura Lafferty explains that “although Damasus allows that both Peter and Paul were born elsewhere, he nevertheless asserts that their new birth in martyrdom turned them into citizens of Rome herself.” Only Agnes of course, had her relics at Rome, which is why only she was honored with an epigraph by Damasus. However, Damasus likely included Sts. Lucy and Agatha as representatives of virgin martyrs from another part of Sicily since their stories were similar to those of Agnes.

Martyrs of Carthage

Damasus did not limit his Romanization to martyrs who had suffered at Rome. Damasus also wrote an epigraph for Saturinus, who had suffered martyrdom along with Perpetua and Felicitas. Damasus wrote,

“Now an inhabitant of Christ, he was of Carthage before…by blood, he changed his nation, name and family; the birth of saints made a Roman citizen.”

He likely felt the same way about Perpetua and Felicitas that he did about their companion Saturinus, and considered them to be Romans by virtue of their martyrdoms. Ultimately Damasus made the claim that to be Christian is to be Roman. He clearly believed that just as Rome was once the center of the Roman Empire, it should now be the beating heart of the Christian world. This is why Damasus included so many Roman saints in the Roman Canon.

Connection with St. Cecilia?

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St. Tiburtius

Another saint for whom Damasus wrote an epigraph was St. Tiburtius. Tiburtius was a soldier who was executed during the persecution of Diocletian. Although it is possible that he is not the same saint, Tiburtius was the also the name of St. Cecilia’s brother-in-law, who converted and was executed along with his brother Valerian. Thus, it is interesting that while Damasus did include married women among those he recognized in the Canon, he did write epigraphs for them. Instead, he wrote epigraphs for martyrs who may have been associated with them. Damasus likely included Perpetua and Felicitas for the same reason that he wrote the epigram to Saturinus, to indicate the universality of the Roman church. The inclusion of Perpetua and Felicitas adds that universality to the specific group of female martyrs as well both in terms of their nationality and of their states in life.