Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quo Vadis


Quo Vadis by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz is a jewel of historical fiction. While the 1951 film is excellent, it is dated; the novel, however, transcends time. The heartrending and vivid portrait of Roman life in the days of Nero combines a romance with the acta sanctorum amid breathtaking historical accuracy. The feelings of the young tribune Marcus Vinicius for the Christian maiden Ligia Callina are transformed by sacrifice and suffering from mere lust into profound love and devotion. In the meantime the early Church prepares to face a grueling ordeal at the hands of Nero. The brutality and decadence of Imperial Rome stand in glaring contrast to the indefatigable new sect, guided and instructed by Peter and Paul. The Christians must deal not only with the violence of the pagans but with some of their own members who betray and deceive. Indeed, part of the impact of the novel is the way it conveys continuity of the past with the present. Followers of Christ must struggle with their own sins and weaknesses as much as with the outside world which seeks to destroy them. It was not easy then; it is not easy now.

Henryk Sienkiewicz (1846-1916) received the Nobel Prize for Quo Vadis. He was writing to encourage his Polish countrymen in their many difficulties, and combined superb story-telling with painstaking historical research. Although I prefer the book to the movie, I do not hesitate to recommend the latter. Among 1950's Biblical epics, Quo Vadis is outstanding. Peter Ustinov's performance as Nero is truly something worth watching; few actors could capture the same balance of comedy, pathos and unmitigated depravity. The sets are magnificent as well, and the flow of drama, quite piercing. It is a good way to glean both history and inspiration while being entertained.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Divine Office

Fr. Mark on where prayer begins. To quote:
I have long had an inner awareness that the Deus in adjutorium calls down the grace of the Holy Ghost in a unique way. Does not the Apostle say that, "the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God" (Romans 8:26-27)? (Read entire post.)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Heavenly Word

The meaning of "Alleluia" in the liturgy. To quote Fr. Mark:
Among the holy words that grace the lips of man in prayer, there is perhaps none lovelier than Alleluia. It is a word that requires the development of melody. It calls for a soaring vocal jubilation. It contains within itself a cantus obscurior, the hidden and most secret form of verbal expression that the chant of the Church brings to life. Alleluia is a heavenly word, an echo and a foretaste of the liturgy described by Saint John in the Apocalypse:
After these things I heard as it were the voice of much people in heaven, saying: Alleluia. Salvation, and glory, and power is to our God. For true and just are his judgments, who hath judged the great harlot which corrupted the earth with her fornication, and hath revenged the blood of his servants, at her hands. And again they said: Alleluia. And her smoke ascendeth for ever and ever. And the four and twenty ancients, and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out from the throne, saying: Give praise to our God, all ye his servants; and you that fear him, little and great.
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath prepared herself. (Apocalypse 19:1-7)
(Read entire post.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Two English Martyrs


Don Marco's post on St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher is so beautiful, anything I could say would be redundant. To quote:
Men of Fire and of Light
We remember today two martyrs, one a bishop and the other a husband, father, lawyer, statesman, and philosopher: Saints John Fisher and Thomas More. Both were men of fire and of light. Both fought manfully and suffered the martyrdom of John the Baptist, the Friend of the Bridegroom of whom Our Lord said, “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (Jn 5:35).
The Sun Snatched from the Universe
Saint John Fisher was alone among all the bishops of the realm to stand against Henry VIII in the “great affair” of his divorce and against the Act of Supremacy by which the King repudiated the jurisdiction of the Pope over the Church in England. The Church in England was to become the Church of England. Protestantization would follow and, above all, the suppression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered according to the rite of the Church of Rome. Concerning Holy Mass, Bishop John Fisher had written: “He who goes about to take the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass from the Church, plots no less a calamity than if he tried to snatch the sun from the universe.”
The following excerpts are from St. Thomas More's A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation:
If we reflect on these things and remember them well, we shall not murmur or complain in time of tribulation. Instead, we shall first take our pain patiently and see it as something of worth. Then we shall grow in goodness and see ourselves as quite worthy of tribulation. And then we shall realize that God has sent it for our own good, and so be moved to thank God for it....
Let us, then, never hope for our life to be long. We should keep it while we can, because God has so commanded, but if God so arranges that in his good graces we may go, let us be glad of it, and long to go to him. And then shall the hope of heaven comfort our heavy hearts, and out of our transitory tribulation shall we go to everlasting glory....

Friday, June 21, 2013

Companionship of the Saints

From Father Mark in Ireland:
In many places in northern Europe -- notably in France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands -- a certain Protestantisation crept into the liturgical sensibility prevalent during the years following the Second Vatican Council. This led to a suspicion of the cultus of the saints, their festivals, and their relics, and to a trend towards minimizing the role of the saints in Catholic life, and towards diminishing as much possible their place in the liturgy. This trend was fostered by the unfortunate introduction of so-called "optional memorials", by which certain saints were condemned to liturgical oblivion. It is a principle, easily observed in the recent history of the liturgy, that as soon as something is declared optional, it falls into desuetude.

Sentire Cum Ecclesia
It is noteworthy that Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his sixth rule for holding fast to the sentiments of the Church (sentire cum ecclesia) recognized the threat of Protestant hostility to the cultus of the Saints and to Catholic piety, and so wrote: "To praise relics of the Saints, giving veneration to them and praying to the Saints; and to praise Stations, pilgrimages, Indulgences, pardons, cruzadas, and candles lighted in the churches."

The Companionship of the Saints
An authentic Benedictine piety delights in the cultus of the saints, of their relics, and of their altars. I remember being moved, in my monastic youth, by the simple devotion of monks who, either before Matins or after Compline, would go, as it were, in pilgrimage, from altar to altar, and from image to image, honouring the saints and seeking their intercession. "And therefore we also having so great a cloud of witnesses over our head, laying aside every weight and sin which surrounds us, let us run by patience to the fight proposed to us: looking on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, who having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and now sitteth on the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2). (Read entire post.)
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