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Posted by on Jan 1, 2011

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

(Credit: Hiking Artist Cartoons – Used with permission)

This New Year’s post and my resolution comes from Fr. Cyprian Consiglio’s homily today at Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, California. Fr. Cyprian is a Camaldolese monk, musician, and student of world religions.

A liturgy with Fr. Cyprian is always a wonderful experience. His homily was based on the theme for today’s observance of World Peace Day.

Pope Benedict XVI focused on Freedom of Religion as the theme for this New Year’s Day of Peace 2011.

Religious freedom is not the exclusive patrimony of believers, but of the whole family of the earth’s peoples. It is an essential element of a constitutional state; it cannot be denied without at the same time encroaching on all fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone. It is “the litmus test for the respect of all the other human rights”.[8] While it favours the exercise of our most specifically human faculties, it creates the necessary premises for the attainment of an integral development which concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.

In his homily, Fr. Cyprian reflected on the number of groups which observed peace vigils New Year’s Eve and that the growing number showed, perhaps, an increase in consciousness and enlightenment. He went to some pains to point out that many of the groups from diverse traditions did not agree on everything and probably never would. However, it is only through the free exercise of religion and the building of bridges of good will that these tensions can be recognized, managed, and appreciated.

In fact Fr. Cyprian’s life as a troubadour of peace has bridged many of these divides through the dialog of contemplation and world music. (For wonderful and challenging reflections, subscribe to Fr. Cyprian’s blog.)

The unspoken lesson: Become the Peace You Want.

YouTube – CyprianConsiglio’s Channel.

For a brief but deep meditation on peace, tune into the chants Benedictus, Namo Janitre, and Awakening performed by Fr. Cyprian and Dr. John Pennington for a truly happy entry into this New Year.

Fr. Cyprian Consiglio and Dr. John Pennington

I highly recommend Fr. Cyprian’s blog and Dr. John Pennington’s website.

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Posted by on Jun 14, 2009

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam

Cyprian Consiglio, OSB Cam. offered some interesting thoughts about the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (AKA Corpus Christi) today in his homily and his blog. He has graciously agreed to allow me to share them in a post for this feast.

The Inner Meaning

During this time of year when there are so many of our rites of passage taking place––weddings, graduations, ordinations (even birthdays)––it’s interesting to take a look at the purpose of ritual. Anthropologically speaking, a ritual is a way of expressing and passing on our understanding of reality or of an experience to someone else. So, for instance, a graduation is not about a piece of paper and a cap and gown: it’s weightier, it’s heavy; that’s why tears flow from the eyes of parents as they see their child graduate or get married. The ritual is trying to carry all those memories and meanings, and summarize them in a single gesture: an exchange of rings, the laying on of hands, a birthday card, an embrace, throwing a shovelful of dirt on a coffin: all these rituals mean more than they mean, they carry an almost indescribable load of treasures.

In the Roman rite we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ this week, and it’s safe to ask what Jesus was trying to convey to his disciples when he performed this rather odd ritual––not just breaking the bread and passing out the cup, but claiming that it was his very self. What exactly was he asking them to remember when they did it over and over again? I thought of five things, which certainly don’t exhaust the list of possible meanings.

1. First of all, this gesture looks backward and forward at Jesus’own life. Backward in that Jesus’ whole life had been spent being broken and passed out; his whole life had been dedicated to feeding those around him: taking care of their bodily needs through healing and feeding; and also feeding and healing them in a real way with the Wisdom of God, this incredible good news of God’s undying boundless care for every single hair on the head of very single human being from the greatest to––especially––the least. This ritual also looked ahead to the next day when Jesus allowed his body to be broken like bread and his blood poured out like wine––to say that it’s alright: you can survive even this, your real self cannot be annihilated, but like a seed that falls into the earth and dies it will yield a rich harvest of resurrection life.

2. This ritual symbolized––again what Jesus’ whole life symbolized––that Divine Love gives itself to humanity––that’s what God is like! The Divine is present, really present: divine love is offering itself to the world in this ritual meal.

3. This ritual also conveyed (and conveys) that this Divine Mystery is present everywhere, in creation, “in the earth and its produce.” Unfortunately the kind of hosts we use and our ornate chalices can actually hide the fact that this is actually wheat and grapes, real food: “which earth had given,” as we say, “fruit of the earth.” I think that this conveys that all matter is meant to be brought into right relationship with God, and that all matter can reveal and be a vehicle for the Grace of God. St Irenaeus wrote,

    “This is why he took a part of creation, gave thanks and said: This is my body. In the same way he declared that the cup, an element of the same creation as ourselves, was his blood: he taught them that this was the new sacrifice of the new covenant.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

But we add a line to the prayer over the gifts: it’s not just what ”the earth has given,” or “the fruit of the earth”; it’s also the work of human hands. There is a beautiful prayer of Teihard de Chardin:

    I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar––
    And on it I will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world…
    I will place on the paten the harvest to be won by labor. . .
    Into my chalice I will pour all the sap which is to be pressed out this day from the Earth’s fruits.

So, the fruit of the earth and the work of our hands all become vehicles for God’s grace, all is meant to be brought into right relationship with God.

4. This ritual is also meant to convey to us that God wants us to participate in the work of creation, and in divinity itself. That’s why we pray that incredible prayer, “by the mystery of the water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who came to share in our humanity.”

5. And how do we participate? Well, that’s the last thing I want to mention that this ritual is trying to convey (though we could go on and on): it conveys that this divine mystery is especially present whenever and wherever human beings meet and share together, that God is present in every gesture of unselfish love, in every occasion of someone laying down their life for another. That’s why we read the story of the washing of the feet before we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The Hebrews didn’t need another ritual, another sacrifice; we don’t need another ritual; and God certainly didn’t and doesn’t either. The prophets leading up to Jesus kept telling the people how God was sick of their sacrifices and rituals! Jesus himself quotes the prophet Hosea twice saying: “Go and learn the meaning of these words, ‘It is love that I desire, not sacrifice. Knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.’”

The church, and this ritual, has no other purpose but to communicate and convey and reveal that––the love and knowledge of God that is hidden in the heart of creation and poured into the center of every human being as our very source and our ground. This is what we will be judged on as a church, as individuals, as communities and as a whole: not the forms of our rituals and doctrines, but by the reality of the love and knowledge of God that we manifest.

Bede Griffiths wrote that: “All myth and ritual, all doctrine and sacrament, is but a means to awaken our souls to this hidden mystery, to allow the divine presence to make itself known.”

So: as we participate in this ritual, as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and/or when we gaze at the reserved Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle or in a monstrance, let’s remember how weighty it is, how much it carries and conveys. And let’s especially pray that it would awaken us to the mystery of the knowledge of God, and the love of God that is poured into our hearts, so that we might make it manifest in our world, so that we might be the body and blood of Christ––that we might be broken and poured out for the sake of the world as Jesus was.

14 june 09

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Posted by on Jan 13, 2009

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day – St. Hilary of Poitiers – January 13

St. Hilary of Poitiers

St. Hilary of Poitiers

St. Hilary of Poitiers was born to a non-Christian family in the early years of the 4th century. He was from a noble family and received an excellent education. On his own, he began a search to understand the fundamental questions of existence, including the source of the created world and his place within it. He found answers to his some of his questions in the story of Moses and the burning bush, with God’s self identification as “I am Who I Am.” Answers to the questions about God’s plan and purpose for people were found in the Gospels, particularly the Prologue of the Gospel of John.

Through his studies of Scripture, he became a Christian. By this time he was also married and had a daughter. He was elected bishop of Poitiers around 350 AD. This was a time in which the Arians were quite influential, having even converted the emperor, Constantius. Hilary refused to join in the condemnation of Athanasius and was sent into exile in the East. While in exile, he continued to speak out against Arianism and wrote many scholarly works in defense of traditional Christian understandings of the Trinity and other points of Christian faith.

Eventually, Hilary was allowed to return to Poitiers. He’d been causing too much trouble with his teaching and preaching in the East! When he returned home, he continued to teach and preach. He also began writing hymns. Although hymns had been a part of Christian life since its earliest years, his are the first we have with a known author.

Hilary died in Poitiers in 367 or 368. He was named Doctor of the Church in 1851 by Pope Pius IX.    

A quote from his work on the Trinity:

“For one to attempt to speak of God in terms more precise than he himself has used: — to undertake such a thing is to embark upon the boundless, to dare the incomprehensible. He fixed the names of His nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Whatever is sought over and above this is beyond the meaning of words, beyond the limits of perception, beyond the embrace of understanding.”

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Posted by on Dec 4, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day: St. John of Damascus – December 4

St. John of Damascus (676 – 794), a monk and priest, was a native of Damascus and was also Chief Councilor to the Caliph. As a Christian, he held an hereditary position of great importance under the Ummayid dynasty of Syria.  The Caliph was the chief religious and political leader of the Islamic world.

David Levering Lewis’s book, God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 – 1215, provides an interesting insight into this transitional world in which Christianity gives way to Islam. (God’s Crucible also deals with the ways in which Islam stopped at the Pyrenees and the reconquest of Spain.) There were roles for Christians and Jews as subordinate groups.

The Sassanid dynasty of the second Persian Empire (which included Syria) had been defeated a generation earlier by the Caliphate in 651. St. John of Damascus became a key religious and Christian cultural figure at a time of great transition. St. John of Damascus is often called the last of the Greek Fathers and signals the end of the great Patristic period in theological and philosophical reflection. The little that we know about his life is fragmentary and subject to historical criticism. What we do have and know are his writings.

In the various theological controversies of the Patristic period, in both the East and the West, the political and cultural context provides a fascinating dimension for appreciating the wider meaning and importance of these seemingly abstract issues and their very real importance not only to the faith but also to the wider culture.

Despite his contributions to law, philosophy, theology, and music, St. John of Damascus is best known for his role in the Iconoclastic controversy. The Byzantine court endorsed a movement that rejected the veneration of religious images. St. John of Damascus, a high official in the Islamic Caliphate in Damascus opposed the Emperor, Leo III, and supported the Patriarch of Constantinople in support of the veneration of icons and their public display. Ironically, the making and admiration of images of either a secular or sacred nature were not tolerated by Islam. Although Islam provides a place for Jesus as a prophet and accords a special place to Mary, St. John of Damascus exhalted her status in his writings on the Assumption of Mary into heaven. At a time of the repression of Christian culture, St. John of Damascus composed hymns that became the core of the Eastern liturgy and are sung even today.

It is perhaps only fitting that St. John of Damascus has become the subject of venerated icons. The one above is an Arabic icon from the the 19th century attributed to the iconographer Ne’meh Nasr Homsi and is now in the public domain.

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Posted by on Sep 30, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day – St. Jerome: September 30

St. Jerome (340 – 420) is one of the most interesting personalities among the fathers of the early Church. We generally envision saints as fairly moderate and gentle persons. It is safe to say that St. Jerome never believed in moderation. He was one of the most brilliant and well educated men of his time, a man who lived and wrote with incredible energy and passion. St. Jerome’s Latin translation of the scriptures, which is a literary and scholarly tour de force even by today’s standards, would become the intellectual standard for western civilization.

In many respects, St. Jerome embodies very basic conflicts and contradictions among Christian scholars and educated clergy.  St. Jerome’s knowledge and love of secular – in his case – pagan literature gives him a great appreciation of literature and skill in communication. However, the moral conflict of this literature with the Christian ideal and the values portrayed in scripture create a real tension. As one of the founders of western literary criticism and biblical archaeology, St. Jerome establishes a secular “scientific” standard for deciding which texts are inspired and whether to consider the Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, the Septuagint, as less authoritative than the Hebrew original.

In addition, virginity and celibacy were very important to St. Jerome. He and other fathers of the Church would establish sexual abstinence as the ideal Christian lifestyle, in keeping with the pre-eminence celibacy enjoyed in certain non-Christian religions of the day. Temptations of the “flesh” became the work of the devil. Such impulses, which we today consider in a more measured and moderate way as the product of genetics, socialization, and choice, were for St. Jerome forces to be conquered through prayer, fasting, and physical punishment of the body. Today we would call it “aversion” therapy.

This tradition of seeing the natural as the lesser part of our being is not in keeping with our being made in the image and likeness of God. The fear of our erotic and sexually creative dimension, as part of our fallen and corrupted nature, appears to challenge the appropriateness of the Word becoming flesh and the redemption of humanity in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Clearly, when we look at the excesses and exploitation of people in the Graeco-Roman world, the corrective action of St. Jerome in a lifestyle that witnessed to a coming of the kingdom of justice, peace, and dignity – the sober controlled Christian life – is an understandable ideal.

Perhaps, a great deal of our problem as citizens of the era of psychology and human potential is grappling with such an outsized cauldron of talent and passion. In many respects, although he did his best to stay within certain boundaries, the combination of the terms “Saint” and “Jerome” in reference to the same person should encourage the outlandish and the fire of divine genius in us all.

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Posted by on Sep 3, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day – St. Gregory the Great – Preaching the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth

St. Gregory the Great was born in Rome around 540 AD. This was a time when the Goths and Franks were invading Rome. The emperor was in Constantinople. The Senate had been disbanded. Italy was still one country, called Rome, and late classical Latin was the language of the people.

Gregory’s family were wealthy, owning homes and property in and around Rome and in Sicily. He was raised and educated for a career in public office. He had fresco portraits of his family painted at some point, and his biographer, John the Deacon, left a description of them 300 years later as they appeared in the portraits. Gregory’s father was tall and had a light eyes and a long face. He wore a beard. Gregory’s mother was also tall, but she had a round face and blue eyes. She appeared to be a cheerful person. A portrait of Gregory himself was done shortly after his death. Again, John the Deacon left a description of his appearance in the portrait. Gregory is described as being somewhat bald, with a tawny beard. The shape of his face was somewhere between that of his mother and his father. His remaining hair was worn long and curled carefully. He had a thin, straight, almost aquiline nose and a high forehead. His lips and chin were described as also attractive and it is said that his hands were beautiful.

St. Gregory lived in a time of great turmoil. Wars, floods, famines, political changes, and religious controversies swirled through Italy and the Empire. He left a career in public service to enter a monastery when he was around 30 years old, only to be drawn back into public life by the Pope, who sent him to Constantinople to request help from the Emperor in defending Rome. Following 6 years in Constantinople, he returned to Rome. Eventually he himself was elected Pope, an office he tried to decline.

As Pope, he is remembered for reforms of the liturgy, establishing rules of conduct for bishops, the wielding of political power in dealing with invading armies and natural disasters, his insistence on the supremacy of the papacy over the other patriarchs of the church, the notion that the Pope is the “Servant of the Servants of God,” and for establishing the papacy in the form it would take during the Middle Ages. He insisted that the Church has a responsibility to care for the poor. When famine threatened even the wealthy in Rome, he arranged for food and other supplies to be delivered from properties in southern Italy (lands that his family had given the Church) and distributed in the city. He cooked meals for the formerly wealthy himself to spare them the pain of having to ask for charity.

St. Gregory is also remembered for sending missionaries to England, the “end of the Earth” from the perspective of Rome. At that time, there was no knowledge of lands beyond the British Isles. In the rest of the Roman Empire, Christianity had been introduced. Even the Franks in Central Europe had been reached by missionaries. Given the turmoil and upheaval, it stands to reason that he might have thought, as many do today in times of natural disasters and social turmoil, that the end of the world must be near. The Gospels said that the end would not come until the Good News was preached to the ends of the Earth, however. So, perhaps with that in mind, and certainly with a fondness for the blond, blue-eyed people (the Angles) he had seen in Rome, he sent Anselm of Canterbury to preach the Good News in England.

The end of the world didn’t come in St. Gregory’s time. However, the works he did influenced the Christian community of his time and continue to play a role in even our beliefs and style of worship today.

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Posted by on Jun 9, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day – St. Ephrem the Syrian, June 9

The Feast of St. Ephrem the Syrian is celebrated June 9 in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. It is celebrated January 28 in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the 7th Saturday before Easter in the Syriac Orthodox Church. Whatever the day on which the feast is celebrated, he was a remarkable man!

Ephrem was born around 306 in the city of Nibisis, an area currently part of Turkey. His family was part of a thriving Christian community. The persecution of Diocletian had just ended when he was born. The Edict of Milan, proclaimed in 313, provided for religious tolerance in the Roman Empire. However, controversies raged among various groups of believers as the community struggled to understand the mystery of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Some issues were resolved at the First Council of Nicea in 325. Ephrem probably did not attend that council, but his bishop, Jacob of Nibisis, did attend and was one of those who signed the Council documents.

Ephrem was not one of those people who were “perfect little angels” from childhood. He was not even particularly religious as a child and teen. He described some of his mis-adventures in the story of his conversion.  Following his conversion, he lived as part of a community of people who shared their lives and faith. They were not “monks” in the later sense of the word, but monasticism grew from these types of communities. He became a deacon and teacher within the community.

He wrote hundreds of hymns, prayers, poems, and homilies. Some of the homilies were in poetry and others in prose. The hymns were designed to teach Christian beliefs and to discount the teachings of heretical groups. Many were arranged for choirs of women to sing, accompanied by the lyre. (One of the symbols often seen in pictures of Ephrem is the lyre.) Over 400 of his hymns have survived to the present, with some still in use in the Eastern Church.

Ephrem was also a prolific writer of homilies and Biblical commentaries and reflections. His writings led Pope Benedict XV to name him Doctor of the Church in 1920. His supportive approach to the role of women in the church, his sense of the presence of God in all of creation and of the interconnectedness of all things, the image of “healing” found in many of his reflections and his Eastern sensibility apparent in his poetry and hymns all make his writings relevant to the Christian community today, as we struggle to help bring the Kingdom to life in our multi-cultural, multi-ethnic 21st Century world.

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Posted by on Jan 17, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day: St. Anthony the Great – January 17


The feast of St. Anthony the Great (251-356) is January 17. In the Egyptian or Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches, the feast day is January 30. He is also known as St. Anthony the Abbot and is an early example of the Christian monk. What we know of his life comes from a biography written by St. Athanasius, the patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt. The account was written in Latin and had a major impact on the development of monasticism in the West. Devotion to St. Anthony is less prominent in the East.

St. Anthony is best known for his literal following of the Gospel. According to St. Athanasius, St. Anthony’s parents died when he was a young man. Hearing the call of Christ in St. Matthew’s Gospel to sell everything he had and come follow Christ, St. Anthony, who had inherited a substantial estate from his parents, did just that. He spent his life in the desert, primarily alone, although toward the end of his life he did supervise some other monks who had joined him. They lived with the fundamental rule to work and pray, which would later be echoed by St. Benedict of Nursia.

What is noticeable in the account of St. Athanasius is the theme of spiritual warfare with the devil. St. Anthony overcame many temptations through prayer and faith. His life in the desert brought him the same temptations that Christ encountered during His soujourn in the desert. What is even more notable is that St. Anthony emerged from his time of testing as someone enlightened who could comfort and heal, someone people sought out not for his wisdom or knowledge, but for his goodness and genuine holiness.

As postmodern people, we have a highly developed notion of individual psychology and it can be difficult to relate to someone like St. Anthony. Our notion of self-actualization appears to get in the way of such an extreme life style of self renunciation. However, it is hard to see how such enlightenment is not the highest form of self-actualization. Today our spiritual heroes, such as Mother Teresa, have chosen a very challenging path not unlike that of St. Anthony. What desert are we being called to?

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Posted by on Jan 4, 2008

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

God and Evolution – Divine Design?

tortoises-galapagos.jpgDarwin’s Tortoises on the Galapagos Islands

On January 3, 2008, The National Academy of Sciences issued a new publication Science, Evolution and Creationism advocating the teaching of evolution as the primary scientific understanding underlying contemporary biology. Many religious conservatives advocate the teaching of Creation Science in the public schools as an alternative to evolution. The core of the controversy for those who interpret the Bible literally is the fact that the theory of evolution contradicts the creation account in Genesis, which states that God made all of creation in six days and rested on the seventh.

Many want Creationism, or at least the theory of intelligent design, to be presented to students along with evolution.

Unfortunately, it is a false controversy. If we look at the issue from the standpoint of epistemology – the philosophical study of knowledge and truth – faith and science are looking at entirely different things. Science attempts to explain things in terms of matter and energy, based on experiments which can be repeated to produce the same results. The uses we make of science are called technology. The same methods that cause the light to turn on when we use the wall switch are the methods that indicate a very long history of planetary and biological development.

Holy Scripture is the inspired writing of believers for believers about the meaning and significance of God in our lives. Archaeologists and scripture scholars use the same methods of science that we depend on to design and operate cars, airplanes, and space ships. They use these methods to tell us how people lived at the times these documents were written and when they were probably written. These same scientific methods helps us understand the ancient languages and cultures of the time. Consequently we – as believers – understand the scriptures differently.

Much of the problem, as I see it, is the focus of Calvinism and the Anabaptist movement on “sola scriptura,” using the Scriptures as the sole authority for matters of faith and Christian living. This approach – barely 500 years old – is fairly new and radical in the history of Christianity. In order to re-create a church free of bishops, popes, and patriarchs, and to jettison many of the teachings contained in tradition, the reformers adopted a reformed version of the Bible.

It is interesting to note that from the very beginning, the fathers of the Church had two books: the collection of writings which the church assembled and approved in the fourth century and the book of nature.

I’ve had a radical thought. Why not teach philosophy in the public schools? We could teach the history and philosophy of science. Unfortunately, I give my bright idea slim odds, because many religious conservatives are wary of the liberal arts, including philosophy and theology, for the same reason many scientists are. From the standpoint of the liberal arts, the world is less certain and more open to questioning both scientific and biblical teaching.

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Posted by on Dec 7, 2007

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

St. Ambrose of Milan


December 7 is the feast day of St. Ambrose of Milan c. 338-397, who was one of the most prominent bishops in the fourth century.

Pope Benedict XVI aptly summarized the life of St. Ambrose.

On that Good Friday of 397, the open arms of the dying Ambrose expressed his mystical participation in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. This was his last catechesis: Without speaking a word, he spoke with the testimony of life.

Ambrose was not old when he died. He was not even 60, for he was born around 340 in Trier, where his father was prefect of the Gauls. The family was Christian. When his father died, and he was still a boy, his mother brought him to Rome to prepare him for a civil career, giving him a solid rhetorical and juridical education. Around 370, he was sent to govern the provinces of Emilia and Liguria, with headquarters in Milan. It was precisely there where the struggle between orthodox Christians and Arians was seething, especially after the death of Auxentius, the Arian bishop. Ambrose intervened to pacify those of both factions, and his authority was such that, despite the fact that he was nothing more than a simple catechumen, he was acclaimed by the people as bishop of Milan.

St. Ambrose had a rare combination of talents. He was a man of deep holiness, a very competent administrator, a diplomat and politician of great skill, a great theologian, and an extraordinary preacher. While his preaching garnered the the respect of his most famous convert when St. Augustine was still a pagan, it was his life that spoke most eloquently.

St. Ambrose used his many talents to combat Arianism, a heresy which taught that Christ was not eternal – that there was a time “when He was not“. It may sound like a minor point but Arianism undermined the core doctrine of Holy Trinity and converted the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into a loose triad. Arianism not only struck at the core of the Nicene Creed, but it was widely supported by the higher clergy and the ruling class of the Empire.

St. Ambrose played a great role in the development of the Christianity we profess today. He also set a very high standard of personal and professional integrity for bishops and all Christians. His selected writings can be found online at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

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Posted by on Oct 17, 2007

World Peace and Freedom of Religion

Saint of the Day – St. Ignatius of Antioch


October 17 is the feast day of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, also known as Theophorus. He was a disciple of the Apostle St. John the Evangelist and was thrown to the lions in Rome as a martyr for the faith in 108 A.D.

St. Ignatius’ journey from Antioch in Syria to Rome took 7 years as he traveled in chains and visited Christian communities along the way. He also wrote letters to churches, encouraging them to stay united under the leadership of their bishop.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was an early formative influence in the church on the importance of bishops as leaders and as the definitive teachers of the faith. He accorded a special respect to the church of Rome and its bishop. He was also the first to use the Greek word katholikos (meaning “universal”) in reference to the church.

Ignatius summarized the meaning of his martyrdom in this prayer:

“I am a kernel of wheat for Christ. I must be ground by the teeth of beasts to be found bread (of Christ) wholly pure.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch would become one of the fathers of the Church and his writings would inspire Christians through the ages. One of the people whom he would inspire with his sense of the Church and the giving of one’s life to be found the wholly pure bread of Christ was Iñigo de Loyola who would change his baptismal name to Ignatius in his later years. As St. Ignatius Loyola, he would go forth to offer his life in the service to the Church to be ground into the pure bread of Christ.

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