Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Martin Luther's Devotion to Mother Mary

Despite the radicalism of early Protestantism toward many ancient Catholic "distinctives," such as the Communion of the Saints, Penance, Purgatory, Infused Justification, the Papacy, the priesthood, sacramental marriage, etc., it may surprise many to discover that Martin Luther was rather conservative in some of his doctrinal views, such as on baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Luther indeed was quite devoted to Our Lady, and retained most of the traditional Marian doctrines which were held then and now by the Catholic Church. This is often not well-documented in Protestant biographies of Luther and histories of the 16th century, yet it is undeniably true. It seems to be a natural human tendency for latter-day followers to project back onto the founder of a movement their own prevailing viewpoints.

Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology, it is usually assumed that Luther himself had similar opinions. We shall see, upon consulting the primary sources (i.e., Luther’s own writings), that the historical facts are very different. We shall consider, in turn, Luther’s position on the various aspects of Marian doctrine.

Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God):

Christ…was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him… "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39).

He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb…This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. (Ibid.)
God says…"Mary’s Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God. (Ibid.).

God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother…She is the true mother of God and bearer of God…Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus, not two Christs…just as your son is not two sons…even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone. (On the Councils and the Church, 1539).

Probably the most astonishing Marian belief of Luther is his acceptance of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which wasn’t even definitively proclaimed as dogma by the Catholic Church until 1854. Concerning this question there is some dispute, over the technical aspects of medieval theories of conception and the soul, and whether or not Luther later changed his mind. Even some eminent Lutheran scholars, however, such as Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, maintain his unswerving acceptance of the doctrine. Luther’s words follow:

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527).
She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522).

Later references to the Immaculate Conception appear in his House sermon for Christmas (1533) and Against the Papacy of Rome (1545). In later life (he died in 1546), Luther did not believe that this doctrine should be imposed on all believers, since he felt that the Bible didn’t explicitly and formally teach it. Such a view is consistent with his notion of sola Scriptura and is similar to his opinion on the bodily Assumption of the Virgin, which he never denied—although he was highly critical of what he felt were excesses in the celebration of this Feast. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:
There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith…It is enough to know that she lives in Christ.

Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language:
The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522).

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ…She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537).

One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God’s grace…Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ…Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).

Luther goes even further, and gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians, much the same as in Catholic piety:

It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother, God is his father. (Sermon, Christmas, 1522) Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees…If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

Luther did strongly condemn any devotional practices which implied that Mary was in any way equal to our Lord or that she took anything away from His sole sufficiency as our Savior. This is, and always has been, the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Luther often "threw out the baby with the bath water," when it came to criticizing erroprevalent in his time—falsely equating them with Church doctrine. His attitude towards the use of the "Hail Mary" prayer (the first portion of the Rosary) is illustrative. In certain polemical utterances he appears to condemn its recitation altogether, but he is only forbidding a use of Marian devotions apart from heartfelt faith, as the following two citations make clear:

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation. (Sermon, March 11, 1523).
Our prayer should include the Mother of God…What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor…We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her…He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary. (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).

To summarize, it is apparent that Luther was extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is notable in light of his aversion to so many other "Papist" or "Romish" doctrines, as he was wont to describe them. His major departure occurs with regard to the intercession and invocation of the saints, which he denied, in accord with the earliest systematic Lutheran creed, the Augsburg Confession of 1530 (Article 21).

His views of Mary as Mother of God in Catholicism, and his opinions on the Immaculate Conception, Mary’s "Spiritual Motherhood" and the use of the "Hail Mary" were substantially the same. He didn’t deny the Assumption (he certainly didn’t hesitate to rail against doctrines he opposed!), and venerated Mary in a very touching fashion which, as far as it goes, is not at all contrary to Catholic piety. Therefore, it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther’s Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism. To the extent that this fact is dealt with at all by Protestants, it is usually explained as a "holdover" from the early Luther’s late medieval Augustinian Catholic views ("everyone has their blind spots," etc.). But this will not do for those who are serious about consulting Luther in order to arrive at the true "Reformation heritage" and the roots of an authentic Protestantism. For if Luther’s views here can be so easily rationalized away, how can the Protestant know whether he is trustworthy relative to his other innovative doctrines such as extrinsic justification by faith alone and sola Scriptura?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Last Nail into the Coffin of Sola Scriptura?

I know several people who are fundamentalist Christians and believe in the term Sola Scriptura. Its one of the many main things that seperate our Protestant lost brothers and sisters from the true identity of Christ. They do not believe among other things in Oral Tradition as is taught in the true church that Christ founded... that would be the Catholic one. Here I have gathered together a ton of verses and pure logic to put to death the very idea o Sola Scriptura, it is simply not biblical.

Doctrinal Examples

Matthew 2:23

Scripture says that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth after their sojourn in Egypt, "that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’" (Matt. 2:23). All commentators admit that the phrase "He shall be called a Nazarene" is not found anywhere in the Old Testament. Yet Matthew tells us that the Holy Family fulfilled this prophecy, which had been passed on "by the prophets."

The proposed solutions to explain this verse are legion. They range from trying to find some word-play on "Nazarene" in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, to viewing this text as loosely "fulfilling" a conglomeration of Old Testament passages that refer to a despised Messiah. The serious grappling by scholars with the text is admirable, but in the end their solutions seem farfetched.

It may be that we should seek resolution in simplicity. When read in Greek, the introduction to this prophecy differs from all the other "fulfillment" sayings in Matthew (for example Matt. 1:22, 2:15, 3:15, and others). Thus, the failed attempts to locate the Old Testament background to this prophecy, coupled with this unique introduction, suggest to me that the simplest solution is probably the correct one: Matthew is drawing on oral Tradition for this saying. If this is the case, it is significant that he places this prophecy on the same level as ones he attributes to specific authors of the Old Testament. This then would be an example of God’s own Word being passed on via oral Tradition and not through written Scripture.

Matthew 23:2

Just before launching into a blistering denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus delivers this command to the crowds: "The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice" (Matt. 23:2-3).

Although Jesus strongly indicts his opponents of hypocrisy for not following their own teaching, he nevertheless insists that the scribes and Pharisees hold a position of legitimate authority, which he characterizes as sitting "on Moses’ seat." One searches in vain for any reference to this seat of Moses in the Old Testament. But it was commonly understood in ancient Israel that there was an authoritative teaching office, passed on by Moses to successors.

As the first verse of the Mishna tractate AbĂ´te indicates, the Jews understood that God’s revelation, received by Moses, had been handed down from him in uninterrupted succession, through Joshua, the elders, the prophets, and the great Sanhedrin (Acts 15:21). The scribes and Pharisees participated in this author itative line and as such their teaching deserved to be respected.

Jesus here draws on oral Tradition to uphold the legitimacy of this teaching office in Israel. The Catholic Church, in upholding the legitimacy of both Scripture and Tradition, follows the example of Jesus himself.

In addition, we see that the structure of the Catholic Church—with an authoritative teaching office comprised of bishops who are the direct successors of the apostles—follows the example of ancient Israel. While there are groups of Christians today that deny continuity between Israel and the Church, historic orthodox Christianity has always understood the Church to be a fulfillment of Israel. This verse about Moses’ chair illuminates why we say that the successor of Peter, when he gives a solemn teaching for the whole Church, is said to speak ex cathedra or "from the chair."

Whereas under the Old Covenant the administration of God’s people came from the "chair of Moses," Christians under the New Covenant look to the "chair of Peter" for direction on questions of faith and morals. But there is a notable difference between the magisterium under the Old Covenant and our teachers under the New Covenant. The successors of the apostles, and especially Peter’s successor, have the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, and they have Jesus’ promise that the "gates of hell will not prevail" against the Church (Matt. 16:17-19).

1 Corinthians 10:4

Paul shows how Christian sacraments—baptism and the Eucharist—were prefigured in the Old Testament. He treats baptism first: "Our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (vv. 1-2). Next he highlights the Eucharist, prefigured by the manna in the wilderness (v.3; cf. John 6:26-40), and the water that God provided for Israel: "All drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4).

The Old Testament says nothing about any movement of the rock that Moses struck to provide water for the Israelites (Ex. 17:1-7, Num. 20:2-13), but in rabbinic Tradition the rock actually followed them on their journey through the wilderness. In a further development, another Tradition, given by Philo, even equates this rock with preexistent Wisdom: "For the flinty rock is the Wisdom of God, which he marked off highest and chiefest from his powers, and from which he satisfies the thirsty souls that love God."

It seems that Paul is drawing on this Tradition, but he elevates it to even a higher level. Christ himself was the Rock who provided for the people of Israel, which in turn makes their rebellion all the more heinous (1 Cor. 10:5ff.). Paul does not hesitate to draw on stock oral Tradition to illustrate and enhance his presentation of the gospel. The details provided in these Traditions preserved under the Old Covenant shed fresh light on the preparation that God made through Israel for the building of his Church and on the characteristics of the Christian sacraments.

1 Peter 3:19

In his first epistle Peter tells of Christ’s journey to the netherworld during which "he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah" (1 Pet. 3:19). There is a growing scholarly consensus that the interpretive key to this verse is found in Genesis 6:1-7, in which "the sons of God" cohabited with "the daughters of men" and produced ghastly offspring. According to ancient interpretation, these "sons of God" were actually rebellious angels who sinned by mating with human women.

It appears likely that this is Peter’s view as well. "For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until judgment…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial" (2 Pet. 2:4, 9). Note the close link to Noah and Geneses 6. Compare too Jude 6, which says that "the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day…" These references are evidence that Peter has this traditional interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 in mind when he writes of Christ’s preaching "to the spirits in prison."

Additional background is found in the extra-biblical book of 1 Enoch. In this work, which was popular both in ancient Jewish and early Christian circles, the righteous man Enoch (Gen. 5:22-24) goes at God’s command to the place where these sinful angels are imprisoned and proclaims their impending judgment and punishment for their sin.

The parallel to Peter’s epistle is too close to dismiss. It seems possible that Peter views Enoch as a "type" of Christ and that in 1 Peter 3:19 he portrays Christ as a "second Enoch," who goes to the spirit world and proclaims the final downfall of these evil spirits (compare Col. 2:15). Peter’s source for this analogy is Tradition, not Scripture.

This example is significant because it highlights one of the important functions that Tradition still plays for us. As is all too clear from the divisions within Christendom, Scripture may be interpreted in many different ways. Sometimes the Traditions passed on in the Catholic Church provide the interpretive key to certain passages. This was important in the early Church, because heretics of all stripes appealed to the Bible in support of their doctrine.

It is simply false to suppose that the early Church relied on sola scriptura to defend Christian orthodoxy. "There is no reason to infer," says J.N.D. Kelly in Early Christian Doctrines, "that the primitive Church regarded the apostolic testimony as confined to written documents emanating from, or attributed to, the apostles." Rather, the early Church Fathers argued that the interpretations of the heretics were not in line with the "rule of faith," that is, the deposit of Tradition passed on by the apostles to the bishops of the Catholic Church and preserved through an unbroken lineage.

A specific application of this is the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. The data of the New Testament concerning the "brothers and sisters" of Jesus are ambiguous by themselves, although I would argue that the biblical evidence leans toward the Catholic interpretation. But we have additional help in the form of the Traditions preserved in the early Church which say that Mary remained a virgin and bore no other children besides Jesus. So Tradition can sometimes serve as arbiter and interpreter in cases where the meaning of Scripture is unclear.

Jude 9

Jude relates an altercation between Michael and Satan: "When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’" (Jude 9).
As H. Willmering says in A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, "This incident is not mentioned in Scripture, but may have been a Jewish oral tradition, which is well known to the readers of this epistle." Some versions of the story circulating in ancient Judaism depict Satan trying to intervene as Michael buries the body. Several of the Church Fathers know of another version in which Moses’ body is assumed into heaven after his death. Jude draws on this oral Tradition to highlight the incredible arrogance of the heretics he opposes; even Michael the archangel did not take it on himself to rebuke Satan, and yet these men have no scruples in reviling celestial beings.

This text provides another example of a New Testament author tapping oral Tradition to expound Christian doctrine—in this case an issue of behavior. In addition, this text relates well to a Catholic dogma that troubles many non-Catholics—the bodily Assumption of Mary. There is no explicit biblical evidence for Mary’s Assumption (although see Rev. 12:1-6), but Jude not only provides us with a third biblical example of the bodily assumption of one of God’s special servants (see also Gen. 5:24, 2 Kgs. 2:11), he shows that oral Tradition can be the ground on which belief in such a dogma may be based.

Jude 14-15

This one’s a real show-stopper, perhaps the best example of all. St. Jude speaks of the rebellious upstarts of his day, saying, "It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’"

This statement may also be found in the non-Scriptural book of 1 Enoch (1:9); but Jude’s use of it does not really say anything about the inspiration of 1 Enoch. Rather, he asserts that the saying itself actually hales from the venerable Enoch, whose righteous life is mentioned in Genesis 4-5.

Here is a tradition, a prophetic revelation, which was passed on orally for millennia before being captured first in a non-inspired written document (1 Enoch) and then in an inspired document (Jude). Did the writers of the New Testament ever regard oral tradition as divine revelation? This example more than any other shows that the answer to that is a resounding, Yes!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Who will be saved?

Recently I was talking with my best friend who tried to convince me that only about 144,000 people will be saved. I asked how he got that number and he tried to give me examples of prophecy from the bible. But to no avail, nowhere does it say in the bible that only a certain number of people will be saved. I asked him if Gods chosen people would be saved and he said most would go to hell, a few would be saved though. As a Catholic, I was wondering if he thinks that I am damned to hell forever. What do you think? Do you believe that only a select few will be saved and the rest will be damned?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The incorruptibles

I am always intrigued to learn more about the incorruptibles. An incorruptible is a body of a Catholic that has lived a life of great sanctity when they die, theirbodies do not corrupt like normal peoples. There only a few hundred known incoruptibles left in the world. During the reformation, the reformers /devils destroyed most of the great saints bodies that were incorrupt and the ones that made it through that time, only did so by people hiding them. I myself have seen a few of these bodies, and they are beyond belief. Science cannot explain how a body cannot corrupt, nor can they explain how it happens. Just recently I heard about a new incorruptible here in the states. This was a nun who had died about 50 years ago and she was a very holy and simple soul. When she was buried, she had a palm branch in her hands, and when her body was exhumed during an expansion of the convent she lived in, the branch was still green and her body looked as if she was still alive, she had color in her cheeks and everything. I would like to hear from you and what you think about the incorruptibles.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel

Back in the late 5th century to the 6th an apparition of St. Michael happened in the southern mountains of Italy on Mount Gargano. It is a place of refuge, healing, and peace for those that seek out the promises of the great Archangel Michael. Here is a little history on the shrine.

The episode of the bull

One day a rich lord of Siponto (who some have identified as Elvio Emanuele, the 33rd leader Commander of the Siponto armies) used to pasture his herds on the Gargano mountain. All of a sudden the most beautiful bull disappeared. The owner searched for him anxiously in all the most hidden places and at last found him on top of the mountain kneeling down at the opening of a cave. Angrily he shot an arrow at the rebellious animal, but instead of hitting the bull the arrow unaccountably wounded the foot of the wealthy lord. Worried by the event, he went to see the bishop who, after hearing the account of the extraordinary adventure ordered three days of prayer and penance. As the third day ended, the Archangel Michael appeared to the bishop and spoke to him: “I am the Archangel Michael, and am always in the presence of God. The cave is sacred for me, I have chosen it; I myself am its watchful custodian... There where the rock opens wide the sins of men can be forgiven... What is asked for here in prayer will be granted. Therefore, go to the mountain and dedicate the grotto to the Christian religion”. But because this mysterious mountain was almost impossible to reach and it had also been the place of pagan cults, the bishop hesitated a long time before deciding to obey the words of the Archangel.

The episode of the victory

The second apparition of Saint Michael, known as “of the Victory” is traditionally dated in the year 492, even if scholars of today refer the episode to the war of the Longobard duke, Grimoaldo, and the Greeks in 662 - 663 when the victory that took place on 8 May was attributed by the Longobards to the intercession and help of Saint Michael. According to tradition the town of Siponto besieged by enemy troops was on the point of surrender. The bishop Saint Lorenzo obtained a truce of three days from the enemy and he turned to the Celestial Leader with faith, prayer and penance. At the end of the third day the Archangel Michael appeared to the bishop and foretold a complete victory. This message filled the hearts of the besieged with hope. The defenders left the town and fought a furious battle accompanied by thunderbolts and lightning of extraordinary intensity. The victory of the people of Siponto was complete with the extermination of the enemy.

The episode of the dedication

The third apparition is called “the episode of the Dedication. "According to tradition in the year 493, after the victory, the bishop now wanted to obey the Celestial Protector and consecrate the grotto to Saint Michael as a sign of gratitude, encouraged also by the positive opinion expressed by Pope Gelasio I (492 - 496), but the Archangel appeared to him again and announced that he himself had already consecrated the grotto. So the bishop of Siponto, together with seven other Apulian bishops went in procession with the people and clergy of Siponto to the holy place. During the procession a wonderful thing happened: some eagles sheltered the bishops from the rays of the sun with their outspread wings. When they arrived at the grotto they found that a primitive altar had already been erected, covered with a vermilion altar cloth and surmounted by a Cross; moreover, according to the legend, they found the footprint of Saint Michael in the rock. With immense joy the holy bishop offered the first divine Sacrifice. It was 29 September. The grotto itself is the only place of worship not consecrated by human hand and over the centuries has received the title of “Celestial Basilica”.

The fourth apparition

A terrible pestilence raged all over Southern Italy in the year 1656. Archbishop Alfonso Puccinelli, unable to find human means of stopping the epidemic, had recourse to the Archangel Michael with prayers and fasting. The Archbishop even thought of forcing the divine will by placing a supplication written in the name of all the towns- people in the hands of the statue of Saint Michael. And then as dawn was breaking on 22 September, while he was praying in a room of the bishop’s palace of Monte Sant’Angelo, there was a sort of earthquake and Saint Michael appeared to him in dazzling splendour and ordered him to bless the stones of the grotto engraving them with the sign of the cross and the letters MA (Michael Archangel). Whoever kept those stones devoutly would have been immune from the plague. The bishop did what he was told to do. Very soon, not only the town was delivered from the plague, but also all those who asked for the stones wherever they lived. As a perpetual memento of the prodigy and out of eternal gratitude, the Archbishop erected a monument to Saint Michael in the square of the town where it stands to this day, in front of the balcony of that room where the apparition is said to have taken place, with the following words inscribed in Latin:

"To the Prince of the Angels Conqueror of the Plague Patron and Guardian we place this monument in eternal gratitude Alfonso Puccinelli 1656"

The celestial basilica

The sacred grotto was chosen centuries ago as the destination of pilgrimages, a place of prayer and above all of reconciliation with God. In fact the apparitions are a sign, an invitation to man to bow down before the Divine Majesty. Within the span of fifteen centuries of history Christians from the whole world have come to the shrine of the Gargano, “house of God, and gate of heaven", to find again peace and forgiveness in the arms of our loving Father and to give honour to Saint Michael the Archangel, Prince of the Heavenly Army, proclaiming like him with their lives: “Who is like God!” We find many Popes amongst the pilgrims (Gelasio I, Saint Leone IX, Urbano II, Alessandro III, Gregorio X, Saint Celestino V, Giovanni XXIII when he was Cardinal, Giovanni Paolo II); Sovereigns (Ludovico II, Ottone III and his mother Teofane, Enrico II, Matilde of Canossa, Carlo d’Angio, Alfonso of Aragona, Ferdinando the Catholic, Zygmunt Stary, king of Poland, the Bourbon kings Ferdinand I and Ferdinand II, Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto of Savoia);

Various heads of government and ministers; some were saints (Anselmo, Bernardo of Chiaravalle, Guglielmo of Vercelli, Francis of Assisi, Brigid of Sweden, Bona of Pisa, Alfonso de Liguori, Gerardo Maiella, the Venerable Padre Pio of Pietrelcina and many others) but above all thousands of pilgrims who have come from all the nations, attracted by the extraordinary fascination of the Celestial Basilica, where they find hope, forgiveness and peace, through the intercession of Saint Michael Archangel.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

St. Michael the Archangel

I want to write a little on St. Michael the Archangel. To understand who Michael is, we have to read back into the history of the world and the history on the creation of the angels. What is an angel? Simply put, an Angel is a messenger of God. It is a spirit and does not have a physical body that we humans have. You may also note that in the old testament there were times, that angels appeared in bodily form. God allowed them to appear in a body, but it wasn't a human body, it was merely a coating of what a human looks like. I know that is a bit confusing to think about, maybe that is a little too deep for my first post.

The first time that we hear about St. Michael is in the old testament. St. Michael, who ranks among the seven archangels, is also one of the three angels mentioned by name in the Scriptures, the others being St. Raphael and St. Gabriel. St. Michael is spoken of twice in the Old Testament, and twice in the New. In the Apocalypse (chapter xii) we find the most dramatic reference to St. Michael. Here John recounts the great battle in Heaven, when the wicked angels under Lucifer revolt against God, and how Michael, leading the faithful angels, defeats the hosts of evil and drives them out.

Because of this victory, St. Michael is revered in Catholic tradition and liturgy as the protector of the Church, as once he was regarded as the protector of the Israelites. In the Eastern Church, as well as among many theologians in the West, St Michael is placed over all the angels, as prince of the Seraphim.

His emblems are a banner, a sword, a dragon, and scales. The name Michael is a variation of Micah, meaning in Hebrew, "Who is like God?"

I will post more on the only Basilica in the world that hasn't been consecrated by a Priest, it was consecrated by St. Michael himself, in a stone rock we have the very "foot"print of the angel that resided there as his place of rest and prayer.