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Monday 3 February 2014

February 24, 303 X

Persecution under Nero
Diocletian retired and left his empire's laws against the Catholics on the books. In fact, after he abdicated on May 1, 305, some of the provinces saw less persecution. However, in the eastern one, under Galerius and Maximian, the horrors of torture and death continued until 313, with some persecutions happening even after the Edit of Milan Edictum Mediolanense. Maximian hated the Catholics particularly.

But, the persecution did end, only to be taken up again later by others. Here is a section of the Edict.

When you see that this has been granted to [Christians] by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion.
—"Edict of Milan", Lactantius, On the Deaths of the Persecutors (De Mortibus Persecutorum), ch. 48. opera, ed. 0. F. Fritzsche, II, p 288 sq. (Bibl Patr. Ecc. Lat.XI).[8]

But, for those of us on this side of the persecution, that is, those of us who are watching the ratcheting up of forces being put into place to either make Catholics scapegoats, or merely to constrict them severely, the coming days of fines, imprisonment and even death are yet to come.
We have time to prepare in four areas:
1) Find that truth in ourselves, that cell with God to know what it is he wants you to do and where to go. If you are married with children, this means praying about the entire family.
2) We have time to seek the perfection of the virtues necessary for the evil times. There will be many suicides and apostazsing. We must be in a good place spiritually ourselves not to be tempted to despair and to be able to help others.
3) This is the last call for building communities. Travel will be restricted or very expensive. Movements will not be free.
4) Children must be prepared to be little soldiers for Christ. Parents need to pray how this is to be done.

Notice how I have said nothing about the clergy or the sacraments. The laity need to be prepared not to have either priests or the sacraments. Time to grow up and think and live like Catholics.

What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?

A reader asked me this question this weekend, and I shall try and answer this.

First of all, the laity are "in" the world. That is, we work, eat, sleep, study, do whatever in the context of the City of Man. We are called to build up society through our good works and virtues. Of course, as Catholics, we know that there is no separation between Church and State, which means that the Church has the duty and right to inform the State as to morals and ethics.

Natural law bind the Church with the good of the commonweal. And, it is the duty of the State to protect the Church. But, of course, this is not happening. Most states are openly at odds with the Catholic Church, as most states now are build on modernist "isms" which degrade the dignity of the individual and undermine the soul as well as the body of the person.

Personhood is under attack world-wide. The Catholic finds himself in the position of believing and acting contrary to many unlawful laws, such as abortion, same sex marriage and euthanasia, all sins against both natural law and revealed law.

The person in the world tries to work in an increasingly hostile environment of sin and corruption. To be in the world is painful and conflict will naturally arise. The lay person is to change the evils of the world, not compromise or give in to such evils.

To be in the world means to be on the front lines of the Church Militant. We are not yet the Church Triumphant, those in heaven, nor are we the Church Suffering, those in purgatory, but the soldiers on the ground. To use this military language is in keeping with the Scriptures themselves. Here is Ephesians 6.

10 Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power.
11 Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.
12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.
13 Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice,
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace:
16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.
17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God).
18 By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints:
It is clear that to be in the world is basically a daily fight, an entering into a battleground where those who hate God and the Church fight against us.
We are in this battle because of our baptism.
Now, to be not of the world means that we do not conform to the mind of the world, but the Mind of Christ. We see things differently than those who are of the world as well as in it. And, it is our duty to conform our minds to that of Christ, which we learn about in and through the Church.
Notice that St. Paul states clearly that we have the Mind of Christ. How so? Through the adoption as sons and daughters of God through baptism, through sanctifying grace given in the sacraments, and through the life of the virtues and subsequent gifts of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:16

16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that we may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
What an astounding statement-we already have the Mind of Christ is we are in the Church in sanctifying grace. This is what it means to be "not of the world", as Christ is not of the world. We see and judge things from His perspective, and grow in objectivity, which is real maturity. (Those who remain stuck in subjectivity are both spiritual and psychologically immature.)
To be not of the world means we can step back and see the errors, the sins in the City of Man and try to build the City of God. Building up the Kingdom of God means allowing God to purify us first, like good soldiers trained for war.
If we conform to the world, we lose our perspective and our consciences suffer a great loss of discernment.
The trouble with most Catholics is that they have compromised so much they have lost this keen sight to discern good and evil. 
One can gain this objectivity again through repentance and absolution in the sacrament of confession.
The more one conforms to the world either in standards or in interests, the more one loses the cutting edge of thinking with the Mind of Christ.
The more one conforms to the teachings of the Church and the more one allows the Holy Spirit to show one the evils of things in the world, such as certain types of movies, music, entertainments of other sorts, television programs, books, magazines, and even friends who indulge in the world, the more one will be not of the world, although in it.
Again, too many people have fallen into the carelessness of conformity.
Yesterday, in the Gospel for the Feast of the Presentation, Christ was addressed as the "sign of contradiction" in the world.
Always, that is what we are called to be. Blessed John Paul II in his 1979 book Sign of Contradiction noted that this is the definition of the Church in the world.
All of us are called to holiness. All are called to perfection. Like Christ, Who was in the world but not of the world, we are called to manifest God.

May I add that as the world becomes more immersed in evil, we shall be even less of the world. This will become an inevitable reality as people choose darkness over the light. For the sake of our own souls, we shall have to distance ourselves from things which we could be free to partake in within living memory.

But, to compromise is to endanger our own salvation.
I hope this, at least partially, addresses the question from a reader.


February 24, 303 IX

This is my dream, fantasy conversation. Imagine a beautiful room with a fountain and pool. Imagine good food, and wine.served in a newly decorated  triclinium in the villa of Aetius, who is married to the beautiful Paula. They has two young sons. Aurelius, Aetius, Gaius, and Lucius are sitting at cena, talking about the latest news concerning the February 24, 303 law.

The wives are in the culina, with the maids, getting more wine for the evening's conversation. These women, Paula, Rufina, Valeria and Vita talk. Valeria has put the children to bed for the night in her house with trusted slaves in another part of the city. Paula's children have just gone to bed. Now, these women are wondering at the news concerning the new law.

They had all been to the basilica in the morning for mass and prayed there.

In fact, the priest, Justin, promised he would come for the evening, but he had not.

Aetius sent out two Catholic servants to find out what is happening.

The men discuss these points. Will they be safe as part of the upper classes? Will their Catholic servants be safe? What of their children?

What of their families in other cities, like Antioch, Mediolanum, even Cordova? Should these family members be warned, or will they find out soon enough of the horrible new edict?

The women join the men just as one of the servants of Justin comes through the door. Justiin, the priest, has been arrested and is prison. He will be forced to worship the gods of Olympus, or be killed.

Silence covers the room, like dread.

Then, Gaius speaks first. "I shall take my family to Cordova, where my brother has a business. We shall see what happens there. I shall not wait and watch my household divided. We have discussed this before today."

Valeria, his wife, puts her hand on his arm and leaves the room. She moves quickly, and crosses Rome with a servant to their house. She is ready. She has seen the signs of the times. She will gather her five children, and be gone as soon as possible. Her parents live in Mediolanum. She has talked with them before, but they would not listen. They cannot believe the Roman people would allow their Catholic friends to be killed. Perhaps her parents are right, but she must think of her children.

Two will become priests. 

Lucius and Rufina are a young couple. They have no children. But, they have a country house. Lucius asks the men if they think the area of Tivoli would be safe. No one is sure. The villa may be too close to Rome.

Aurelius and Vita are the oldest couple. Their children, all Catholics, are gone, living in Antioch, and in Massalia. Would Massalia be safe? Their son is a government official. 

The men decide to make plans to leave now, except for Lucius, who believes he and his wife will be safe in Tivoli, at least for now.

But, the servant, Albinus, shares that he heard a rumor that even the Pontiff, the Pope, would not be safe in the countryside. Indeed, in one short year, Pope Marcellinus would be martyred, on April 1st, 304, and finally buried in the Cemetary of Priscilla, the Via Salaria on April 26th.

The men become silent. Then, Gaius suggests they pray, and read the Scriptures, as he has a copy with him of the Gospel of Mark. He is a rich man and had a copy made for his household, and for the church.

He reads this: erunt enim dies illi tribulationes tales quales non fuerunt ab initio creaturae quam condidit Deus usque nunc neque fient, Mark 13:19.

Gaius and Valeria, their five children, and all their servants disappear during the night to Cordova. They leave most of their things. They know that some Catholics have already been killed in Seville. They will avoid that city. They leave by cart, and then by ship. Gaius makes sure he is carrying the Gospel of Mark with him. He takes only gold and what they need for the journey.

Albinus, the servant, leaves with Aetius and his wife, Paula, and two young sons within days. No one sees them leave. No one knows where they went. Their surname is still alive centuries later-Macinus, Macini.

Lucius and Rufina decide to go to Tivoli to their country estate. They invite Aurelius and his wife to stop on the way. No one stays in Rome.  By six o'clock the following morning, Aurelius and Vita are on their way to their son in Massalia with two trusted slaves. They prayed and decided not to stop in Tivoli. They will contact their daughters in Antioch when they are settled in Massalia.

But, these are the ones who talked about such a day in the recent past in their lives.

These are the ones who passed the Faith on to their children. These are the ones who had an "exit strategy".

To be continued.....

February 24, 303 VIII

A reminder in this series that the Great Persecution occurred throughout the entire Roman Empire. Europe, the Middle Eastern provinces, Africa, including Egypt, all saw the imposition of the laws against Catholics.

The great cathedrals were destroyed, such as the one in Nicomedia.

The attitude of the Catholics would have been one of watchfulness and prayer. The maximum number killed as determined by historians is set at 5,000.

One of the most familiar martyrs of this time is St. Agnes.

She was young, very young. So, she was prepared for the trial she had to endure.

Living in a society where one is bound to be persecuted clarifies the mind and intentions.

Moderns think that the Catholics at the time of the Great Persecution were all slaves. Not so, but some were, and some were from all the classes. These included the highly educated and people of the urbs. No one was spared because of position or rank. We know that the Church spread throughout the continents because of the Christian diaspora.

But, what is important for today is to realize that God has a plan. And, Catholics must not be complacent.

They can plan as well. It is important to remember that when one faces death or imprisonment, we are not assured that we shall persevere to the end. We need to pray for final perseverance.

That is my prayer.

And, here is St. Francis Ligouri's prayer for final perseverance.

Eternal Father, I Humbly Adore and Thank You, for having Created me, and for having Redeemed me. I Thank You for having made me a Christian, by giving me the True Faith, and for Adopting me as Your Child in Baptism. I Thank You for having given me Time-to Repent, after my many Sins, and for having Pardoned all my Offenses. I Renew my Sorrow for them, because I have Displeased You. I Thank You also for having Preserved me from Falling-again, as I would have done, if You had not Held me up, and Saved me. But my Enemies, do not cease Fighting-against me, nor will they, until I Die. If You do not Help me Continually, I will Lose Your Grace again. I, therefore, Pray-for Perseverance till Death. Your Son Jesus, has Promised that You will give us whatever we Ask-for in His Name. By the Merits-of Jesus Christ, I beg You, for myself and for all those who are in Your Grace, the Grace-of Never-more being Separated-from Your Love. May we always Love You in this Life, and in the Next.
Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me. So I Hope. So may it be.

To be continued.............

February 24, 303 VII

Diocletian was seen as a "saviour", a reformer of good, old fashioned Roman values. He was successful in targeting a few groups which were increasingly seen as threatening the empire. The empire and the gods were one. The emperors and the gods were one. Security and peace, low inflation and financial progress were the priorities.

The Roman household had a strong identity. They were proudly "Roman". Could one be a Catholic and a Roman?

Sound familiar?

He decided that instead of emperor, he would be called Dominus Noster. One can see immediately that his intent was to consolidate power, even propagandist power, under his rule. Some historians claim that Galerius, one of the four emperors in the Tetrarchy, really pushed for the Great Persecution but the fact is that it started and was overseen by Diocletian.

All rulers want to make a mark on history. That Diocletian reorganize Roman life and finances, even down to creating hereditary jobs, made him popular.

The scene for persecution was set by a determined group who put the Roman Empire before the one, true God. 

The Dominus Noster fought the Domino Dominorum.  Today, we call this impetus narcissism. 

Therefore, in the empire built on law, the Catholics became a group under watch, under suspicion for being
"not quite Roman". (Not quite British, not quite American?). The Romans had a highly successful civilization. They took pride in their history and accomplishments. Would they let a growing group which included foreigners to take over their cultural norms?  They saw themselves as virtous against other barbarians. But, here was a group which refused to buy into the whole deal of complete loyalty to the state in the person of the emperor. Perhaps the Catholics were seen as "racists", as "anti-Roman" by their neighbors.

These attitudes have all been seen before and enshrined in law before.

To have loyalties beyond the empire and emperor at such times became a rallying cry for persecution.

How does a remnant respond? Once the clergy were imprisoned, killed or dispersed, what options would the remnant have?

Few, but some.

The first characteristic of such Catholics who persevered would be the four cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, justice and courage. In other words, personal holiness kept those in the remnant from compromise.

The second characteristic would have been mutual support in the face of danger. In other words, a quiet, low-key community.

The third characteristic would have been the readiness to face whatever suffering came their way.

Actions and beliefs have consequences beyond the grave, and this the early Catholics knew well.

A mind-set of readiness is essential in persecution.

Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come. Matthew 24:42. DR

This readiness would not be confined to adults. The necessity of the times meant that parents had to prepare their children for imprisonment, loss, death.

Too many Catholics want to protect their children from such thoughts. They do so at the peril of their children's lives.

The readiness is all, as Hamlet states.

Not a whit. We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be. Act V: scene ii.

To be continued....

February 24, 303 VI

With the ruins of the churches in Rome and in all the provinces, in the cities and in the countryside, with the destruction of the Scriptures and libraries of the cathedrals and basilicas, came a loss which would have impacted the daily lives of the Christians.

No longer would they have easy access to the sacramental life of the Church. By the end of 303, the clergy would have been imprisoned or scattered. Some would have melted into the houses of the laity. Some would have left the areas for safety, like the Seminary Priests during the Protestant Revolt in England.

That the clergy went underground is obvious for one reason-the Faith survived. In some places, as the persecution intensified (and, remember, it was empire-wide), entire congregations would disappear. Parishes and dioceses would disappear forever. Not one of the churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation survived.

Sometimes, it is easier to hide in a very large city. Sometimes, it is easier to hide in the country.

We know from the history of the liturgy, that the Mass was at first in the cities in the cathedrals and was high mass. We know that the low mass came about because of the dispersal of the Catholics from the urban areas into the countryside.

Smaller, unknown churches with simplified rubrics became the order of the day. We also know that the catacombs, the ancient tombs of Rome, were used for mass.

The catacombs would have been implemented for burials only until the end of the fourth century, when Catholics were free to bury their dead above ground.

But, in the time of Diocletian, the catacombs would have been places for mass. So, from the third to the end of the fourth centuries, these underground places provided safe havens for worship, not for living.

Thanks to wiki for photo of The Good Shepherd from S. Callisto catacomb.

Many of the new martyrs were buried in the older tomb areas.

However, in our day and age, such places of safety will be more and more rare. With the great intrusiveness of privacy, less and less communities will be isolated. But, the world is a very big planet, and the remnant will be small. To think there will be no safe havens is not realistic, but to pretend there will be many is also unrealistic.

That the remnant may consist of less numbers than what we could imagine is a strong possibility. But, as in all times of persecution, those who can get away from the worst areas of hatred will be those who have a plan.

I know two people who escaped the Nazi take over of Czechoslovakia. They managed to get out because they either obeyed a parent who told them to go, now, (the teen woman), or they skillfully planned an escape (the teen man).

They both made it to England, fell in love there, and finally traveled to Canada, where they lived most of their long lives.

The woman in this couple had a sister who did not escape. She did not obey her father's warning to "leave now".  She was never found. I myself tried to help the woman locate her sister, but we had to give up.

The use of common sense and the use of discernment can make a difference between life and death.

Some Catholics would have left Rome and gone into country areas, away from the towns and cities where the arrest of Catholics would be easiest. They would not have gone alone. There would have been "safe houses" as in England in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The spread of Christianity partly was owing to the dispersal of the Roman citizens across Europe.

This type of movement may happen again, but with a difference. However, people would have to be willing to be displaced, to move, to leave all, for the sake of the Gospel being handed down to the next generation.

Like the forever missing sister, some who refused to flee died. Some did not have a choice, as they were arrested. But, some survived.

Therefore, one must adopt a flexible attitude of being alert. One must help establish safe houses. One must be willing to sacrifice all.

(Thanks to Father  Michael G. Nevin in a series of talks at St. Kevin's, Dublin Latin Mass Chaplaincy, for notes on the history of the liturgy in early Rome.)

To be continued....

February 24, 303 V

Diocletian re-introduced the draft, or conscription. The Persians had attacked the empire, but were successfully defeated. However, Diocletian, being an uber-organizer, seized the anxiety of the time to build up the military.

The other thing he did was to divide the army into two parts, the limitanei, which were the legions on the borders, or the frontier troops, and the comitantenses, the inland troops, which could be moved quickly to parts of the empire. One can see this in America with the militarization of the police in some areas, and the use of drones.

Diocletian built up an army of half-a-million troops. He also changed the system of taxation, as he was faced with inflation and the burden of the military. All this information can be found in any history of the time.

His organizational skills and his strong religious ideology proved to be forces against which the Catholics could not stand.
The steps to persecution were incremental. First, all Catholic churches and scrolls were to be destroyed. This was part of the February 24th edict. Note that the Church buildings, some obvious, large and prominent, were targeted by the state. Without gathering places of worship, the people could be weakened.

Then, shortly after this date, other edicts followed. The Catholic clergy were to be rounded up and thrown into prison and only released if they honored the gods of Rome.

Finally, all Catholics were ordered to honor the gods of Rome or be executed.

Clergy first, laity second. This is the way it happened in England under Henry. Carthusians first...and so on...

When the shepherds are taken, the lambs and sheep are scattered.

How will this happen? Same sex marriage is a strong possibility for the line in the sand...the fining of the priests who refuse, the imprisonment if fines are not paid, the confiscation of property as fines are not paid, the imprisonment of the laity when fines are not paid, the taking away of Catholic lay properties if fines are not paid and so on.

Imprisonment will be incremental.

So, how did the Catholics in 303 respond? How did they continue? How did they pass on the Faith?

How did they survive? How will we survive?

To be continued.....