Skip to comments.How the Saints Helped Lead Me Home
Posted on 04/09/2008 7:05:44 AM PDT by NYer
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). As the lector read that line I thought about the influence of the saints in my conversion to the Catholic Church.
It wasn't a direct influence mind you. I didn't hear the voice of Bede or see visions of Padre Pio, but during my investigation of the Catholic Church I began to appreciate how the Church had produced these most powerful witnesses of the faith.
It is interesting that in my former tradition (Episcopal) and other more traditional Protestant denominations, our churches were often named for a Catholic saint. It is not uncommon to run across Episcopal Churches with names such as "St. Bede's", "St. Barnabas'", "St. Bartholomew's" or "St. Francis'", not to mention the most ironic name for a non-Catholic church, "St. Augustine's." It finally dawned on me that the Anglican/Episcopal Church was not responsible for producing any of these saints — nor were many of these congregations interested in emulating the theology of their patrons.
Jesus told his followers, "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers" (Luke 6:43-44). This verse hit home for me and I began to consider and compare the fruit I saw being produced in my own denomination. Were we producing saints? As a church body (denomination) could we say that we were serving as a school for saintliness? Sadly, the answer was no.
If we look at just the 20th Century, we find quite a list of impressive figures given to the world by the Catholic Church. What a witness the world was given by the lives of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Maximillian Kolbe, Josemaria Escriva, and Edith Stein among others.
While I had known some very faithful Episcopalians, it was usually a bit of a pleasant surprise to find them. There was always a sense that these people were going against the general direction of their own church. They were sort of like flowers trying to grow in soil that isn't providing very well for them. They may grow, but that growth and health will always be tempered by their environment.
I realize Protestants are fond of pointing out that we're all saints — that by our relationship in Christ we should all be called "saints." That is very comforting, but not very accurate. It is using the term loosely to say the least. I'm not a saint in the same sense that Padre Pio was. Nor am I mature enough in my faith to think I've grown in holiness to the same degree as Mother Teresa. The term "saint" should remind us of the ideal to which we are called — not offer blasé notions that we're already there.
Saints display "saintliness". They display devotion and holiness that comes from a deep love for Christ and they inspire others to do the same. Saints have often undergone great testing and trials and some even die for their faith. The question that kept haunting me is, "Why do I see so few of these examples in my own denomination?"
I thought again of the Luke quote, that a bad tree doesn't bear good fruit. The fruit that I saw being borne by the Catholic Church was much greater on the whole than that which I saw being produced anywhere else. There are no blinders here. I knew that it wasn't a perfect place and that there had been plenty of tragedies and problems in the Catholic Church. But on the whole, never in the history of the Church has the world been left without Catholic saints. The problems are aberrations; the normative fruit was a harvest of saints.
I was forced to ask, "What kind of fruit seems normative in my denomination?" My answer was not encouraging.
As I looked at the lives of the saints both recent and ancient, I began to consider the Catholic Church and her teachings more fully. What produced such people Pope John Paul II, St. Francis, Blessed Josemaria Escriva, St. Augustine, and St. Teresa of Avila? Whatever and wherever it was, I wanted to be a part of it. In the end, this 'cloud of witnesses' helped lead me home. While I am doubtful of my ability to attain their degree of saintliness, I am grateful to be planted in the same soil in which they are planted. It's home.
Here's another one that doesn't put much stock in the word of God, the Holy Scripture...
I'm not sure I get your point.
Just saved that chart off in two places on my computer. I knew I had seen it before, but I never copied it and saved.
Thanks for that link. It tells the whole story!
Incredible bias in that chart. The “Roman Catholic” was not started in AD33...the church was inaugurated then. The Roman Catholic Church was started much later. That is quite presumptuous to claim otherwise...and demonstrates a significant bias!
So you are saying that you do not believe the scripture in which Jesus gives the Keys to the Kingdom to Peter?
Or gives them power to forgive or withold forgiveness of sins?
HMMMM. I thought you guys believed in the Scriptures!
There are interpretations of that passage that lead one to an entirely different conclusion. By what authority do you claim that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome? Where is the evidence that he ever even visited Rome?
Peter is buried in Rome.
I suppose you think all the archaeologists who identified his burial site were bribed.
It is an indisputably established historical fact that St. Peter laboured in Rome during the last portion of his life, and there ended his earthly course by martyrdom. As to the duration of his Apostolic activity in the Roman capital, the continuity or otherwise of his residence there, the details and success of his labours, and the chronology of his arrival and death, all these questions are uncertain, and can be solved only on hypotheses more or less well-founded. The essential fact is that Peter died at Rome: this constitutes the historical foundation of the claim of the Bishops of Rome to the Apostolic Primacy of Peter.
St. Peter's residence and death in Rome are established beyond contention as historical facts by a series of distinct testimonies extending from the end of the first to the end of the second centuries, and issuing from several lands.
Although the fact of St. Peter's activity and death in Rome is so clearly established, we possess no precise information regarding the details of his Roman sojourn. The narratives contained in the apocryphal literature of the second century concerning the supposed strife between Peter and Simon Magus belong to the domain of legend. From the already mentioned statements regarding the origin of the Gospel of St. Mark we may conclude that Peter laboured for a long period in Rome. This conclusion is confirmed by the unanimous voice of tradition which, as early as the second half of the second century, designates the Prince of the Apostles the founder of the Roman Church. It is widely held that Peter paid a first visit to Rome after he had been miraculously liberated from the prison in Jerusalem; that, by "another place", Luke meant Rome, but omitted the name for special reasons. It is not impossible that Peter made a missionary journey to Rome about this time (after 42 A.D.), but such a journey cannot be established with certainty. At any rate, we cannot appeal in support of this theory to the chronological notices in Eusebius and Jerome, since, although these notices extend back to the chronicles of the third century, they are not old traditions, but the result of calculations on the basis of episcopal lists. Into the Roman list of bishops dating from the second century, there was introduced in the third century (as we learn from Eusebius and the "Chronograph of 354") the notice of a twenty-five years' pontificate for St. Peter, but we are unable to trace its origin. This entry consequently affords no ground for the hypothesis of a first visit by St. Peter to Rome after his liberation from prison (about 42). We can therefore admit only the possibility of such an early visit to the capital.
The task of determining the year of St. Peter's death is attended with similar difficulties. In the fourth century, and even in the chronicles of the third, we find two different entries. In the "Chronicle" of Eusebius the thirteenth or fourteenth year of Nero is given as that of the death of Peter and Paul (67-68); this date, accepted by Jerome, is that generally held. The year 67 is also supported by the statement, also accepted by Eusebius and Jerome, that Peter came to Rome under the Emperor Claudius (according to Jerome, in 42), and by the above-mentioned tradition of the twenty-five years' episcopate of Peter (cf. Bartolini, "Sopra l'anno 67 se fosse quello del martirio dei gloriosi Apostoli", Rome, 1868) . A different statement is furnished by the "Chronograph of 354" (ed. Duchesne, "Liber Pontificalis", I, 1 sqq.). This refers St. Peter's arrival in Rome to the year 30, and his death and that of St. Paul to 55.
Duchesne has shown that the dates in the "Chronograph" were inserted in a list of the popes which contains only their names and the duration of their pontificates, and then, on the chronological supposition that the year of Christ's death was 29, the year 30 was inserted as the beginning of Peter's pontificate, and his death referred to 55, on the basis of the twenty-five years' pontificate (op. cit., introd., vi sqq.). This date has however been recently defended by Kellner ("Jesus von Nazareth u. seine Apostel im Rahmen der Zeitgeschichte", Ratisbon, 1908; "Tradition geschichtl. Bearbeitung u. Legende in der Chronologie des apostol. Zeitalters", Bonn, 1909). Other historians have accepted the year 65 (e.g., Bianchini, in his edition of the "Liber Pontificalis" in P.L. CXXVII. 435 sqq.) or 66 (e.g. Foggini, "De romani b. Petri itinere et episcopatu", Florence, 1741; also Tillemont). Harnack endeavoured to establish the year 64 (i.e. the beginning of the Neronian persecution) as that of Peter's death ("Gesch. der altchristl. Lit. bis Eusebius", pt. II, "Die Chronologie", I, 240 sqq.). This date, which had been already supported by Cave, du Pin, and Wieseler, has been accepted by Duchesne (Hist. ancienne de l'eglise, I, 64). Erbes refers St. Peter's death to 22 Feb., 63, St. Paul's to 64 ("Texte u. Untersuchungen", new series, IV, i, Leipzig, 1900, "Die Todestage der Apostel Petrus u. Paulus u. ihre rom. Denkmaeler"). The date of Peter's death is thus not yet decided; the period between July, 64 (outbreak of the Neronian persecution), and the beginning of 68 (on 9 July Nero fled from Rome and committed suicide) must be left open for the date of his death. The day of his martyrdom is also unknown; 29 June, the accepted day of his feast since the fourth century, cannot be proved to be the day of his death (see below).
Concerning the manner of Peter's death, we possess a tradition attested to by Tertullian at the end of the second century (see above) and by Origen (in Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl.", II, i) that he suffered crucifixion. Origen says: "Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer". As the place of execution may be accepted with great probability the Neronian Gardens on the Vatican, since there, according to Tacitus, were enacted in general the gruesome scenes of the Neronian persecution; and in this district, in the vicinity of the Via Cornelia and at the foot of the Vatican Hills, the Prince of the Apostles found his burial place. Of this grave (since the word tropaion was, as already remarked, rightly understood of the tomb) Caius already speaks in the third century. For a time the remains of Peter lay with those of Paul in a vault on the Appian Way at the place ad Catacumbas, where the Church of St. Sebastian (which on its erection in the fourth century was dedicated to the two Apostles) now stands. The remains had probably been brought thither at the beginning of the Valerian persecution in 258, to protect them from the threatened desecration when the Christian burial-places were confiscated. They were later restored to their former resting-place, and Constantine the Great had a magnificent basilica erected over the grave of St. Peter at the foot of the Vatican Hill. This basilica was replaced by the present St. Peter's in the sixteenth century. The vault with the altar built above it (confessio) has been since the fourth century the most highly venerated martyr's shrine in the West. In the substructure of the altar, over the vault which contained the sarcophagus with the remains of St. Peter, a cavity was made. This was closed by a small door in front of the altar. By opening this door the pilgrim could enjoy the great privilege of kneeling directly over the sarcophagus of the Apostle. Keys of this door were given as previous souvenirs (cf. Gregory of Tours, "De gloria martyrum", I, xxviii).
The memory of St. Peter is also closely associated with the Catacomb of St. Priscilla on the Via Salaria. According to a tradition, current in later Christian antiquity, St. Peter here instructed the faithful and administered baptism. This tradition seems to have been based on still earlier monumental testimonies. The catacomb is situated under the garden of a villa of the ancient Christian and senatorial family, the Acilii Glabriones, and its foundation extends back to the end of the first century; and since Acilius Glabrio, consul in 91, was condemned to death under Domitian as a Christian, it is quite possible that the Christian faith of the family extended back to Apostolic times, and that the Prince of the Apostles had been given hospitable reception in their house during his residence at Rome. The relations between Peter and Pudens whose house stood on the site of the present titular church of Pudens (now Santa Pudentiana) seem to rest rather on a legend.
Concerning the Epistles of St. Peter, see EPISTLES OF SAINT PETER; concerning the various apocrypha bearing the name of Peter, especially the Apocalypse and the Gospel of St. Peter, see APOCRYPHA. The apocryphal sermon of Peter (kerygma), dating from the second half of the second century, was probably a collection of supposed sermons by the Apostle; several fragments are preserved by Clement of Alexandria (cf. Dobschuts, "Das Kerygma Petri kritisch untersucht" in "Texte u. Untersuchungen", XI, i, Leipzig, 1893).
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