The Feast of St. Matthew

Today is the Feast day of St. Matthew, Apostle and evangelist of the Gospel of Matthew. He is identified as a tax collector for the Roman authorities (Mt 9:9 and 10:3) In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve. As a tax collector, his fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force. The Pharisees lumped them with “sinners” (Mt 9:11-13) He is noted as being a witness to the Ascension, otherwise, he is unnamed among the accounts of the gospel that often only mention a select few of the Apostles by name. Continue reading

The Reformations Series – what’s next

What is the old advice about eating an elephant? One bite at a time. So far I have been able to keep up and ahead of things on this Saturday morning feature “The Reformations.” The elephant bit back in terms of parochial responsibilities, some other projects that need attention, and some need to gather notes and such for what lays ahead.

What lays ahead? There will be more on the Swiss Reformation focused on Zwingli and the movement in Zurich, the rise of the Anabaptist movement, its persecution by Zwingli, and its movement into the Low Countries and beyond. Other reformations that need more detailed attention include: England, France and the rise of Calvinism, John Calvin in Geneva, and the spread of Calvinism throughout Europe.  Two other topics that need attention are the Catholic Counter Reformation as well as the religious-political wars and resulting treaties.

Now you know one of my summer projects. So….. this will be the last of the Reformation posts for a while. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far.

The Reformation in Switzerland

The Swiss Milieu. The Reformation is Switzerland progressed in a different way from Germany. Where Germany had no central monarch or government, Switzerland already had a republic in essential operation via the Old Swiss Confederacy. Their governance was an odd rotating administration of the common lands which was alternately a cause of tension and a source of “we need to figure this out.” Continue reading

St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs

Today the Church Universal celebrates the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan martyrs. Likely you do not know much about him and the 21 people that were martyred along with him. Today’s celebration of St. Charles Lwanga and Ugandan martyrs is a major feast and holiday in East Africa. And a reminder to us that this truly is a church universal – katholica.

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A Short History of Indulgences

In the early church, especially from the third century on, ecclesiastic authorities allowed a confessor, that is a Christian awaiting martyrdom because they confessed their faith in Christ during one of the Roman persecutions, to intercede for another Christian in order to shorten the other’s canonical penance. The thinking was not “let this be a favor to the one who is about to be martyred” but rather a recognition of the holiness of the would-be martyr and the thought that at their death there would be this unused “merit”, when combined with the “merit” of other saints and most especially with the life and death of Christ, could form a “Treasury of Merit.” It is from this “storehouse” that the Church draw upon to shorten the canonical penance. Continue reading

Luther, Indulgences, and their legacy

One of the tipping points for Martin Luther was the “sale of indulgence” by the papal-appointed Dominican Friar, Johann Tetzel, In his 95 Theses Luther strongly disputed the claim that Indulgences could provide freedom from God’s punishment for sin much less be purchased. The last seven days of posts have not addressed the theological issues presented in the German Reformation – not that they are not important – but more such information is easily obtained on the internet from any variety of sources. The previous posts were intended to focus on the milieu of factors already present in Germany, a variety of interests and passions outside Luther’s control or influence, and why Luther succeeded where other Reformers had not. But I thought I should at least give some perspective on indulgences. They were abused then as well as misunderstood then and still misunderstood today. Far too many Catholics need to know their faith better lest they become Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians as regards Indulgences. (Be curious …. go ahead click the links!) Continue reading

German Reform: too late

There is an old expression: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That did not apply in the German Reformation. The enemy (Rome) was Luther’s best friend. Rome was their own worst enemy.

When Leo X announced the renewal of indulgences in order to finance St. Peter’s Basilica, there were a plethora of voices from Emperor Maxillian to his own Roman Curia who warned the pope that the idea was feeding accelerant into a smoldering fire of revolution among the German social classes. His own Papal Nuncio to Germany reported to Pope Leo that the Germans were only waiting for “some fool” to open his mouth against Rome. Some fool did: John Tetzel attempted to peddle indulgences in Saxony where the Elector of Saxony had already forbidden their sale. In the eyes of the German princes, nobles, knights and Burghers, Rome had infringed upon Saxony’s territorial rights. And Rosa Parks would not give up her seat on the bus. This infringement of rights was not the initiating act, it was the hinge, the tipping point. Continue reading

Going Viral in 1520

The development of the printing press, furthermore, aided Luther’s success. For all the reasons described in previous posts, the time was ripe for change. There was no other European nation that was more ready – it just needed a tipping point. Many point to the printing press as the tipping point, but the real tipping point was that Luther quickly moved to publishing in the German language. His ideas were no longer limited to the intellectual elites and Church scholars. He bypassed that “battlefield” and attacked in a language all  the people – high and low-born alike could understand – German. Continue reading

German Reform: vested interests

The previous post pointed to the broad resentment of German society to the eternal taxation be it from the Church or from the Imperial Courts of the Emperor. There were other economic factors also in view: land, wealth and revenue. But consider the latter category. Perhaps revenue is from the sale of land, animals, crops, or other items; but perhaps revenue is the very stream of taxes causing the resentment – and your class thinks it belong to them. One person’s vested interest may very well be another’s burden. Continue reading


Today is the Feast of St. Athanasius, a Christian leader from Alexandria Egypt who is remembered as the primary defender of the faith against the teachings of Deacon Arius, also of Alexandria. This is all happening in the 4th century some 300 years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is also in the age when the Christian faith was no longer “illegal” under Roman rule – thanks to Emperor Constantine. Christianity become the official religion of the Roman Empire was still some 50 year away, but the Church was beginning to flourish with its new found freedom from oppression and the threat of the next persecution. Continue reading