“Aedificatio Dei’s” 2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Pope Who Helped Anchor the Early Church…Literally!

"Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity" by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
“Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity” by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

Going with the recent theme, we’re on to the fourth pope of the Church, Pope St. Clement I, who served as Bishop of Rome from 92 to 99 AD. He is an Apostolic Father, meaning that he knew St. Peter and St. Paul, well enough to be mentioned by Paul in Philippians 4:3 and to be ordained a bishop by Peter.

Like St. Paul, he was a bit of a writer, but his most important (and most authentic) letter was to the Corinthians. It’s not part of Scripture by only a few years, but it’s incredibly important! The letter gives us a glimpse of what the Church was like just 60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The people of Corinth were getting in trouble again, this time for starting to think they didn’t really want their bishop or priests. So St. Clement wrote the community to teach them about what the apostles intended (he knew them, by the way) and what was the right thing to do.

One reason why the letter is so important is that it distinguishes very clearly the different, but important roles of the presbyters (what we call priests today), bishops, deacons, and laity. Think about that – it’s 96 AD! Vatican II wouldn’t happen for another 1800+ years! Sometimes people think that priests, deacons, and bishops were invented later on as the Church got bigger, but as this letter shows us, things got very organized, very quickly. Clement tells us that it’s because people get into fights (you know…like YOU CORINTHIANS) that the apostles provided for the succession of authority in the Church.

saintc48The other interesting thing goes back to why the letter was written. Clement makes reference that the Corinthians actually sought him out for his attention and teaching. Now why would the Corinthians, all the way over in Greece, write some guy in Rome? Because he’s the pope, of course! The idea and role of the papacy was still very primitive in the 1st century, but already, the Churches all over the world were looking to him as an authority! That’s pretty cool!

The Church celebrates St. Clement as a martyr, although we’re not really sure how his death came about. Legends were written about his death, and they’re probably based on at least a little truth, so let’s just go with it. The legends say that when Trajan came to power in Rome in 98 AD, Clement was imprisoned and sent to work in a rock quarry near present-day Crimea. When he arrived at the work camp, he found the prisoners starving from lack of water, so he knelt down in prayer, got up, and struck the ground with his pickaxe, releasing a stream of clean water. I guess the Romans didn’t like that much, because he was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the Black Sea (ouch!). Today, his relics are housed in the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome, named in his honor.

It’s neat and sometimes surprising to see how alive and organized the Church was in these early times. But wait! There’s more popes to come!

On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me…

XRF_12daysThere are some radio stations that started playing Christmas songs even before Thanksgiving, which is crazy. Some people have even been listening to that music since before Thanksgiving, which is even crazier (looking at you, SHVP Office Staff…)! Some Christmas music is sing-songy and completely devoid of meaning (I mean “woop-de-doop and dickery-dock”? Really???), but many of our Christmas carols have a very profound meaning. One of my favorites is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”, a soft and beautiful Marian carol, which, by the way, is chock-full of some serious theology!

The carol I want to focus on is the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” It seems a pretty fun, nonsensical song with a bunch of strange gifts that most normal children would find strange. But actually, this song has a very important purpose. Between 1558 and 1929 in England, it was illegal to be Catholic – not just publically, but privately as well! Open teaching of the Catholic faith would, at times, bring torture and execution. This carol was written as a catechism song to teach young Catholics about the most important gifts of their faith. Now in all fairness, this theory has come under fire, and some of the sources haven’t been totally verified. But really, this is a bulletin article not a scholarly journal, so I’m just going to go with it for fun.

Each of the twelve gifts represents a tenant of our Catholic faith. For example, the partridge in a pear tree given on Christmas Day is, of course, Jesus Christ. The legend goes that a partridge would act wounded in a tree, struggling and crying out to draw predators away from their young. In the same way, Christ was born ultimately to take upon himself the sins of us all to protect us and give us life. Pretty cool, right? But that’s not all! Here are the rest of the gifts:

Two Turtle Doves – the two natures of Jesus, both human and divine

Three French Hens – Faith, Hope, and Charity, the theological virtues

Four Calling Birds – the four Evangelists who wrote the Gospels

Fiiive Goooold Riiiings – the first five books of the Bible, called the Penteteuch

Six Geese A-Laying – six days of Creation

Seven Swans A-Swimming – the seven Sacraments

Eight Maids A-Milking – the eight Beatitudes

Nine Ladies Dancing – the nine choirs of angels

Ten Lords A-Leaping – the Ten Commandments

Eleven Pipers Piping – the eleven faithful Apostles

Twelve Drummers Drumming – the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed

So there you go. I bet you won’t think of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” as just a silly song in the future! These are just a few of the things that make us love our faith even more! Merry Christmas!

St. Cletus: Either a Redneck or an Early Church Pope

saintc48Today we continue the list of the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon, and incidentally, we continue on down the line of the first popes. Peter, of course, was the first, and St. Linus, who we discussed last week was the second, and that would make St. Cletus the third. He is also referred to as St. Anacletus, so pick whichever name you prefer.

By all accounts, which are very, very few, St. Cletus was a Roman, born of Roman parents, and lived in Rome. We don’t know much about his life prior to (or heck, even during) his papacy, but the fact that he was the third bishop of Rome shows his virtue among all the other disciples of St. Peter.

St. Cletus apparently wanted to do what he could to be more pastoral and take care of the needs of the people of Rome, and since the Roman Church was so large, he needed to harness his skills of organization to do it! He was the first to establish 25 parishes in Rome, and ordained a number of priests to serve in them. Incidentally, the 25 highest ranking Cardinals in the Church are still named as honorary pastors to these parishes today!

St. Cletus was martyred under the Emperor Domitian around 92 AD. Domitian’s persecution was the first of the truly organized persecutions of Christians in the Empire. Sure, Nero killed a number of Christians in 64 AD, including St. Peter and St. Paul, but for the most part, Nero was just lashing out. Domitian’s persecution was very organized and very harmful. Those accused of being Christians were brought before a tribunal, and ordered to take the oath to the Roman Gods and the Emperor. Not giving homage to these gods was considered unpatriotic and atheistic, so many of the early Christians were ironically tried as atheists. When Christians refused the oath, they were condemned. The victims were numerous, including Antipas (mentioned in Revelations 2:13) and members of the Emperor’s own household, which tells you how much Christianity had spread in just 60 years. St. Cletus was one of those put to death as well, and was buried under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome next to his predecessor, St. Linus.

Well, two down, and a few more popes to go! See you next week!

Christian Heroism


This past Friday, I gave a talk for a group of men at my previous parish for “Advent by Tail Light”, a tailgating celebration in preparation for Christmas.  I was looking for a topic particularly important to men, and what has been resting in my heart for the past few weeks has been the idea of heroism.  It’s something attractive, something powerful, something motivating – and something of which I believe our world and our Church is in such dire need.  Enjoy!

Pope St. Linus…and his blanket

220px-Pope_Linus_IllustrationJust kidding.  There’s no blanket.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone through the early apostles and learned a little about their lives and the greater traditions surrounding them. The apostles were genuinely fantastic figures, from all we’ve been able to learn from them! But our first Eucharistic Prayer is a unique gift in that it also throws out there a lot of names that we don’t usually hear about: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, and on. The theory is that these names were mentioned in the prayer because they meant so much to the faithful of the Church in Rome. Members of the Church there would have personally known these individuals and would have heard their preaching. The prayer comes from ancient times, so these names were their contemporaries.

So following the list, our first saint is St. Linus. No, he wasn’t famous for holding his security blanket and waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. Everybody knows that St. Peter was the first pope, but do you know the second? That’s right! Pope St. Linus! Many of the early Fathers of the Church attest to this as well, and he is even mentioned in St. Paul’s letter to Timothy. How appropriate, because he was an associate of St. Paul, and most likely ordained a bishop by the Great Apostle himself. St. Linus, therefore, might be considered one of the “Apostlolic Fathers,” that generation of saints who weren’t apostles themselves, but who knew and learned from the apostles and succeeded them in their ministry. We will continue to hear about the Apostolic Fathers in the near future.

Statue of St. Linus Portico Ceiling of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome
Statue of St. Linus
Portico Ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Typically, the Church celebrates St. Linus as a martyr, as we do most of the other first popes, but it’s unclear how true that is. Certainly St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome under the Emperor Nero, and it might be possible that St. Linus was caught up in the aftermath of that, but after Nero, there were very few open persecutions until the Emperor Domitian, who reigned 13 years later. Still, St. Linus could have suffered what the Early Church called a “white martyrdom” in his sufferings for the faith. After his death on September 23, St. Linus was buried on the Vatican Hill in Rome, next to St. Peter. Today, his remains are believed to be in a tomb near the apostle under the great St. Peter’s Basilica.

Tune in next week for another pope!

The Great Apostle: Part II

"The Martyrdom of St. Paul" by Jacopo Tintoretto
“The Martyrdom of St. Paul” by Jacopo Tintoretto

If you recall, last week we began looking at the life of St. Paul. He went from being “Saul”, the persecutor of the infant Church, to “Paul”, one of the greatest apostles the Church has ever seen! God must really have a sense of humor, right? Without his desire to persecute Christians in Damascus, and without his subsequent conversion, the Church wouldn’t exist as it does today.

As important as his conversion was, what happened afterward was even more important. St. Paul began his Christian life retreating to the Sinai Desert to pray, but then returned to Jerusalem to join the apostles. St. Paul is best known as a great missionary, and the Acts of the Apostles divides his journeys into three parts. The first journey was to Antioch and throughout what is now southern Turkey. He returned to participate with St. Peter and the other apostles in the Council of Jerusalem (the first of 22 ecumenical councils in the Church up to Vatican II), and then began his second journey to Tarsus, Derbe, and Lystra (also in Turkey), before going to Philippi in Macedon, the site of the famous Roman battle. Travelling south, he went through Greece, including Athens, where he preached in the famous Areopagus. He returned to Caesarea near Jerusalem, then headed back out on his third missionary journey back to strengthen the churches western coast of Turkey (any more Turkey and it would be Thanksgiving!), then back through Greece, before returning to Jerusalem.

As he returned to Judea, St. Paul’s fervent preaching upset a group of Jewish leaders so much that they rioted and attacked him. Paul only escaped them by voluntarily being taken into Roman custody, where he was imprisoned for two years. Remember last week when I told you he was a Roman citizenship? Well, it came in handy, as he took advantage of his rite of trial by the Emperor to get a free trip to Rome to preach there. After being shipwrecked along the way, he eventually made it to the Eternal City and awaited trial under house arrest, all the while writing letters to the Churches throughout the Mediterranean, the very same letters that we read at Mass today!

His martyrdom came under the reign of the Emperor Nero, who was widely known to hate Christians, even blaming them for the great fire in Rome in 64 AD…which conveniently occurred in a slum…where Nero later built a palace (just sayin’). Nero’s persecution was so brutal that he burned Christians along the roads of Rome to serve as illumination for the streets. St. Paul was martyred along with many other Christians around that time. Traditional holds that he was beheaded with a sword, considered an honorable death for a Roman citizen, which is why he is usually depicted holding a sword. In 2009, Pope Benedict announced that excavations under the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome had uncovered a sarcophagus inscribed “Paul, Apostle and Martyr” in Latin. This location was consistent with the Church’s ancient tradition of where St. Paul was buried, and the bone fragments inside were carbon dated to the 1st or 2nd centuries. It’s neat to find that even today, we have that deep connection with the apostles!

St. Paul was an extraordinary missionary, even using his sufferings, difficult circumstances, and even imprisonment as a platform to speak of his love for Christ. Probably many of us have our own struggles, and yet Christ continues to work in us to fill that emptiness. Let us pray that we can have the same love and courage as St. Paul to preach the Gospel in good times and bad!