Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Most Interesting History

As I have read about Church history, I have come across little tid-bits here and there that I think are simply great stories. Here are a few. Enjoy!

- St Nicholas of Myra, on whom Santa Claus is based, was a bishop in the 4th century and attended the Council of Nicaea, which was convened to settle issues related to Arianism and Trinitarianism. It is said that at one point the debates became so heated that St Nicholas slapped Arius in the face. He was quickly removed from the council.

- St Francis of Assisi, the 13th century monk and Church reformer, had the first reported case of stigmata, a condition in which the wounds of Christ appear miraculously on a person's body. He is also credited with creating the first crèche, or Nativity scene display, as well as bringing Eucharistic Adoration to Italy.

- St Joseph of Cupertino was 17th century monk who also happened to be mentally challenged. In spite of this, he was known for his holiness and great devotion to God. He also was blessed with the gift of spontaneous levitation against his will, a gift that manifested itself during public, crowded events on several occasions - once even during a papal audience. The great fame and following brought on by his frequent levitations worried Church officials and he was eventually ordered into seclusion. He is the patron saint of, among other things, aviators and the mentally handicapped.

- The 1st Vatican Council, held 1869-1870, was called off part-way through because the Kingdom of Italy had attacked and captured the Papal States, totally surrounding Rome with armies.

- 13th century saint Thomas Aquinas is one of the most important theologians in Church history. His four volume work, the Summa Theologica, remained unfinished, though not because of his death exactly. While celebrating Mass one day, he had a mystical experience of Jesus. Afterwards, he refused to continue his theological work, saying that it all "seemed like straw" compared to the actual reality of God. A couple months later he was summoned by Pope Gregory X to attend the Council of Lyon. While on his way to it, he hit his head on the branch of tree and was dead a few days later.

- St Irenaeus, in his late 2nd century book Against Heresies, relates this extra-biblical story passed down to him about the Apostle John: "John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving [the heretic] Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, 'Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.' " (3.3.4)

- The 13th century nun St Lutgardis claimed that the then-recently deceased Pope Innocent III appeared to her. He was engulfed in flames and explained to her that he was in purgatory for three faults he had committed during his life. He implored her for prayer help saying, "Alas! It is terrible; and will last for centuries if you do not come to my assistance. In the name of Mary, who has obtained for me the favor of appealing to you, help me!"

- Some claim that if you zoom in on the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that miraculously appeared on the cloak of St. Juan Diego when he unveiled his cloak to his bishop, you can see
reflections in her eyes of those who were present.


  1. My personal favorite is the legend that St. Peter was leaving Rome because he knew his life was in danger, met Jesus on the road, and asked, "quo vadis domine?" (where are you going Lord?), to which Jesus replies that he is going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter turns around and returns to Rome, where he was crucified upside down because he couldn't bear to die in the same manner as Jesus.

    About Guadalupe, it's not just a claim, optometrists have examined the eyes and affirmed that there is a reflection of the scene there exactly as it would appear in a human eye. Very cool.