Tag Archives: church history

St. Leander of Seville—He not only gave us the Nicene Creed but he also saved Catholicism from the Arian Heresy

…God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father

St. Leander of Seville                            en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Why do we have the Nicene Creed in the Mass and why are the words above so significant for us? Let’s face it, most of us do not know the Nicene Creed by heart. We should because it is about the faith we proclaim to be part of. The truth is, if we did not have the prayer cards or missalettes with the words to follow, we would be somewhat lost. Maybe it is time to find out a little bit more about some of the words we babble during Mass while having no idea what they signify.

First, we should meet St. Leander of Seville. Most of us have never heard of him but he was the man who probably saved Catholicism from the Arian heresy. Leander was born in Seville (Spain) in 534 A.D.  His family was of noble origin and well connected. Leander was the oldest of two brothers and one sister, all of whom became saints. St. Isidore became Bishop of Seville, St. Fulgentius, the Bishop of Cartagena, and his sister, St. Florentina, became an abbess with over 1000 sisters under her direction.

St. Leander began his faith journey by entering a Benedectine monastery as a monk. He proved to be a model of piety and applied himself diligently to learning. In the year 579, he was elevated to the episcopal see of Seville becoming the Bishop of Seville. Leander practiced penance and lived a life of austerity. He continued doing the same thing as Bishop.

During this time, the Visigoths controlled part of Spain. They were barbaric Arians and spread their errors wherever they could. They controlled the Iberian Peninsula and the entire area had been subjected to the Arian heresy for over 170 years. (Arianism dispensed with the teaching of the Holy Trinity basically saying that God is self-existent and He created His son who is NOT self-existent—see link). This had become widespread heretical teaching and Leander, as bishop,  immediately began to defend the true meaning of the Trinity).

Bishop Leander, devoting his efforts to God and the Holy Spirit, was relentless in his attacks against Arianism. He even managed to convert, Hermenegild, the king’s eldest son. King Leovigild, the Visigoth King, was furious at his son’s conversion. He had Leander exiled from Seville and condemned his own son to death. The king martyred his own son because of pride.

After some time, King Leovigild sought forgiveness and recalled Leander back to Spain. He  asked him if we would teach his son, Reccared,  the actual teachings of the Church. Reccared studied and became a Catholic, helping Bishop Leander to convert the rest of King Leovigild’s subjects.

Arianism was like a virus that had been spreading for over 170 years. The Visigoths were really not pagans as many think. Before invading Spain, the Arian heresy had been circulated among them by a man named Ulfilas. When the Visigoth tribes invaded Spain, they had already been infected with Arianism. All the invaders knew the teaching and it was easy to spread it among the unsuspecting people they had conquered.

When Reccared ascended to the throne, he made it a point to help Leander establish actual church teaching. Leander was a key figure in the Third Council of Toledo. This is the Council where King Reccared, accepted the Catholic faith and declared Arius and Arianism, anathema. The King’s conversion was the reason for many bishops and people to accept Catholicism which was established as the state religion. Arianism disappeared from Spain forever.

St. Leander was not only the primary force in bringing Spain back to the church; he also reformed the liturgy in Spain, adding the Nicene Creed. This was done to make it clear that the Catholic faith did NOT in any way embrace Arianism.  If you read the words at the beginning of this essay carefully, you will see why. “Consubstantial with the Father” the word “Consubstantial” means of one and the same substance, essence, or nature.

We say it aloud every Sunday and Holy Day at Mass. We shoud never forget what it means.

St. Leander of Seville, we thank you and ask for you to pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Saint Paschal of Baylon…Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the Seraph (Angel) of the Eucharist

St. Paschal of Baylon   wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

On May 16,1540, a baby boy was born to Martin and Elizabeth Baylon in the Kingdom of Aragon, located in Spain. This day also happened to be the Feast of Pentecost. Since the people in Spain refer to the Feast of Pentecost as the Pasch (Passover) of the Holy Ghost., his parents named their new son, Paschal.

Paschal’s parents were poor tenant farmers and, while only a young boy, Paschal began working in the fields and tending to the sheep. His regimen of work was seemingly never-ending, and he rarely took part in the activities of other kids his age. However, he possessed an obvious spirituality that was noticeable to others, and the other boys would come to him for advice and requests for him to settle their quarrels. Paschal had innate wisdom that was marveled at by all who came to know him.

The boy was unable to go to school, so he carried a notebook with him when he was working. He would ask other kids and even strangers going by to show him different letters and how to use them. He took his tidbits of information to heart and literally taught himself how to read. Soon his favorite books were those about his Lord.

When Paschal was working in the fields, he always fell to his knees when he heard the bells ringing during the Consecration. He was not only rich in piety and virtue, but he was also quite humble. It was just the way he was and people who knew him could not help but notice.

Paschal had always harbored a deep desire to enter religious life. Now and then he even wondered if that might ever happen. He had been offered spots in several richly endowed monasteries, and some prodded him to enter the priesthood. He had said, “, “I was born poor and am resolved to die in poverty and penance.”

His quest for simplicity came to fruition when, in 1564, he was able to enter the Franciscan Monastery of the Friars Minor at Monteforte. It was located in Orito, Spain and those who were there lived a no-frills, austere existence. It was what Paschal had hoped and prayed.for. The young man professed his vows at the monastery on February 2, 1565.

St. Paschal was frequently found before the tabernacle, at times even prostate with his arms outstretched. The humble brother, who had taught himself to read and had no known education possessed a deep knowledge and insight into the mysteries and teachings of the faith. Learned men marveled at him, and most figured he was guided by the Holy Spirit. He was so knowledgeable that during the height of the Calvinist heresies he was chosen to travel to France to defend the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence.

Once God even demonstrated the high esteem he had for Paschal by using the Blessed Sacrament. Paschal was out in the field tending his flock. When he heard the bells ringing, signaling the Consecration was taking place, he immediately knelt down. As he did the Blessed Sacrament appeared before him in the monstrance. Incredibly, it was held aloft by angels hovering above. Others saw this and were in awe. Word spread quickly about the miraculous Brother Paschal and his visions, which became more frequent.

Brother Paschal Baylon passed away on May 17, 1592. The custom of the time was for the deceased to be placed on an open stretcher in the church. This was done, and when the Consecrated Host was elevated at his requiem Mass, Paschal’s body sat up, and bowed to the Sacred Host. It remained like that and repeated the bow as the chalice with the Precious Blood was elevated. Then Paschal’s body lay back down. Witnesses to this miraculous event also testified that his eyes were open watching the priest during the entire Consecration.

Paschal Baylon was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1618, and he was canonized a saint by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690. He is the patron of all Eucharistic Congresses and Eucharistic Associations. Paintings of St. Paschal usually are shown with him in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament which was the greatest love in his life.

Saint Paschal Baylon, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Pope St. Hyginus–The Pope who initiated having Godparents for the Newborn

Pope St. Hyginus the tenth Pope 137-142 AD                      ucatholic.com

By Larry Peterson

The ninth pope in the line of succession and the person who succeeded Telesphorus was a man named Hyginus. According to the Liber Pontificalis (this is the widely referenced history of the Popes from St. Peter up until the 15th century) Hyginus, a contemporary of St. Justin Martyr, was a Greek from Athens who had been a philosopher and a Christian apologist. He attained the Chair of Peter during a time when the Gnostic heresies were taking hold with the church.

Valentinus was a candidate to be Bishop of Rome but when that did not happen, he began his own school of thought. This became known as Gnosticism which basically teaches that the primary way to learn about God is through your own reason and not from revelation or tradition. This concept was against all that was part of Catholic teaching.

Hyginus fought vigourously against the Gnostic heresy and managed to overcome it. Many of the followers of Valentinus rejected his teachings and returned to the church. Some did not.

In addition to confronting and defeating the Gnostics, Hyginus also defined the various levels of the hierarchy and the responsibilities attached to the different positions.

Hyginus, although only pope for a short time, established the practice of including godparents to assist the newly born, not only at the Baptism but throughout their Christian life. He also decreed that all churches must be consecrated before Masses could be offered in them.

It is said that Pope Hyginus died a martyr. However, this has not been fully documented. When he died, he was buried on the Vatican Hill, close to St. Peter’s tomb.  His feast day is January 11.

Prayer to Pope St. Hyginus:

O eternal Shepherd, watch over the peace of the flock, and through Blessed Hyginus, Thy martyr and sovereign pontiff, whom thou didst appoint shepherd over the whole church, keep her under Thy constant protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

 ©Larry Peterson copyright 2019

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal; widowed with four small children she founded the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (VHM) the first order to accept women of older age and those in poor health

St. Jane Frances de Chantal                             www.catholicculture..org

By Larry Peterson

Jane Frances de Chantal was born into an upper-class family in  Dijon, France, in 1572. Her dad was the president of the Parliament of Burgundy, and the family was well connected. Jane’s mom died when she was only 18 months of age, and her upbringing was taken over by her dad.

Under the watchful and loving care of her dad, Jane developed into a woman of true beauty and grace.  One attribute of Jane’s that stood out from the time she was a child was her desire to help others.

Jane married the Baron de Chantal when she was 21. She and her husband were completely in love with each other, but tragedy struck during their seventh year of marriage. In 1601, the Baron was killed while practicing shooting with friends. The Baroness de Chantal, only 28 years old and the mother of four young children had become an accidental, heart-broken widow.

Because of estate issues, and wanting to protect her children’s rights to the property involved, Jane was forced to move in with her father-in-law in, Mothelon. He was ruled over by a nasty and wicked servant and quickly Jane and her children were the servants of the servant.  Jane took a vow of chastity and prayed to God to send someone to help guide her on her journey forward. A short time later she had a vision of the spiritual director that God was going to send her.

During Lent of 1604, Jane visited her hometown of Dijon. While attending Mass, she thought she recognized the celebrant, and when he stepped up to preach she was sure of it; it was the spiritual guide that God had shown her in her vision. After Mass, she went to meet him and placed herself under his guidance. His name was Bishop Francis de Sales. They became close friends.

Jane informed the future saint that she wanted to become a nun, but Francis asked her to wait for a time. She took a vow to stay unmarried and to obey her director. After a period of three more years, Francis de Sales told Jane of his plan to start an institute of women, and it would be unlike all others. His dream was to create a haven for women that were rejected everywhere else.

Age, health, or deformity, would not be a reason to stop someone from joining. Also, there would be no cloister, and these sisters could partake in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It was a monumental ambition by Francis de Sales. The women that joined this new order would be called the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary or the Visitation Nuns. That was because they were to practice the virtues the Blessed Virgin exemplified at the Visitation; meekness and humility.

With the help of her father and brother (who was married to the sister of Francis de Sales), Jane made solid arrangements for the well-being and future of her children. She then left for Annecy. On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1610, the Congregation of the Visitation was canonically established at Annecy.

When St. Francis de Sales died in 1622 there were already 13 convents for Visitation Sisters. When Jane Frances de Chantal died in 1641, there were 86. Also, after Francis de sales died his dear friend, Vincent de Paul became Jane’s confessor and remained with her until her death.

Jane Francis de Chantal was beatified on November 21, 1751, by Pope Benedict XIV and canonized on July 16, 1767, by Pope Clement XIII. There were already 164 convents in existence at this time. Today, the Visitation Sisters are spread all over the world from Portugal to Korea to Ireland,  Germany, and England.  In the United States, there are ten monasteries.

Some of the noted Visitation sisters include St. Margaret Mary Alocoque and Servant of God; Leone Martin, St. Terese’s sister. In 2010,  Pope Benedict XVI granted a plenary indulgence to anyone who makes a visit and prays at a Visitation Monastery.

Up until 2001, her feast day was on December 12.  Then it was changed to August 12. She is invoked as the patron of widows, forgotten people, and parents separated from their children.

Saint Jane Francis de Chantal, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2019